Sunday, March 30, 2014

My counter-response: In Defense of Sport Martial Arts

+Owen Johnston wrote a thoughtful response to my post In Defense of Sport Martial Arts on his blog, here.  I appreciate that, and I thought I'd counter-respond here.

"The major problem with sport martial arts, especially the Asian flavors, is that they are so watered down from the original and effective traditions that it’s a wonder there are any effective techniques in them for self defense. Sport karate and TKD are especially horrendous. You’re taught to tap your partner with a clean shot that is very extended and easy for the judges to see, and then back off. Also, ground work and therefore, ground defense are not allowed at all (in general). All of these are just terrible habits to have.

Also, the techniques that are allowed are generally going to be dangerous to use, especially in TKD. It’s like they intentionally do pretty much everything wrong for self defense. Head level kicks, but no leg kicks allowed? Wow. Multiple head level kicks without setting your foot down, spinning kicks, aerial kicks, etc. The punching skills are subpar and infrequently used."

I can't disagree with this point in general, but would submit that this is not the ONLY thing ALL sport schools study.  The viewpoint that tournament training is the entirety of their martial arts education is, in my opinion, a bit limited, as I have seen examples where that is simply not the case.

"Also, I have never seen any American style TKD practitioner actually use a substantial amount of blocking, parries, or useful kick evasions. Almost every single one I’ve watched literally only moves backward and forward in a straight line to dodge, which isterrible. Also, the kicks are humongous and easy to see coming. Combined with the hands being left down all the time, and the bouncing up and down on the feet in a light stance, and a lack of close-in fighting ability, and a lack of punching power, these make American style TKD just all wrong for self defense."

This has not been my experience every where I've lived.  I have lived all over the country, and I'm finding that this is dramatically different from region to region (because the "flavor" of TKD is different from place to place). Here in Texas, that isn't true of many schools I've personally witnessed, but there's a lot of teachers here who studied directly under Jhoon Rhee (or once removed) and there is a huge influence from the old "Texas Fighting Circuit" of sport karate (see Chuck Norris - he's from that era).

"Most wrestling lacks submission work, but the structure and positional dominance are useful. Can be combined well with bare knuckle boxing for a fairly useful street self defense system. Sport boxing, not quite as much, but can be modified."

Believe me, in his prime, my Uncle could tie you up and make you hurt pretty bad - they did and do study those techniques.  I think you are a little sheltered on this score, because there is ample evidence out there if you look for it of sport boxers engaging in self defense "on the street".

"Judo – for self defense, a traditional Japanese Jiujitsu style or Aikido would be preferable, if you can only choose one. Aikido doesn’t emphasize strength in any of the throws, while sport Judo does in some throws. The mechanics are different. Also if you look at older Japanese styles of Jiujitsu, the applications were necessarily battlefield oriented, therefore still effective for self defense.

Judo can still be modified, however, for self defense. The first thing is learning how to make it work when not in a gi. Looking at athletes such as Ronda Rousey will provide inspiration." 

Here you are completely missing my point. At no point did I suggest the sport arts were better than self defense arts for self defense.  I said that sport arts aren't completely useless for self defense. So, Ronda Rousey, a sport martial artist, isn't completely wasting her time, then?

"Fencing and shooting – you can’t exactly carry weapons on the street except if you have a concealed weapons permit. Martial arts weapons, usually you can’t get one. Not sure why, but hey, law is law. So these are no go. Yes, fencing can help with footwork, but since you can’t exactly carry a sword around, you still need to train specifically for the situations you would find yourself in on the street or in a bar or wherever."

Fencing helps with spacial awareness, movement, and learning to spot subtle movements in preparation for violence.  It also can easily translate to a cane, which you can carry around.  Is it the best thing to study if you're primarily concerned about self defense?  No, probably not. But if I were primarily concerned about self defense (and I am), I wouldn't practice any sport art (and I don't).  But I can't deny the utility and value of what they do and study.

Guns - depends on where you live.  Concealed carry is not the only way - many states have open carry as well (usually one or the other, not both).  Living in Texas, I'm pretty sure I'm around people carrying guns whenever I'm in a public place, as it's pretty popular here.  In my opinion, a great way to get over the fear of guns is to get trained and shoot them at a range.  Fear is the mind killer, after all - if you freeze mentally and emotionally when you are presented with a gun, it's hard to react properly. So even if you don't carry, it's still a good thing to train.

