The influence of different kinds of Soft Martial Arts and what we can learn and apply from them

Written by Wayne. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013, Martial Arts

Tai Chi, Chinese Martial Arts, Soft Martial Arts, Basingstoke, Ba Qua, Hsing, Wayne Roberts

Black Belt Grading Project Briefing

 

The influence of different kinds of Soft Martial Arts and what we can learn and apply from them

 

Research Topic:

 

a)    The influence of different kinds of Soft Martial Arts and what we can learn and apply from them

b)    Identify and demonstrate some different types of Pushing Hands and how we can use them training in a ‘hard style’

c)    Chin Na and its importance and relevance to training

d)    The relevance of pushing hands for self-defence purposes

e)    The holistic nature of Martial Arts, its health benefits and how to undertake training to promote these benefits whilst minimising risk.

 

So I have to admit I was kind of expecting something like this as my black belt project. I had some feedback from my last grading that sometimes I tended to use too much strength or hard karate style and since then it has been something I have been very conscious of….but it can be challenging to do something about. Sometimes it’s very easy to get lost in a sparring duel with a partner and before you know it you are both whacking bits out of each other! I’ve also experienced picking up injuries as a result of the odd close encounter here or there, so another good incentive to listen to what you’re told and try to apply it. I also play the guitar which is sometimes difficult to do without the use of a finger or two…….

 

To be frank, the soft Karate styles we have so far learnt in class have also proved vexing for me to say the least (e.g. forms such as tai-kii, pushing hands etc). Sometimes you feel just when you are starting to make some progress and get the ‘feeling’ of how these techniques should be practiced they can suddenly seem completely out of reach, awkward and as if you are doing everything wrong. It’s almost as if getting this style right is a much a state of mind as anything physical, and can be very frustrating.

 

So lots of questions too……

 

–       Are soft martial arts really of any use in a fighting situation?

–       Is hard or soft style right either way or is it just matter of using each in the right time and place?

–       Is hard style really the path to the dark side? (to almost quote a famous short green Jedi Master)

 

When you try Googling ‘soft’ karate you’ll also end up with a lot of results….. Goju Ryu, Aikido, Wing Chun, Wadu Ryu, Kung Fu and Tai Chi to name but a few. So how do you know what is right to practice? From the sea of information, opinions and styles what is the correct thing to focus on? The answer probably is that there isn’t a ‘right answer’, just a matter of what is good fit for me, my own style, size, strength and personality. So that I think in part is the journey I need to go on for the next 8 months to find out exactly that!

 

For the purposes of this project I plan to investigate the core principles, techniques and forms of a number of ‘soft’ Japanese and Chinese martial arts including but not limited to those listed above. Although this will very clearly result in a lot of information being unearthed, which one could spend a decade analysing in detail, I hope to be able to synthesis this research into 4 or 5 key principles or techniques that are common across some or all disciplines.

 

Specifically this will also cover;

–       Key forms and their applications

–       Pushing hands in both offensive and defensive applications

–       Chin Na (which are techniques used to control/immobilise an opponent with locks)

 

Ultimately I hope to show how these soft karate techniques can help to improve speed, power generation, the ability to overcome opponents and finally the long term mental and physical health benefits vs hard style karate

 

Key for me personally will to be able to learn not just theory from books and people but to be able to demonstrate and importantly teach relevant techniques – I think this will be the best approach in terms of proving some of the theory. As a secondary objective, I’d really like to be able to teach members of the club something new and different that they may not have seen before and so improve everyone else’s understanding and skill in this area.

 

In terms of undertaking the research, demonstrating and proving key conclusions therefore my approach will be as follows;

–       Discussions face to face with senior practitioners from those disciplines identified (where time allows, potentially lessons)

–       On-line and published literature review/reading

–       Practice and proving these techniques through testing and application with fellow members of the club (where there are willing victims!)

 

Over the course of the next 8 months I plan to provide a regular update on my research and conclusions in written/blog form (6 updates between March and November), plus a number short demonstrations during or at end of normal lessons. This will culminate in a 60 minute class which I will run during November/December.

 

The approximate timetable for this project will be as follows;

–       March to June – core principles & techniques review (researching 1-2 martial arts disciplines per month)

–       July to September– consolidate key focus areas based on research, focus on learning & practicing pushing hands & Chin-Na techniques and applications

–       October to December – consolidate learnings, preparation for final write up & class

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What’s in a name?

Written by bryan. Posted in Martial Arts

I’ve been asked many times over the years, what style of Karate do you do? Too many people get too hung up on styles, particularly those that have done some prior training.

Black Judo, Black Belt Karate in Basingstoke

Black Judo, Black Belt Karate in Basingstoke

To a great extent Karate is Karate whether its Goju, Shito-Ryu, Wado, Shotokan, Uechi Ryu, Kyokushinkai or whatever (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karate for more information on styles). Each style has something to offer, but at the end of the day, there are only so many ways to kick, strike, block, throw and punch. Of course an individual practitioner might tell you…….. that their style is better than style x because ……well generally there are lots of different reasons and most of the reasons given aren’t usually genuine in the sense of being correct.

