The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Clarity in Your Training

I brought up the idea of the different between a classical martial art and a martial art sport in the post, Optimization and Martial Arts. I'd like to explore that a little further, especially after reading a very good post at Ikigai Way on Knife Self Defense. Please read the post at Ikigai Way and watch the videos, they are mind opening.

Martial arts can be practiced as a type of Budo, a sport, or for self defense. These areas overlap, and are not mutually exclusive, but they are certainly not all the same.

I thought the Krav Maga videos gave the best advice on what one could do facing a knife. Bursting. I find it interesting that I think that's the way I imagine the taijiquan I study would be expressed in a live situation. In the form I practice, I see a lot of simultaneous attack and defense movements.

Here is a video clip of Eddie Wu, the Gatekeeper of the Wu style of Taijiquan giving a seminar in Hong Kong. Unfortuneatly it is in Cantonese, and may as well be Greek to me. However, at about 1:10, Sifu Wu demonstrates a movement from the beginning part of a reoccuring posture in the Taiji form, Brush Knee and Push. Here we see that simultaneous movement that the Krav Maga guys used so effectively.

I was a bit troubled by the aikido videos, coming from an aikido background myself. I can't believe for a second that the techniques we practiced in our study of budo on the mat would be meant to be applied so literally against a real weapon. In fact, I know of an aikido student who was confronted with a knife in a parking lot once. He tried to use the evading movements without any soft of "bursting." He was stabbed in the leg. His attacker must have been shook up by it as well because he ran away.

As the character Buddha Hat (who provided "security" to a drug dealer) said in the book Clockers, when explaining why he preferred a gun to a knife, knifing a guy is really personal.

When I trained in aikido, virtually every technique we practiced began with the same format. The uke (the attacker and person who received the technique) would attack, and be met with a simultaneous strike to the face, and the initial movement of a response. Sensei said that this strike was a distraction, but if the distraction was strong enough, maybe the technique didn't have to be completed. I think he was hinting at bursting. Thinking about those techniques, I'm sure of it.

Another martila art that is more purely a budo is archery. At Zen's Sekai I, there have been several recent posts on the art of kyudo. I think there would be little doubt about applying archery literally to self defense, except for the training in keeping a clear mind. I'm certain that would have direct application.

Well, my point is not to be mistaken in what youre training for. You make be a killer MMA fighter in the ring, but those skills aren't likely to get you anywhere except maybe a knife in the neck.

Here's a thread from the Rum Soaked Fist forum, regarding a movie entitled The Hunted, in which a realistic depiction of knife fighting is featured. Watch the video. How do you think your current training would stack up?

For myself, I train in Taijiquan because it's an activity I find engaging. It's something that I can hopefully continue to participate in, well into my doterage, and that practice will help me keep going longer. It helps me clear my mind, stay strong, and flexible. It helps me relax.

I think that if you study a martial art, the litmus test is that you have to be able to fight with it. If you can't, you're not doing it right. I can't do that with taijiquan yet, I don't think. I have a way to go yet, but I'm clear about that.


For those of you who are going to join me on the Lenten Challenge, I just wanted to remind you that it starts tomorrow.


another neijia said...

Bursting is like Jade Maiden. Anyone should be able to learn how to use that very quickly with some *partner* practice. Can they use it against a real attacker with a knife? Maybe, maybe not, but learning the basic move should be easy!

In general, I think taijiquan should be approached with simplicity, just like in that bursting/jade maiden example. People get distracted so easily by talk of qi, long forms, lineage arguments, etc. Sure, the art can be studied very deeply over a long period, but in the beginning, people shouldn't be distracted. Keep it simple! I'm sure with all your experience (or maybe better to ignore that!) if you think about it in this way, you realize you can in fact fight with it and over tiem I've become convinced anyone can learn some basics of it effectively very quickly. Jade maiden is only one example!!!

Ikigai said...

Very nice post about this topic! I definitely agree with your stance and I think that it's interesting that taiji has built in bursting techniques. I feel karate is the same way once you allow yourself to let go of the 'block, punch, punch' mentality.

Rick said...

Another Neijia: I think you're right. Our minds get in the way of what we're doing sometimes.

Ikigai:Regarding Karate, have you seen this?

Sensei Strange said...

Rather than bursting, I tend to see it as rhythmical and arhythmical movement.

Rick said...

I think the point I'm getting at is taking it to your attacker.

Ikigai said...

Cool Rick, I hadn't seen that.

fencer said...

Hi Rick,

Very worthwhile post... appreciated the link to the other blog's knife-fighting post as well.

At our aikido dojo, we do practice the knife attacks and defences, although our sensei points out how much better it is to avoid those situations altogether, since a real knife fighter would likely cut us to ribbons... those defenses have to practiced to a very high level to have any utility and do seem to depend on a committed attack. I like the burst idea, which is a lot what atemi is doing in a way.