But the study of weapons in general - the FMA's, kobudo, etc. - are inherently practical IF you are able to study them with the idea that a technique is a technique, and it translates very well to other objects found in your environment.  It's also practical because you may find yourself facing one.  And if you have not trained with and against a weapon, you have no idea what the strengths and limitations are.

+Funker Tactical - Gun & Gear Videos has a great video talking about this point regarding knives here:

I also saw this point vividly illustrated in a TKD black belt test I attended last weekend (for the record, it's not a sport TKD organization - they're very self-defense oriented).  The fail I saw these otherwise very skilled self defense martial artists commit via weapons was truly epic. But these gentlemen did not regularly train with or against weapons, so of course they failed - the basic idea of controlling the weapon didn't occur to them, as you don't do that vs. an empty hand. 

THIS is the biggest gap for the sporting arts, but, I think it's a serious and obvious problem for most of the empty hand self-defense arts also, as the example above clearly illustrated to me.

As for the scenarios you find yourself "in real life" in the street, that is highly variable based upon where you live, your lifestyle, and  your gender (women are offered violence for different reasons, generally, than men, and children different than adults, and so on). You cannot ignore the numerous example of sport martial artists - male and female - using their skills in real life in self defense situations.  It's not a rare occurrence.

"I’m not even getting into MMA except to point back to earlier points I made about boxing, muay Thai, and wrestling. Well, I’ll also add, still, that Brazilian Jiujitsu is a sport style with some self defense leanings if you have the right instructor. MMA is a sport with rules, though, but fighting on the ground is a messy, dangerous affair for many reasons."

Yes, but they make the point that most real fights go to the ground.  If you take the time to look at footage of real fights - skilled people and unskilled people - this does happen with alarming frequency.  We can try to discount this if we want, but there's lots of evidence out there that we have to ignore.   You don't have to like it - I certainly don't - but there it is.

"As to the 3 reasons you list for why sport martial arts are great for the rest of us...

1. The biggest problem here is that the wider culture is still clueless as to the value of the traditional arts, and generally has a very negative perception of it. That’s a major reason why it’s so hard to successfully market the traditional arts in America. People see the sport flavors and think that martial arts are violent, or that they’re some kind of mystical Asian “woo”, or that they’re totally ineffective because of MMA and boxing."

Whose fault is that?  Sport martial arts?  Our ours, because we do a very poor job in marketing and informing the public?  And in which sport art, exactly, is "woo" promoted, and how on Earth is "boxing and MMA" totally ineffective?  Because that is simply untrue, sir.  I practice neither art -  both of those work very well in real life.

"Another problem is that when martial arts exploded in popularity in America as a result of Bruce Lee, a lot of con men took advantage of this and the fact that Americans a.) had little to no knowledge of martial arts before this (in general) and b.) need instant gratification. So, McDojo’s became a trend. Sport martial arts and Hollywood have destroyed the perception of the traditional arts. They also quite often get in the way of valuable self defense skills actually being taught. This is mostly due to the Hollywood-ized combat sports influencing people interested in martial arts to learn “how to do UFC” or how to box or how to beat people up in the ring or cage in general. Therefore, it’s bad business in general to not offer these things."

  • The popularity of Bruce Lee did not bring about the con men. Con men have always existed, and *gasp* some of them were (and are) Asian.  There's con men in every endeavor known to mankind.  There's nothing special or magical about the martial arts that makes us immune - once something becomes popular, that is going to happen. There are unscrupulous people in the world who will take advantage of people in every realm of your life.
  • So, all of the millions of Americans who spend years of their time and money learning martial arts skills for their entire lives are looking for instant gratification?  Psst - McDojos exist all over the world, not just the United States.  Yes, even Japan and Korea and the Philippines and Iran and whatever else society you care to name.
  • Your statement about Hollywood and the UFC makes no sense. The UFC is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Martial arts movies are made and promoted outside of Hollywood (not aware of many that glamorize the UFC in any case - care to name some?).  Yes, what is presented there - especially in movies and television - is unrealistic.  So what?  What does that have to do with sporting arts?
  • It's not bad business not to offer these things - there's hundreds - no, thousands - of schools that don't and do quite well, thanks.  If you are not doing well, is it the fault of the McDojo's - or yours?
"2. If you want to get into great shape, taking up martial arts isn’t the optimal way to do it. Certainly, the conditioning routines used in combat sports are indeed very effective, but those routines are generally used as separate workouts. Training your body for martial arts is like training for any other athletic activity. You need to focus on improving kinesthetic awareness / proprioception, mobility / strength in ranges of motion, building strength in the muscles needed for your activity, injury proofing your body through proper and intense exercise, and improving your cardiovascular conditioning. Specifically focusing on strength and conditioning training is what helps with this, no matter the chosen athletic activity. Frankly, I wish I could convince more martial arts instructors to get certified in fitness instruction as well and offer that as an additional program."

