Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Context is Everything

I reposted an old blog post of mine, one that focuses on a specific aspect of strike mechanics:  Little Details About Strike Mechanics

In the comments, a reader took exception with an image he saw there, saying that it would be a huge problem vs. a two handed long sword, and why that would be.

The thing is, he isn't wrong - yes, in the context he was discussing and in his training and experience, he was absolutely right.  But in the context of the image and the post, his commentary didn't make a lot of sense.

This was an awesome discussion, by the way, and I'm glad it happened.  Always feel free to have those discussions here, even if we disagree, ok?

So, anyway, it got me thinking about the age we live in, where we get snippets of video from here and there across the martial arts world.  Sometimes we see amazing forms and drills and fights and skills.

Sometimes we see things that make us... confused, to put it kindly.

This video is making the rounds on Facebook.

At first blush, it looks a little silly - people on Facebook certainly thought so.

I've watched it several times now, it seems to me like it actually could be a drill where a guy was working on a technique where he changes direction in order to gain positional advantage.  This isn't how he fights - he's just developing a specific attribute of his game.

I could be wrong, of course, but that's what it looks like to me.  A skill building drill.

Lots of what we do, in a different context, is silly or dangerous or wrong.

Let's take a typical block from the empty hand arts.  Here's one:

Image found here.
In the context of tae kwon do or karate, this is perfectly acceptable.

In Arnis, this gets you hurt (or worse).


Because we assume the bad guy is armed, even if we can't see it (the knife, after all, is to be felt, not seen).  In the image here, he isn't controlling that incoming strike to a point where a weapon would be accounted for.  The guy attacking above hasn't actually been stopped, and it's not hard for him to continue the attack with a weapon to a vital point.  We don't like letting weapon hands go free to re-attack if we can avoid it.

Does this make them wrong?

Of course not!

My context is different than theirs.  A guy recovering his strike from being blocked and reattacking isn't as fatal a proposition.  So they don't have to think about that for what they do.

If you watched a lot of our Arnis drills and didn't understand the context, it would look strange or weird or pointless (heck, y'all know how much I love sinawali - I've heard it called "Pattycake with Sticks" more than once by people who don't understand what it's for).

Some blade arts will never touch the edge of the weapon - because the context is that the hand is bare.  But my HEMA friends do it all the time - because they wear gear that's built for it.

I do things a Japanese swordsman would never do (and vice-versa) because his art developed on a battlefield with people who were armored, and mine was developed in smaller one-on-one duels and fights with a shorter weapon and no armor.

Heck, this is another great reason NOT to try to learn a martial art via YouTube videos, because most of what you see are missing a lot of the context, and you won't understand how or why you're doing what you do.

So when you see something that looks weird - a video or an image - are you sure you understand the context of what you are seeing? Because sometimes something that is "wrong" in your art's strategy or context is perfectly fine in theirs, or what you are seeing may be something that is attribute building and not intended in a combative situation.

What do you do in your art that, taken out of context, might seem odd or weird?  Let us know!