Most martial artists will know fellow students that study real hard for testing and then forget techniques and kata afterwards (until the next testing). Basics seem to stick with us longer because we have to know all of the kick and punch combinations for what most hold dear to their hearts – fighting!
I used to somewhat be one of these martial artists other than while I was teaching – I did remember everything (as I taught it over and over again). In my case after I sold my karate school and then decided not to make a career of full contact (not much money), I got stale off and on over the years. Sure I would make a best effort comeback every few years but then would be focusing on scratching out a living for my family. No excuses though and I would bet many martial artists fall into this camp at times.
In this post I will be making an argument for not only brushing the dust off your martial art but additionally training in a realistic method of some type. After all now that your are a black belt and hopefully have trained yourself to be a fairly good fighter – what is left to prove to anyone? Nada! You have to be in the martial arts for yourself to improve!
First here is a video where Benny “the Jet” Urquidez is speaking to kid about owning your techniques… and what it means to be a black belt. I only listened to the first part about making techniques your own as that is what this post is about.
Benny makes a good point here. How many times have you learned a technique that because of your body size or gender – you did not feel would work so well for you. Maybe the technique would only work against some types of attackers? Maybe you felt that the strikes selected did not make sense to you because you favored other strikes?
Well you are not alone. Let me give you an example. In kenpo we have a technique that looks really cool when you learn it called the Cobra and the Mongoose. This is a defense against a right hand step through knife attack. You step in with your left foot – left chop to wrist while your back hand chop is cocked over your head. Next you chop the radial nerve (farther up on the wrist), so the knife drops at this point if you did it right. Next you follow up with a left chop to the throat and a right spear hand eye shot… then your left elbow clears another punch as you shuffle in and elbow the face.
If the knife defense works – the rest of the technique would work fine but other than as an artsy martial arts move – it is not really my cup of tea. But that is me. I don’t really practice chops for power other than in my techniques. I know other systems of karate do however and a combination like this might work real well if you like that.
For me a wrist chop with more control of the knife hand or at least a great early on counter attack with an effective cover (in case the knife is still around) would be more my style. But what of that technique? Should I shun it because it is not my cup of tea? I don’t think so.
I continue to practice the Cobra and the Mongoose (along with the other 239 self defense techniques) so my body learns the individual components, foot transitions, shuffle strike combinations and such. Because in my view a martial art is about so much more than some long dead masters view of how a technique should be done. I practice how I was taught so I don’t loose skills that may come in handy someday.
My view is after a person gets his or her black belt – it is at the beginning of the expert level. It is up to each black belt to interpret the techniques and improve on what he or she was taught.
One thing that is fun to do is have some freestyle training for ways to countering a type of attack. Try the stylized methods and come up with methods of improving on them. This is especially important for the likely weapon attacks you might face in your lifetime such as knives, clubs and guns.
As your sparring ability increases it is even fun to practice mass attacks to come up with some winning scenarios. But that is not the focus of this post… getting back on topic – the stylized techniques you learn – you can make better for your use. Keep what you learn but always be seeking improvements.
Don’t listen to any naysayers to want to teach you their better technique because martial arts are like car dealers. There is something for everyone. Take the Kung Fu schools… 300 plus ideas on how to fight… each style is separate because of a nuance on what they believe. Karate is similar other than the basics – they have different ways of doing stuff.
In the 60’s through early 80’s there were open (to all styles) karate tournaments where one scored points with winning moves. The rules were simple – one point for a kick or punch to the head, body or groin. The contact was medium to the body (men wore wrap-around cups) and light contact to the head in black belt divisions (no head contact for under brown belts).
The tournaments were fair and how I learned how to fight. I then got a job working as a bouncer and hand no issues in all of the fights I got in becuase you see I already fought world class fighters in the school and tournaments. Regular people and street fighters were no match.
So I guess what I am trying to say is you have to practice your moves no matter if they are kata, techniques, basics or sparring if you every want to be effective as a black belt. All parts are important.
It is true you can ditch the martial arts by learning just the sport fighting from every style and call it Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) but this is really a misnomer – they take all of the real fighting methods (the deadly stuff) out so no one gets maimed or killed in a match – but having done that you are just left with sport martial arts.
Sport martial arts of any type would work in a fight but it is not very effective. Case in point before the Mayhem laws in the US (1800’s I believe) it was common for men (they were not much for pugilism) to wrestle around until they could pluck out an eye! Imagine a modern BJJ fighter encountering such an opponent. He (the BJJ guy) would have to rapidly adopt eye gouging technique or become sightless. That is the difference between sport and fighting taken to the extreme example.
So stay true to your martial art, learn the required techniques and make them your own grasshopper. I welcome your opinions.