Again, you completely missed my point - I did not say that sport arts are BETTER than other kinds of training, I said it was ONE motivation people have and that's a path into the martial arts that can benefit those of us who are not sports martial artists.  I did state that I, personally, got into the martial arts - and I practiced a self defense art - because I think working out at a gym is boring and awful, and I wanted to get in shape.  I am a living example of this point, and over time, I've met many others like me (including a large proportion of women who started for this reason).  That being said, I agree, I think it's a great idea for martial arts teachers to do more in this arena, including seeking certification.

"3. I disagree with the gamification of martial arts because of the problems I mentioned above. A lot of people do think of martial arts as fun and that’s fine. Whatever motivates them, right? But the problem with it just “being a game” is that when it ceases to be a game and the results or progress aren’t coming, when it actually feels like the work that it is, most people get discouraged or straight out quit. I practice martial arts and train very hard in calisthenics because I love making progress, not because I find either one fun. It can still be very rewarding for me personally without it being just a silly game or sport."

Proper introduction of gamification techniques allows one to progress AND have fun.  I do not think you really understand what "gamification" is.

"Besides, all competition is driven by ego or greed anyway, and I have nothing to do with these as far as I can help it. Sport and competition don’t make you a better person. I don’t understand why anyone enjoys beating other people up in a cage or ring or backyard or wherever, or why anyone enjoys watching brutal, barbaric spectacles."

You are entitled to your opinion.  Luckily, we live in a big world - and a big martial arts community - that can accommodate different points of view.   We have room for all of us.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

In Defense of Sport Martial Arts

I've written that I'm a martial arts snob and that I practice martial arts primarily for self defense.

So now I'm going to defend the martial arts as a purely sporting endeavor, and how I think the sport martial arts are a good thing for the rest of us.

So, let's define first what I mean by "sport" martial arts.  These include, but are not limited to:
  • Judo
  • Sport Karate
  • Sport/Olympic Tae Kwon Do
  • Boxing
  • Wrestling (mostly I have various traditional or Olympic styles in mind, not the WWE - which is performance)
  • Other grappling or grappling hybrids, like UFC/MMA
  • Muay Thai or kickboxing (trained for the ring)
  • Fencing
  • Shooting and archery for accuracy or points
These arts might be considered an alternative to someone playing other sports, such as football, baseball, rugby, swimming, running, etc.

Sport martial arts are great for the rest of us (combatives, performance and self defense martial arts) for the following reasons:
  1. They make the martial arts more accessible to a wider audience.  Most cultures are into sports of one kind or another, so it's an easy way for a wider range of people to get into and enjoy the martial arts as spectators, and perhaps, as participants. It can be a "gateway" to the less flashy self-defense arts.
  2. They encourage physical fitness.  While not strictly required, I think all of us agree that the more physically fit one is, the better (from a self-defense point of view).  In fact, physical fitness is one of the major reasons many people begin studying martial arts (that's how I started), and get attracted to the sport versions of the arts.
  3. They're fun. Now, I happen to also find getting locked up by an expert and forced to tap out due to the pain fun, but generally speaking, the sport arts are "gamification" of the martial arts, and that taps into a fundamental human desire to play.  Gamification is a hot topic in a lot of other industries and hobbies as a way to keep people engaged, and it works, because all people of all ages generally play.
My Name Is Inigo... meh, you know the rest.
So, while it's fashionable among the self-defense "true" martial artists to sneer at the sport martial arts as being inferior, I submit doing so is actually shooting yourself in the foot (and that, my friend, is a poor self defense tactic).  They are not inferior - they are just different, and sport martial arts events are good for all of us.

I would add that there are numerous examples of sport martial artists using their skills in a practical way for self defense.

