Thursday, June 10, 2010

A few reliable techniques, or a smorgasbord?

I say both.  Despite our large syllabus, we spend most of our time practicing the fundamentals, both techniques and drills.  The higher techniques are practiced less often, but build on and compliment the principles instilled in the fundamentals.  This maintains interest, adds scope, and reinforces the fundamentals (example).

At first only the basic techniques will be sufficiently internalized to pull off under pressure, but over time one's applicable repertoire becomes richer.

An analogy is learning another language.  Maybe you only learn a handful of words and phrases by rote at first -- traveller's French (or whatever) -- but if you are serious, in time you will want to develop a richer vocabulary, a sense of the grammar, idiom, etc.  Even learning those first few phrases may be really difficult (at first), but it is not clear that restricting yourself to a small set that intensive practice of a small subset will lead to better results than a serious, broader study.

Of course, if you don't have the time/dedication to pursue a broad and deep study of a language (or a martial art) attempting to do so will lead to shallow and disappointing results.


Anonymous said...

I don't think your analogy with language is entirely valid: in fighting the simplest moves are often the best (they're usually the most effective and are less prone to murphy's law) while with language the more elaborate communication is almost always better (unless in an emergency when you just need to yell 'fire' or 'help'). That being said I do agree the richer your command of teh language the more sasisfying the experience will be (same as in martial arts). I'm writing this in English, not my native language so I do think I know what I'm talking about. Hell, I'll pick Shakespeare over any of our writers any day of the week.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you a martial arts school should teach both simple and complicated techniques, you can’t keep training the same boring stuff over and over again but they are the foundation and absolutely necessary for both your martial development and your effectiveness in real life situations (which are two different things, I’ll elaborate later). For self-defense only simply, easy to learn and execute techniques with margin for error should be taught and then only a small number of them, ad nauseam to the stage where students can execute them instinctively. I don’t think it’s a good idea to teach throws and locks as basic self-defense techniques since they’re not basic and usually require quite a bit of maneuvering and fine-tuning to get right (especially under pressure and the phenomenon of the adrenaline-dump) hence the margin for error is much smaller. In my view self-defense should consist of a few basic, proven combinations of strikes designed to do the maximum damage coupled with defensive techniques to the most common attacks encountered on the street. Physical self-defense is compromised of a series of techniques that are simple, reliable and come fairly instinctive. Given the short time most people are willing to spend on acquiring this life-skill it should be bare-bone simple and extremely practical. Let people hit bags and mitts to acquire power and confidence in their techniques, introduce them to defensive tactics and counterattacking and if they’re confident enough let them put it into practice in free exercises with protection. In my view this is the best way to acquire effective self-defense skills that’ll actually be useful when the excrement hits the fan and you risk grave injury or even death if you don’t respond effectively.

Most of what is taught in martial arts (both sports and classically-orientated) has surprisingly little to do with this and while almost every club, dojo or gym claim what they’re doing is very good for self-defense it’s usually not. This is due to two reasons: 1) the main goal is usually sports, tradition, physical fitness, spiritual growth etcetera (self-defense comes in second, third or even last place if at all) and b) it’s in their economic interest to teach their students intricate techniques and ritualized pseudo-fighting in order to keep them interested (the biggest myth of all: this black belt will protect you against all evil, you really need those advanced techniques to win) and keep the cash rolling in year after year. The truth is you don’t need a black belt (i.e an investment of years worth of money and time) to be successful in self-defense, in a number of cases it’s even the detrimental since your brain is so overloaded by the multitude of techniques and/or you’re so conditioned to fight a certain way you just freeze up when the opponent decides not to play your game and doesn’t respond in the way your partners have in the dojo or even the ring.

I’d say learn and teach self-defense first if that is the goal, only then, when you or your students can defend themselves properly is it time for the deeper layers of martial arts (technique, tradition, spirituality, athleticism) and you’ll be able to grow with it. Martial arts are immensely valuable in a great number of ways but you should be critical of what you were taught and clearly state your priorities and the goals of your training, only then can you decide what would be best for you or what you should teach to your students in order to build a healthy dojo and live in harmony with yourself, others and the world. ...