Want to be a Better Martial Artist?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: martial arts
15 Jul 2009

4 Responses to “Want to be a Better Martial Artist?”

  1. Urban Samurai Says:

    Interesting post. That’s quite a lot you had to do for your 4th dan. Were you able to come up with ten totally original techniques? My system only requires we create one technique for 2nd and 3rd dan plus we have to learn a two man kata and demonstrate a load of self defense techniques.

    I agree that when you get to black belt stage you should start getting creative. I’m at that stage now myself. There are so many techniques in Jujitsu that it would take you a lifetime or more to learn them all. I’m happy knowing a core set of defenses for every situation. I don’t feel the need to keep adding to them. Instead, I just try and master the ones I do know. I think that’s more important. I’m more interested now in uncovering my own personal style, but still staying within the confines of my existing art.

    It depends what your goals are. I think if my goals were to train purely for self defense then I would end up just doing mostly striking techniques because that would be keeping it simple and street wise. I like Jujitsu as an art though, so I try and respect it and practice it for the sake of it, for the sake of the art. I think you can learn a lot by doing that. Concentrating on the art allows you to reach the deeper aspects of it. Pure self defense training is very clinical and functional. There’s no real room for art.

    I suppose being a black belt is about finding your own path, whatever that may be. I don’t think you should feel pressured into following the exact same path as your sensei. I respect the path my sensei has taken and I follow him down it to an extent, but I also add my own thoughts and experiences into that, the result being that I get my own unique experience of the martial arts. I think that’s it. You have to experience it in your own way, express yourself instead of someone elses ways. I’m rambling. I’ll shut up now.

    Incidentally, training in the mountains? Very cool. I’m thinking Van Damme in Kickboxer when he has a moment with that eagle! I’m so jealous. If I tried that here in Ireland I’d probably die from exposure or get washed back down the mountain with all the rain!

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Neil, Thanks for your thoughts! This is a deep subject but I like you see the benefits of improving your base.
    I did create 10 new techniques, about one a week… they were fun creative ways of fighting as I recall. Finding ones I really liked was the tough part because my base (240 self-defense techniques in the system) is just a guideline (for me). I suppose there are people out there that can use a technique they practice but I view it more creatively.
    For instance one complex technique will have 15 parts to it. My muscle memory only recalls how to do each part… putting it together is my own thing in the moment. Part of the difference of being a black belt versus a brown belt. What I think (providing my body is in good shape) – I can do… no need to depend on the variations of my ancestral masters in my variety of kenpo karate.
    The area I most achieve new movements is when I am practicing on the bag or shadow sparring with weapons. I “discover” a new way of doing a kick or elbow… (Although I am not so naive to believe it is new – just new for me) and I start incorporating it into my workout.
    Yes the mountains are not too bad in San Diego :)
    Thanks for you insightful comments!

  3. Anon Says:

    This is a very insightful article, and I am glad to be able to learn from someone of such skill. Although I am still quite a long road away from the level you are at (Green Belt – Shotokan Karate), your advice is something I will remember to keep in mind throughout my experience with martial arts. You are practicing more than one martial art right? When you talk about your muscle memory, I am assuming you are talking about more of a sense of knowing it rather than the move being in your mind, which would take a lot of skill to hone. The mountain idea is something I would want to eventually do, except for the fact that I don not think there are any mountains here in lonely saskatchewan, but aside from that fact I thank you for your insightful article and will always remember to be creative.

  4. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Anon!
    Green belt is where things start really coming together. There is benefit to learning more than one fighting art. In school I was a good wrestler. I learned some Lima Lama in high-school. I learned kenpo as an adult. I transitioned into kick boxing and also learned boxing at that point.
    Kenpo has complex techniques and I learned how to do the moves, strikes, blocks, stances and then as I got better I could recall as needed whatever worked for a situation. That is what I mean by muscle memory.
    It is kind of funny but someday my ideal home would have a Japanese garden with a bridge over a gold fish pond leading to my private dojo. I’d spend a couple of hours working on my form (bag work, shadow sparring, doing moves in a mirror to validate my initial movement, speed bag, reaction bag, judo mats, and anything else to broaden my horizons).
    I do think there is a benefit to clearing the mind and allowing it to focus as you work to improve your martial art… whatever it is.
    Thanks for you comments Anon – best of luck to you.