Here's where a politician uses a judo technique as he fights a colleague (yes, really - our legislatures aren't nearly as fun as this):

Here's a quick classic TKD high kick in a "street fight" (literally):

Those are just a couple, but if you search, you will see plenty of real world example of sport martial artists engaging in effective self defense in real life.  So, for those who claim the sport arts are no good "on the street", I'm sorry, there's too much evidence to prove that assertion wrong.

Be sure to check out my defense of the performance martial arts.  That's right - I'm going to stand up for the XMA fake weapon flippers, the gymnastical dancers and trickers, the movies and tv shows with completely unrealistic moves, and lawd help me, the WWE.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hey, are you in Dallas-Fort Worth (or close enough)?

Want to come play Arnis?

I can hook you up, my friend!

If you're having trouble reading the flyer:

Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance (M.A.P.A.) Seminar on Saturday, MAY 3, 2014, 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the Roanoke Recreation Center in Roanoke, TX.

Instructors include:
Content includes:
  • Translations of double sticks and empty hand techniques
  • Connecting mid-to-close ranges using solo baston flow drills
  • Use of punyo and stick for joint locks and pressure points
  • $15 before May 3 - Go HERE to register
  • $20 at the door
For more information, feel free to email me OR reach out to Mark Lynn at the contact info above.

We'd love to have you - bring your sticks (if you don't have any, we'll have some for sale), wear your gi or casual training clothes, shoes or not, it doesn't matter which, but we draw the line at dressing up like clowns, because those are scary.

I'll be there, so it's your opportunity to tell me to my face that the opinions on my blog are stupid. 

This is how I'll react.


Share this post, please.  I'll be your bestie!

In closing:

And... rock 'em. :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kiaaa-HA! The Karate Rap

Oh, now this is a gem.  As a child of the '80's, it's like going home again.  A tacky home that's still decorated in pink and turquoise and Nagel prints, but still, home.

Home sweet home.
When I think of the martial arts, and Karate in particular, I think of:
  • Rap music
  • Electric blue spandex
  • Wearing your black belt with your bath towel
  • Keytars and Solid Gold Dancers
Thus, I give you, the Karate Rap.  You really must watch the entire thing.

  • KUMITE!  Keytar solo 
  • Name checked:  samurai, shogun, sensei and ninja.
  • "Ninja" is rhymed with "car"
  • At once point she calls herself a "Samurette"
  • "Body" is rhymed with "Karate" (repeatedly)
  • It doesn't matter what color belt you wear, but... black belt makes her heart melt
  • "Quickens" is rhymed with "dickens"
  • Karate wife, two karate kids, karate dog and karate parakeet
  • Karate means never having to say you're sorry
  • You can play "spot the dude" with the three Geisha
  • Boards are broken and Kiai are spoken (oh no, it's INFECTING MEEEEE)

Relax, and breathe.  Keep training, you'll get it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Parent's Guide to the Martial Arts

My oldest daughter in 2006.
I'm a martial artist, but I'm also the parent of a martial artist.  In fact, I've been a martial arts mom far longer than I've been a martial artist myself.

I believe that most, if not all, children can benefit from studying a martial art. Which martial art - and which school - is highly variable, based upon the skill sets and temperament of your child.

If you are considering putting your child in a martial art, here's some tips I've learned that I hope will help you.

First, read this excellent post written by +Jesse EnkampHow To Be A Good Karate Parent.

Make sure you have a good understanding of  your child's emotional, physical, and mental abilities and temperament.
  • Is your child outgoing, or shy?
  • Is your child aggressive, or passive?
  • Is your child physically gifted or not so much?
  • Is your child able to pay attention for long periods of time (20 minutes or more) or not?
  • Is your child "high strung" and intense, or laid back and loose?
  • Is your child emotionally sensitive, or not?
  • Is your child a perfectionist who needs things "just so", or she just "goes with the flow" of things?
  • Is your child goal oriented, or not?
  • Does your child have physical, emotional or mental special needs?
  • Is your child especially sensitive to people getting inside their personal space, or are they fine with touching and being touched by other people in a sporting/martial arts context?
  • How much empathy does your child have?
For example, if your child is passive or shy, it's probably not going to be too much fun for him to enroll in a school that does a lot of tournament and demonstration stuff, but if your child is a competitive over-achiever, she may get bored quickly with schools that are more laid back and intellectual.

