An Outrageous Claim?

In the hopes of starting a discussion, I would like to make an outrageous claim. Your martial art is likely the product of generations of inbreeding. By that, I mean, your style’s attacks are specific to your style’s defenses and vise-versa. Which is ok for sports, basketball players don’t study a 4-3 defense. But what about supposed ‘martial arts’ who will at some point, likely encounter someone who doesn’t do what they do? Many students only practice with other students of the same school. Strike A is countered with Block B which sets up Strike C. Which is great, but what if instead of Block B, they respond with technique X? Well, now you’re in trouble, because technique X is from another style you don’t practice. Many of the styles I’ve practiced had elaborate attacks, counters and counter-counters, but all of it was predicated on the assumption that the opponent would be using techniques from that martial art. Which isn’t all bad, it sure beats assuming that the attacker is going to come in with a lunging straight right that leaves their arm fully extended! I would say even Taijiquan has this problem, since I’ve caught myself using feints in tuishou that were far to subtle to bait someone who wasn’t intent on ‘listening’. Not to mention the average taiji player’s reluctance to box, pushands with people from outside their school or sometimes, pushhands at all! So, how to address this? One of the last things my teacher told me was to pushhands with anyone and everyone. I have taken this (like most other things) to an extreme. I like to push with everyone, big, small, soft, hard. You like to box? Let’s box. You want to wrestle, then let’s wrestle. The key, IMO, isn’t so much testing my art against theirs, as it is seeing how well my move set works within their rule set. To me taijiquan is more about ‘how to do’ rather than ‘what to do’. Whether it was invented by Zheng San Feng or not, the shaolin influence is fairly obvious. I’m not sure if taiji even has ‘native’ techniques! I’ve heard of several masters saying “if it conforms to the classics, it’s taiji.” The trick for me would be taking techniques from say BJJ and figuring out how to do them according to taiji principles. Then they could be incorparated into ‘my’ taiji. Really, if taiji’s principles are as universal as they claim to be, it shouldn’t be too difficult. BTW, I am not giving up taiji, nor am I implying that taiji is lacking somehow. I just think that if a MA is to stay ‘alive’ it needs to cross-pollenate with other contemperary styles. How many times have you heard of Master A of style X meeting Master B of style Y and the changes they each made to their styles after the confrontation? When’s the last time you heard of that happening? Unfortunately, most of the other schools I go to, are not very receptive to the idea. They usually assume I’m ther to take lessons or to pick a fight. I don’t understand this insular attitude. It’s partly money to be sure. Can’t look good if some punk off the street cleans your clock in front of your class. It’s not my goal of course, but how to convince someone? I have yet to find the right approach. Somewhere in between “So, I heard you thought you know how to fight” and kissing their ass in the hopes that they let ‘something’ slip. So long as we can both agree not to kill each other, I’m game for most anything.

A friend recently told me about a mma gym where they might be receptive to ‘rolling’ with me. Hopefully I can get a ride out there this week or next.


~ by aedhcarrick on September 7, 2009.

4 Responses to “An Outrageous Claim?”

  1. I think this problem you’re talking about exists mostly on the beginner to intermediate level of practice. Most high-level martial artists I’ve met seem to have been able to handle any kind of attack reasonably well, at least in the context of te3aching or demo. And I’ve ocasionally tried VERY hard! It doesn’t matter if it’s internal or external, Karate or Kungfu, most do it reasonably well. The quality of the response, of course, is the key to how impressed one becomes, and mostly it’s been the internal or semi-internal styles (such as Tongbei or Six Harmonies Praying Mantis) that have most impressed me. I don’t know how much this division between internal and external can actually be kept, since most of the great teachers I’ve met generally did both equally well.

    A good martial art, even if “inbred” will build a consistent method of moving that will provide at least the opportunity to then practice moves against any kind of attack. Of course, it still means you have to practice to allow the responses to come naturally, and you have to practice against different kinds of people. But it’s not that the art doesn’t have the techniques or responses, rather, that the generalized method of movement and power issuance exists, and you can create the responses when needed.

    I think.

  2. Thank you for your comment Jose. I agree that the problem exists more among beginners. I definately try and cultivate a consistant quality of movement. Often I would ask my teacher what he would do in a specific situation and he would look thoughtful then reply “I don’t know.” He would then have me set up the situation so we could both see how he would respond. Only out of three tries, he would respond three different ways! Obviously, spontaneous reactions are best, but that said, my teacher encouraged me to push hands with everyone I could. He said that everyone does the same things differently. I firmly believe that training with people outside one’s school is good for your art overall. I am not, however, talking about crosstraining, ie learning a bunch of other arts to supplement taiji. I think of it as more an expansion/intergration. I find repeated exposure brings me a certain degree of comfort when dealing with that thing. When I first started, I had no interest in pushing with anyone but my teacher. Then as I became more comfortable, I began pushing with other taiji players. Nowadays, I try to push with anyone I can, whether they do taiji or not. Pushing with a guy who did praying mantis was a real eye opener! As was the BJJ guy I met. I love meeting other martial artists and seeing there takes on what we do. I am going tonight, to hang with an escrima group uptown. Should be fun!

  3. A good example of what i’d like to see is the story about a fight between Dong Hai Quan and Guo Yun Shen. Google gives several various versions, but they all end about the same.

  4. I agree with what your said (and sorry for the late response, but I only visit your blog every once in a while). My only problem with Push Hands is that it doesn’t really addess some concerns of different ranges of fighting. I think that for me at least, the primary “move” that I train, and the one I try to practice with people who practice other arts – is the initial “entry”. Since I do not train for fighting, and my only concern with “fighting” is the vague and improbable possibility that I’ll have to defend myself one day against a random idiot attack, I feel this is the most useful usage of my training time: surviving an initial attack, and gaining an advantageous position for any follow ups. My teacher used to tell me (referring to bagua) that his primary concern was to teach me how to move to where I was safe. if I could do this well, he said, then whatever I did afterwards would be OK, since by definition if I did it well I would be placed in such a way that 1) I could use all of my power and strength and 2) the opponent would not be able to use all of his strength and would be in an awkward position (which would mean any strike you hit him with would hurt more). He would say “if he’s twice as strong as you, you need to be where he can only use a quater of his strength and you can use all of yours, to make you effectively twice as strong as him for amoment”.

    This ingrained in mke the habit of looking first for the movement and only after for the technique. Techniques are what emerges from correct movement, they are what your movement and your opponent’s position allow you to “seize”. Correct movement, ingrained and with an initial “automatic” reflex move is more important than actual technique.

    And there are a lot of ways to move, and I think that most good practitioners of ANY martial arts can do soemthing that works for them, provided they’re used to looking at reacting to their opponent’s in this way. It is better to ingrain one movement method well, which is capable of allowing you to spontaneously adapt to what’s coming your way, even if you’re not used to the type of attack. Later, you can look at other styles to learn new tricks, or perhaps to complement your way of doing things. This is why the internals are fun, because you can do two or three styles (Xingyi, Bagua or Taiji) without hurting too much the movement method of the others.

    But I still think that most Taiji players develop too much time to Push Hands and not enough to “entries”.

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