All the styles that I’ve ever seen or trained in work at long (kicking) range, medium (punching) range and close (elbows/knees) range. They all teach front punch, reverse punch, upper block, round kick etc etc. Okay there may be some stylistic difference between them. For example how they generate power in performing a reverse punch you can use your hips (amongst other parts of the body) to generate power, but double hip, single hip or no hips? Consider a Roundhouse kick, do you impact with the ball of the foot, instep, shin or even big toe? Linear or circular, hard or soft, Kime or no Kime…….I could go on, but you probably get the idea, that’s are some differences between styles, but what’s necessary to keep in mind is that If you watch two exponents from different styles fighting, there is very little to choose between them in terms of repertoire of techniques, nor in terms of which style wins most enough at an international competitive level.

What is more important is the individual teacher and their ability to impart knowledge with some substance behind it. If we take one style or lets narrow it down to an association within that style and then further to a single club within that association, there are and should be differences down to the dojo level, let alone as you investigate across a cross section of different clubs in an association. Its not rocket science really to figure out why. As individuals we are all different; – weight, flexibility, strength, co-ordination, age, body type, fitness levels etc. Given this fact, why do some instructors insist that we have a vanilla flavoured Karate style.

I remember Kanazawa Sensei http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirokazu_Kanazawa at a grading saying to someone grading for Sandan (3rd Dan,)  okay your way is different to mine, but at your level you must change your Karate to suit you. Karate should be different its not meant to be a one size fits all Martial Art, its meant to be personalised by the practitioner, rather than developing clones of a particular instructor. Heaven forbid that people look different when training in class, it makes the dojo look so untidy. I found myself out of favour at a course once, when the instructor moved my punching a fraction. I asked him during a break and with no-one else present, why? His answer was because it looked better, not that it was more practical or more effective, but because of aesthetics, so that I’d look the same as the rest of his students. It’s sometimes confuses visiting students when they train with us to see a Kata being performed in different ways by different students. For example is a particular leg movement a crescent kick, knee stomp, knee block or step? Does it really matter which of these moves is used as long as the practitioner understands why they do the application? I don’t believe that it does, of course I’m open to being persuaded, but as far as I’ve seen so far the study of Karate and in fact Martial Arts is a personal thing. I’ve trained with many of the most respected instructors both from within the UK and also from overseas and the quality that they share is their individuality, regardless of which style they are meant to be practicing.

Don’t worry about the name of a style, the approach of the instructor is the most important thing.

As the pop group Bananarama and Fun Boy Three sang many years ago “It’s not what you do, but the way that you do it.”

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I can’t learn a Martial Art

Written by bryan. Posted in Martial Arts

I’d like to learn a Martial Art, but can’t at the moment because………..

“I’m too unfit”……….”I’m too old”………..”I don’t have time”…………..”I’ll never be able to kick at head height level” “I Can’t……” “It’s too hard………” or the ones that should be used much more often, but are actually used the least “I’m too lazy” “I like being an armchair warrior.” 

Next time you think you’d like to start learning a Martial Art but you find a reason not too, then remember watching the video of this young man performing Karate or Kyle Maynard with his wrestling in the video at the foot of the page.

For those of you that already practice, maybe these two guys will give you food for thought about your own training and how you go about it.

 

 

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I have a dream

Written by bryan. Posted in Martial Arts, Martial Arts skills

I have a dream….

That one day Martial Arts will not be thought of as ‘separate’ Martial Arts, that the politics of structures like Karate, Ju Jitsu,  Kung Fu, Taekwondo and Aikido are consigned to history – that Martial Arts will retain it’s diversity without the politics and have just one Governing Body dealing only with club structure, safety and the various types of competition….  

That there will be no politics of styles, no Wado, no Shotokan, no Hun Gar, no GKR, no Tomiki, no ITF that everyone will be working to be the best they can and eventually transcending the ‘style’ of their teachers with their own personal development and style will be where they came from and not a prison for the future…  

That there will be no restriction on who can train with whom….  

That there will be no bad politics, because there is no separation of the arts, no separate styles, that we will all belong to the one brotherhood of self development through Martial Arts training…  

That people will understand that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are simply subjective depending on where you are on the spectrum from Buddhist Priest to Cage Fighter…  

That people will choose where they want to train and that clubs and Instructors will survive by the grace and choice of the students….  

Appreciation that many people want to start in a less than intensive community style class or club and move forward to a higher standard when they feel ready but the pathways to progression are clearly laid out…  

That Martial Arts truly are for everyone; from athlete to special needs, from the very young to the very old, whether they are visually impaired, limbless, in a wheelchair, lack mobility, are chair bound, whatever gender, race or religion they be….  

That the required standards surrounding a Martial Arts club will be on safety and structure, qualifying and training coaches and volunteers, safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, with a high level of health and safety and giving equity to all types of students with fair pricing, so that Martial Arts can be appreciated for what they are and fit into the community structure…  

That instructors and coaches are prepared to share and learn throughout their career to become the best at what they do, some instructors can specialise in children, some in competition, some in older people, some in special needs, some in fitness and health, but all will feel appreciation for each other…  

That the ethos handed down to us from the past is the ‘tradition’ we talk about with an unbroken line of wisdom from the ancients validated by science, our good health and vigour, mental awareness and concentration, good manners and physical testing….  

Amen

Steve Rowe

Chairman of Martial Arts Standards Agency

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Martial Arts Standards Agency British Judo British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body The World Union of Karate Federations Shi Kon Martial Arts British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body

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