Next, make sure you understand why you're signing up little Junior for martial arts classes. Why do you want your child to take the martial arts?  Reasons may include:
  • Physical fitness
  • Positive effects on self-esteem
  • Self discipline
  • Learning moral values such as courage, perseverance, fair play, etc.
  • Helping your child learn how to protect herself against bullies or other people who wish her harm (i.e., self defense, but what that means for a kid is different than what it means for an adult)
One major benefit to the martial arts is that it can help out with other sports. Many NFL teams have hired martial arts trainers and coaches.  Four time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro Outside Linebacker Tamba Hali for the Kansas City Chiefs is a Blue Belt in BJJ and studies with the Gracies.

One note about self defense:  I believe it is a bit irresponsible to teach young children self defense techniques that involve staying engaged with an attacker.  Kids that age should not exclusively be taught to trade blows and stay engaged in a fight.

I did not mention any specific art, as I don't believe that the art itself is the primary reason you choose a school for your child.  Sure, we can debate grappling vs. stand up and all that stuff, and the utility of it all, but honestly, when you're just starting out, make sure you pick the school that fits your child's unique needs and your budget, not what somebody else insists is "the best" or right art.  Here's a secret - each one of us is biased in favor of our own art, so take that into consideration.

When looking for a school, visit and watch the classes before you sign up for anything.  Talk to parents and see what they say they like and dislike about the school.  A good martial arts instructor will welcome this visit and examination.

Here are the big red flags to watch out for, in my opinion:
  • Very long contracts (more than 6 months). I am not completely opposed to contracts on principle, but read the fine print VERY closely.  If they try to sell you some sort of big package immediately, and use high-pressure sales tactics, run away.
  • Hidden Fees.  These may include testing fees, belt fees (which are not unreasonable as long as they cover the cost of the belt), equipment fees, weapons fees, special uniforms, federation fees, and others.  Many of these are legitimate, but make sure they are being up front about it versus hiding or surprising you with it later.
  • Dirty or musty smelling training spaces in poor repair.  This school is either running out of money and will close soon, or they don't care too much about the quality of what they teach.  A single broken mirror on the wall is not "poor repair" - they can be expensive and difficult to replace.  But falling down tiles, dirty mats, a bad smell are all hallmarks of a place you absolutely not allow your child to enter, much less train in.
  • Unprofessionalism.  Are teachers yelling at students, cursing, denigrating other arts or schools, treating parents with disrespect... basically engaging in any behavior that in any other context would be considered rude or poor customer service?  If so, run.
  • Flakiness.  When teacher doesn't always show up or start class on time, where they don't follow through on promises, where they don't return phone calls and emails (it's the 21st Century - YOU MUST USE EMAIL), where classes are run by very low level belts while the instructor talks on the phone or gossips with a parent on the sidelines, all that is being flaky. Avoid instructors like this, no matter how good a martial artist or nice person they are, as they will invariably disappoint you.
  • I have two at home.
  • Poor teaching.  Just because one is an excellent martial artist, it does not necessarily equate to being a good teacher.  I am convinced there are more people teaching than really should be, because they think that you reach a certain rank and must strike out on your own and teach.  Hallmarks of poor teaching include no structure to class, no curriculum or clear process in which ones' progress is measured and tested, and having high-level belts that still look clumsy and can't move smoothly or with power.
Some final tips:
  • Don't ignore Rec Center, Public Parks or YMCA martial arts programs, as they can actually be very good instruction, sometimes at a cheaper price than a stand-alone school.
  • Trust your gut.  If it feels wrong, it is wrong.
  • Do not allow your child to be alone with instructors without other trusted people around.  It's unfortunate, but there are numerous reports of martial arts teachers abusing their students when they get them alone.  Also watch for inappropriate texts to your child's phone.
  • It's a good idea to survey prices for a variety of places to get an idea of "going rates" for martial arts in your area.  If a school you are considering is much more expensive or much less expensive than average, make sure you know why before you enroll your child there.
  • Research online reviews and check out Bullshido School Reviews.
  • YOU are the customer.  
I hope this helps you pick a martial arts school and teacher for your child. Feel free to contact me to ask questions!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Modern Arnis: Master Chuck Gauss

There's a lot of great Modern Arnis teachers out there who are just amazing.

But today, I'd like to share one of my favorites:  Master Chuck Gauss.
Master Gauss is sometimes not a very nice man.  I like that.
Master Gauss is a MOTT - Master of Tapi-Tapi, one of just a few named by the founder of Modern Arnis, Professor Remy A. Presas.  That, however, is not what's impressive about Master Gauss.

