Saturday, 12 August 2017

Forget about effectiveness for a while- I am getting tired of discussions about what works "on the street"

Hello again, everyone.

I trust everyone has been training well this week. My Saturday workout took a bit longer to finish as I started on my undertaking to learn the kata Gankaku. By the look of things I have about 75% of the sequence down. Hopefully the other 25% will be there next Saturday. :D

Effectiveness is one of the main discussion points we find in martial arts groups and among martial artists in general. It has probably been the number 1 sales point on which new styles or old, but formerly obscure styles, used to gain students. 

I remember the publicised No-Rules Tournaments in the 90's. They were the precursors to the MMA we see today. Journalists and commentators all held the view that the aim of these tournaments was to determine the most effective martial art. Well- the 90's are long gone and I have not seen any martial art styles disappearing from existence after these tournaments.

Before the 90's Judo champion and Shotokan black belt Hayward Nishioka conducted a scientific study at a California University to determine the difference in power between Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do punch and the classic Karate punch. He found that the Jeet Kune Do punch was more powerful.
Even to this day you have to search South Africa really thoroughly to find a Jeet Kune Do school. On the other hand- almost every town here has a Karate school.

These things are all very interesting to martial artists already engaged in martial arts studies and practice, but we have bigger fish to fry. 

Sensei Jesse Enkamp wrote in one of his articles some years ago that Karate is not considered "cool" by the general public. This  is even the case in Japan.

From where I am looking I can tell you that a similar situation prevails in China where, although Kungfu is considered a national treasure (after having earlier been outlawed by the Guomintan Government in its early years) the largest part of the Chinese public do not really care at all about what goes on in the martial arts world. 

Image result for self defence

In the West you first have to look towards that part of the public that do want to participate in sports or physical exercise and then after sifting through all the runners, spinners and crossfitters you end up finding the odd kickboxer, MMA fighter or maybe a Karateka or two...

Image result for self defence

Those who have identified a need to know how to defend themselves may have attended one self defence class and then afterward never bothered to practice any fighting techniques at all...

Image result for old man practicing tai chi

In China we might still find the odd patient who gets told by his doctor that Tai Chi is just the thing for his condition. I shall not go as far as to call these Tai Chi students martial artists, however, since they most often have no interest in learning the combat applications to their movements.

So- in short- the huge problem that every martial arts school in the world is facing now is not the need of defending itself against claims that the other school's techniques are more effective, but it is getting the ordinary man, woman and child in the street interested in learning what you have to teach.

Now- how you accomplish that is something on which I have not yet heard a lot of discussion.

Fine- you could hold a demonstration or two where you break boards and as soon as you have hooked a couple of kids who wanted to learn to break boards you can see how many tournaments and competition training they will take before they leave without being able to break boards.

Or- go out and tell the world how important it is to be able to defend yourself and then take those interested in self defence that you have reeled in with that sales pitch and give them sports training. See how that works out...

Thing is- this is exactly what has already happened. We have adults who have taken up karate as a child and then gave it up when it did not live up to their expectations. We have people that don't want to learn martial arts because they are just not into sports.

If sports is indeed your angle- then market your school/ gym with the jocks in mind. 

If you want to pull in those frail boys who desperately need to be able to handle themselves against bullies- then make sure that your curriculum caters to them.

I have taken up Karate at the age of 14. I never really wanted to compete in any sports or to win any medals, but martial arts fascinated me without end and I really wanted to learn. I wanted to defend myself, break bricks, do fancy kicks and get rid of bullies. 

It just so happened that my early high school years are not worth remembering since most of it consisted of being bullied by boys, rejected by girls and being ordered this way and that by adults who thought they knew what was best for me.

Still- I liked to read. It was all very cute when my reading material at the age of 10 consisted of books on robotics, astronomy and whatever scientific subject that could grab my attention at the time. 

Later, though, I focused my attention more on martial arts theory and philosophy while I was getting firsthand experience of Karate training at the Dojo. 

All this reading had led me to discover Zen Buddhism and Qigong at the age of 16.

The teachings and exercises of Zen, combined with Qigong and martial arts training had done a lot to make  my teenage years a lot more bearable and at times even enjoyable. To this day I train with this in mind.

    Now- it is really no surprise to anyone that you can find a teacher teaching the same things in China. I am dead certain that a lot of people there would have appreciate an awesome mentor like Mr Miyagi for their kids. 

Image result for mr miyagi

Still- it does not take so long to drop your kids off at a Dojo and find that teachers like that appear to be nowhere to be found.

Well- I figured- who said that that is the way things are supposed to be?

That is why- a while after I first got asked to teach I have decided: If I am going to teach I shall teach the way I in which I would have liked to be taught.

When I asked my Chinese friends about my given name "Wen Hsiu" they said that it meant that I was a gentleman. I was trained and taught with the philosophy that a gentleman has to know martial arts along with his vocational training and life skills. At some times these aspects of one's life seem intertwined. The reason that I have to offer people to start considering learning martial arts is to enable them to become a complete person. This will of course require a different approach to teaching and training a soldier or an MMA fighter, but it is nonetheless something to which it is worth devoting time and effort.

When learning marketing skills one gets taught of advertising to get the public's attention and then after sales service as a means to secure the relationship with the client. In martial arts- even if you do not wish to run your school as a business- that after sales service consists mainly of the results and the experience students get from attending your classes.

I guess I will not really see an end to posts and videos about whether something works "on the street" or not, but I really hope to see people publishing more and more reasons on why people have to bother learning martial arts to begin with.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Kungfu Moves in Karate 6: Twin Dragons Shooting Out Pearl

Hello again, everyone!

Today's post is the last in the series on Kungfu moves that we find in Karate.

This move is one of 3 double handed strikes that show up in forms from time to time. Because fists are allowed in most martial arts sparring competitions (except Judo for instance) some might even say that they have used it as opposed to the other strikes that are both open handed.

The Twin Dragons are found in Shaolin Forms and consist of two punches- one chest level and one stomach level, shooting out simultaneously. It is also executed by punching the face and abdomen at the same time.

The original version of the technique looks like this:

This version is also found in the Bassai Dai and Rohei kata of Shukokai. Other Okinawan-based styles also use this method.

Japanese styles of Karate like Shotokan and Wado Ryu have the arms bent, further apart and the body leaning into the punch like this:

While the first method is sufficient for hitting two targets at once, or to have an extra attack going out for in case the first gets blocked the second method also has its added uses.

Sensei Iain Abernethy actually has a really good explanation for this. In the video below he also explains why this punch is called "Yama Zuki" (Mountain Punch) in Japanese.

I have come across the Youtube channel of DrobyshevskyKarateSystem some time ago and have found that they have another use for the Mountain Punch. The link to the video is below:

Rear Bear Hug Defense:

This has brought has to the end of this series.

Saying that Karate has developed from Fujian White Crane style of Kungfu is really an over-generalisation as the 5 previous posts have shown us.

If you have never seen the White Crane style before here is a sample:

We have also seen that, although Shotokan is regarded as a Japanese style of Karate which we would expect to be the furthest removed from Chinese influence it contains not only the Ma Bu (Horse Stance) of Shaolin, but also other Shaolin techniques that got preserved in its kata and kihon.

Knowing where these techniques come from and what they were originally meant to do helps a lot in understanding the kata and its purpose.

In the end, however, we know that the study of martial arts is not an academic exercise and it is alright if you do not wish to delve too deep into the history of what you are doing. I hope, however, that these last 6 posts have provided some answers to the more inquisitive among us.

Train well and have a great week ahead.