Saturday, 23 May 2015

Principles vs Moves (And why Wudang doesn't bother teaching you how to rescue your teacups...)


We all watched Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, right?

If you have you will remember Chu Yan's (Michelle Yeoh) subtle, ingenious test to confirm her suspicion that the unassuming Xiao Long (Zhang Ziyi) actually had martial arts training.

She dropped a tea cup.

Now- we all know that Wudang has never taught anyone how to save their fine china from getting shattered on the floor. So- why was Xiaolong able to do it?

Those who are used to me by now will know what my point is here. Xiao Long's alertness and quick reflexes were a benefit of her study of martial art. You don't need to search very far for people to tell you that traditional martial arts are full of fixed positions and form- and then there are the moves with the poetic names... All these things seem to hinder one more than helping in an actual fight.

But don't believe for a second that it's useless!

I have noticed that, despite how the world's knowledge of martial arts seems to have grown, and despite the large number of martial artists I find on Facebook and on Google Plus we still find people who are already considered suitable to get into a cage and fight that criticises a move that's being demonstrated by saying that it "won't work in a real fight". A while ago someone posted a video that compares the self defense drills some of us may use in the dojo with a real life version of the situation it was designed for (and now I don't find the video.)

The video's message may have been news to many people, but I think to anyone that has been practicing any style of martial art up to the equivalent of black belt (meaning that you know the basics by now and are expected to work with it) it was old knowledge. 

You may be one of those guys who took up karate to defend yourself and who ended up getting beat up because the moves you have learnt did not work. So- what do you do?

What I did- was spending years on developing the most effective moves with which I could come up- only to find them failing me again when I rely on them the most. So what can we actually do?

That's the joke-
Every move under the sun has a weakness. That's not necessarily the reason why it does not work. External factors like the opponent's strength and timing play a large part.

In Wenhsiuquan (and no- we're not the first to do this. I learnt this from other arts- ones used for things like assassination for instance...) moves are considered to be for randori. It teaches students principles to apply in free sparring and self defense. These principles remain the constant in the fighter's decisions while the techniques he chooses may differ. So- in other words- if you understand what moves are made of, you can make your own moves! That brings me back to a principle to which I hold on since I have discovered the benefits of meditation: If your school spends lots of time on teaching you how to use your hands and feet, but does not bother to teach you how to use your mind you are not learning a proper martial art. Sounds harsh, but let's face it. There are various ways of hitting, kicking and throwing which belongs to one style or the other, but technique is just one of the three vital elements that make up a martial art. 

Sure- Martial arts give us awesome moves to get us started. But from there on- what we get after that depends on us. If you have just started I can assure you that there will be a time when blocking, punching and kicking is old news. When that time comes I hope that you can say that you have changed for the better- some way or the other.

 Train well, everyone!

Oh! And I gladly admit that not all MMA fighters are like Goomer! I want to thank Code Red for posting this video showing a defense against a tackle. It gave me a new set of building blocks for other moves. I hope it does the same for you!

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