I think he brings a practical point of view to our art. It's easy to get very nerdy and complex in what we do (my mind runs that way), and Master Gauss does a great job in simplifying it and making it accessible for all of us.

First off, check this out.  It's chock full of win and awesomeness.

He also does a great job in showing applications.  For example, here he is showing an application for a flashlight (with a short rattan stick standing in as a flashlight).

Master Gauss' partner in this video is +Brian Johns at +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts Centre Ltd, an excellent martial artist and Arnis player in his own right.

I can't share everything that's awesome about Master Gauss here, because this post would be a mile long.  Check out his YouTube channel and his school's web site

If you like Modern Arnis, you couldn't go wrong learning from Master Gauss.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

No Longer Shenanigans: Titus Jansen: Dutch Ninja - MAKES GOOD.

I wrote a post about Sensei Titus Jansen of Koga Ryu Ninjitsu some time back, and had scheduled it to post in the near future. It was a typical "Shenanigans" post about a guy who was apparently a disciple of Ashida Kim.  And yes, his content was, to be generous, less than impressive.

However, in the intervening time, something incredible happened, something I don't think I've ever read or seen happen when it comes to guys like this.

Titus Jansen made good.

Watch the entire video, and listen to his story.

Click here if you can't see the video.

Jansen loves the martial arts, and was lead astray into nonsensical Ashida Kim-derived ninjitsu, and yes, he was teaching, but he says - and I honestly believe him - that he never made a dime.

Jansen is the poster boy as to why we, as a martial arts community, have to make sure we do our best to publicize and call out the liars and frauds, so the guys like Jansen won't get taken in and scammed.

He just loves the martial arts. Nothing wrong with that.  Nothing at all.  This is the kind of guy we should try to help into our community.  He's a bit of a LARPer, but there's lots of those that have legit skills too.

Unlike the Ashida Kims, the Thomas Daws, and other fakes and frauds in this world, this man has the fortitude to stand up, admit he's been taken in, and decide to do the right thing - pursue his love of the martial arts with a true teacher.

Titus Jansen deserves a hell of a lot of support, because coming out in a video the way he did takes an incredible amount of courage.

Bravo, sir.  This is one of the bravest things I think I've witnessed.

I would be honored to play Arnis with you if the chance ever arises, Mr. Jansen.

Psst:  Those of you out there that have ended up in the same place - take Mr. Jansen as your role model.  You can actually redeem yourself.  It's not too late.

UPDATE:  Another video supporting Titus is right HERE. Do like and share it, thanks.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Confessions of a Martial Arts Snob

Like a lot of martial artists, I'm an absolute snob when it comes to what I do.
I'm snobby about practicing a self defense oriented art versus sport arts or performance arts or combat arts.

I'm totally snobby about my chosen self defense strategy being the correct one.

I'm definitely snobby about my belief that you train the way you fight, and if you don't train with weapons regularly, you have no idea how to really use them, nor are you going to have any idea what to do when presented with one.

And I'm very, very snobby about my art being the best one of all the arts, including other FMA's.

Modern Arnis, particularly the version I learn and practice, rules.  My teachers are the best.  My lineage is the best, consisting of badasses who I have zero doubt can handle any real life violent confrontation without breaking a sweat.

My art is chock full of so much awesomeness, I can't figure out why all of you aren't dropping whatever you're wasting your time with and training with us.  I mean, really, it's pretty damn obvious.

Indeed.  Not today.
(Okay, I might be sort of kidding that I *actually* believe that last paragraph...)

Guess what?

You're probably a snob too.

You believe whatever you do is the bestest-ever martial art.  You believe your motivations for training are the correct and true ones.  You believe that your way is the best way.  In your heart, you sneer at martial artists who do other arts, or, god forbid, do arts for different reasons or goals than yours.

You have to be snobby about it!  Otherwise, why would you do it?  Why spend a lot of time and money and energy developing skills that you don't wholeheartedly believe are the most worthy of that investment?

As necessary as this snobbery is - and I do think it's necessary - at the same time, it can lead us to be exclusionary at best, and cultish at worst.

For example:  which of these desires that leads to learning a martial art is invalid?
  • I'm afraid of getting beaten up by bullies in my neighborhood
  • I would like to honor the martial skills of our ancestors
  • I want to combine my love of physical movement and swords into a single activity
  • I wish I could do cool moves like a ninja or what I saw them do in "The Matrix"
  • I want to be a champion athlete but I don't enjoy team sports
  • I was victimized by a crime and I want to feel stronger and safer
  • I enjoy testing my physical skills against other people
  • I want to train because I'm concerned about the collapse of civilization and I'll need to learn hand-to-hand combat
  • I would like to recreate what it was like to duel 300 years ago
Future UFC champion?
I think they're all valid - and none of those reasons led me to the martial arts.

I started doing the martial arts because it seemed less boring than working out at a gym.

It was a short time after I stepped onto a mat for the first time that I fell in love with the martial arts. Over time, I became enamored with the self defense point of view.  Who knows, in five years, maybe my reasons will be different - it's certainly possible, as I, like most people, will change and grow with experience, and perhaps I'll be more interested in the sport versions of the martial arts than I am today, or the performance arts. Or not.  I can't say right now.

I think it's important, especially for teachers, to be open to all of these people with all of these motivations (some of which may seem incredibly silly to us).  Sometimes a person's goals don't fit with what we do and teach, and that's okay - steer them to a martial art that does fit what they want.

Even though those other arts can't possibly be as good as ours.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Small Circle JuJitsu: Wally Jay

Learn more here.
Professor Wally Jay is nearly universally respected for his contributions to the martial arts.

I've always been a big fan of Small Circle Jujitsu ever since I was first introduced to it via my study of Modern Arnis.  It's just so practical, and something that, with a lot of practice to develop the skill, anyone can do.

Small Circle Jujitsu is a huge influence in Modern Arnis, as the founder, Remy Presas, traveled, trained and did many seminars with Wally Jay.

As well as learning more with weapons - this is the other area of study I'd love to pursue in depth some day.

Watch a real 10th Dan Grand Master at work.

One more!

The world lost a great martial artist and teacher when Professor Jay passed away.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Productive Playtime

This week, my husband and I have been able to spend a little more time on “upper level” techniques than we have been able to do over the past few months.

As I've said before, I like spending time working on fundamentals – I think it’s important and useful.  However, I also like it when we get an opportunity to work on, well, “black belt stuff”, and that’s been in short supply in class this year as a matter of necessity.

You see, our school, being relatively new, doesn't have any regular high-level students except my husband and I just yet. The highest level students we currently have are green belts, which are the lowest level middle range belt rank.

While we are inordinately proud of them and their skills, they aren't quite at the point where they can “flow” yet.  They'll get there, but it'll be a while.

As an aside, our progression goes:  Zero Belt, White, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, 3rd Brown, 2nd Brown, 1st Brown, Black.   And now you know.

We do have an “advanced class” on Saturday mornings, but sometimes we use it to work on plans for the upcoming week’s classes, or someone misunderstands and shows up early for the regular Arnis class that takes place later in the morning, or other things interfere with our ability to take class time to do higher level techniques for our own progression.

It's a treat when we get to “play” with higher level drills with our instructor, +Mark Lynn around.  We can get his advice, ideas, and critiques on what we’re doing.

For example, we came up with one technique this week that honestly isn't any good in a real self defense or fight situation, for a variety of reasons.  But, if you’re training with other players in a relaxed environment, it is totally doable and will be very funny to pull off.

No, I’m not going to tell you what it is… yet.  But it sure was fun to figure out.

Another idea we've come up with that I will tell you about is based upon punyo entries in which one does a stick exchange (that is, passing the stick from one hand to the other).  Here's the Professor doing the entry we're talking about:

Still taken from this video: Introduction to Tapi-Tapi
The stick exchange (in this case, from right hand to left) such a natural, obvious thing to do. We were thinking, what if we came up with a drill to isolate practice of the entries and stick exchanges in flow? What are the secondary skills that are practiced as a result?

So we made one up.

It has a “driver” and each player has a different pattern, like tapi-tapi, but it actually looks a little more like a sumbrada, as both players take turns delivering punyo entries and doing stick exchanges.

We’re still working on the kinks and perfecting it, but we think it has a lot of promise.  When we get it to a point where we’re happy with it, I’ll record it and share with all of you for feedback.

This is what happens when you get to play with people at or above your own rank – you come up with things that can be purely for fun, or something that’s actually useful that hadn't occurred to you before.  It’s much harder to innovate this way when you adhere to a strict, curriculum-only training schedule all the time.

So are you incorporating playtime into your training?  If not, why not?  If so, what’s some of the best ideas you've come up with as a result?  I’d love to know!