Monday, February 28, 2011

Defining My Own Distaste for “Point” Sparring

  I've stated numerous times, my own dislike of point sparring. When I make that statement (without further definition), I encounter numerous declaration’s of how I'm preventing my student's from learning how to react in a “real” confrontation. This rarely comes from individual's that have any real experience in confrontational encounter's. The majority of sparring sessions, are based on an unrealistic scenario/situation to begin with. They will (commonly) begin with both individual's assuming a “fighting” stance, with a referee providing a “begin” command.
  To believe that this is even close to how a confrontation begins is delusional (at best) to begin with. Even if one ignores this fantasy manner of beginning a confrontation, one then has to cease their defensive actions if/when a point is considered to of been scored.
  Sparring, is a sport pastime, period. It has very little to nothing to do with training an individual in self-defense. It's absence from practice is not detrimental to one's ability to defend themselves. I've listened to numerous argument's to the contrary, yet all have had to concede the fact that the participant's are not in the same situation as a real confrontation. Argument's for it's relevance to training, include that the participant learns to take a punch (which is complete B.S.). The fact that you can resist/absorb a padded strike (to an equally padded appendage/body part) does not mean that you can/will resist that same strike in a real  confrontation, to believe so, is ridicules. Equally misleading, is the fact that this same strike (which scored a point) will always cause/create any manner of a deterrence on the part of the recipient. 
  In regards to Oyata's methodology, sparring disallows 90% of what my student's practice on a regular basis. In fact, by participating in sparring, those same student's would be practicing Not to use the very technique's that we review in every class. I am a very firm believer in “you do, as you practice”. It would be hypocritical (of me), to then have(if not force) my student's to participate in the practice of sparring. There are several students who do, but not with my acquiescence of it (to do otherwise, would prove a little too authoritative for my taste). I can't/don't mandate any (restrictions of) behavior practices of my student's. I will voice my opinion of that behavior/practice, but I would never restrict it (it's their training, their paying for it, they can do as they wish).
  Another (IMO) misleading use of sparring, is in regards to training female student's. Instructor's will often inject their female students into the sparring realm to allow them to feel what it's like to be struck. This practice tends to bother me. First off, the biggest problem that I've encountered with my own female student's, is in training them to strike harder (with more force than they usually utilize). It's my opinion that everyone is familiar with what pain feels like (they hardly need to be reminded by being struck again).
  Involvement with a confrontational situation, will (automatically) trigger an adrenalin rush (which dampens the pain receptor levels of the individual). Females are also built different (as if you hadn't noticed, LOL). They have the same targeting points (and a couple more) as their male counterparts. They are rarely involved in equivalent situations to those that a male can find themselves in. When have you ever seen a female involved with a dueling situation? (such as sparring emulates).  
  The vast majority of female defensive situation's, are partner based (meaning husband, boyfriend etc.). These (usually) don't equate in any way, to a sparring situation. Hence, the inclusion of sparring does nothing to assist in their training. Those instructor's that push the stranger-danger (somebody leaping out of the bushes, BS) are ignoring the realities of female defensive situation's. One need only view their local police reports (usually available “on-line”). The vast majority of call's are domestic violence (ie. family/sibling physical altercations). These are also (commonly) between a male and female resident. When you do see a public disturbance call listed, it's usually between two or more males.
  One can draw numerous (and sometimes erroneous) conclusions from this information. #1 being, that the odds of being involved with/in a physical altercation will usually include one of the individual's being a male. This obviously isn't a guarantee, but it's a pretty sure bet. For that same reason, the majority of actions and responses, are formulated around the aggressor being a male (and having male oriented responses to those practiced actions). Be it for what-ever reason, males are trained (throughout their growing years) that to strike a female, is considered wrong (by western society). This is often erroneously interpreted as allowing the slapping of a female, as being acceptable(by a male). Though one can/will often witness a female slap another female, that does not equate to an allowance of a male performing the same action. The physical dynamics are completely different between the two examples.
  Argue the point all you wish, but to pit a female, against a male in a sparring situation is unrealistic (at best). The dynamics of a real confrontation will be completely different (for both parties). Sparring, attempts to place the female, in a male position/situation. Reality will rarely (if ever) allow that to happen. A female should train to utilize those attributes that they already posses. Not attempt to develop those attributes that conflict with those abilities. I witness too many instructor's attempt to turn their female student's into becoming male equivalents. It isn't going to happen (and IMO, is a disservice to the female student).
  Though I strive to avoid going off-subject (at least the original one, LOL), In this case, it serves to accentuate my point. Sparring serves no Self-defense (training) purpose. 


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Training outside of your system

  The topic that seemed to permeate the post's that I was reading, was that a student should participate in a variety of systems (to gain exposure to them). I have no problem with, and would agree (to a degree) with that suggestion. The only caveat to that (IMO), would be that they first attain a ranking of Shodan in the system that they are presently studying. If a student is only familiar with some of the kyu rank teachings, they will rarely have any (real) understanding of the system's applications. For a person to garner any knowledge of a system (through participation in the classes being taught for that system), one needs a reference to compare it against. Without that reference, any system's methodology will sound good.
  As an instructor, having to listen to the ramblings (of these multi-system, kyu ranked student's), can be a (time consuming) chore. The majority of system's/instructor's require that student's “put on a white belt” (to participate in their class). I disagree with that mandate (and don't do so in my own classes). If someone has attained what-ever rank, in what-ever system, they should wear that rank. Whether that ranking holds a similar equivalency in my own classes (or not), will become obvious after a short time. I feel no need to (attempt to) deny that previous instruction. They may very well be equivalent to a higher rank (in my own class), and that will be acknowledged.
  The majority of system's/style's have something to offer a student. It's dependent upon whether what's being offered, is what the student is seeking. What I'm teaching (Oyata's methodology), doesn't offer “sparring” information. Student's that are seeking that (type of) information, would not be interested in participation in any of my classes ( Homey don't play that tune). Other instructor's Do offer that sort of instruction (and some even require it in their classes). My own (classes), don't pursue that type of instruction (my choice). 
  Acquiring knowledge about various system's methods (IMO) can be useful, but frankly (in hind-site) not much. That usefulness, is usually only in regards to instruction (when dealing with change-over student's from those systems). Though the basic's (being taught in the majority of system's) are similar, the differences will become apparent when attempting to apply the new techniques being taught (in the student's newly studied system), with what was learned/practiced in their previous system.
  If/when one of my own student's is planning on teaching, then I would encourage that student to participate in the study of alternate systems. Not to attempt to incorporate those methods into their instruction methods, but as a reference for student's that they may acquire from those systems.
  I believe the majority of instructor's who do participate in alternative systems, do so in order to prevent being surprised by any technique's that are taught by that system. I (personally) can't really relate (to that concern). Not that Oyata teaches every possible variation of a technique, only that there are only so many ways that a technique can be attempted and I feel competent in my own responses to those variations.
  There are only so many ways that one can throw a punch, or perform a kick. Regardless of the intricate details (of how which-ever method does so), prevention of that motion's completion is done in an almost identical manner. I can understand seeking the understanding of a particular motion's application (if you have never seen anything close to it within your own system), but wouldn't that say more about your own system? (more so than the other one). I have had (numerous) student's come to me to learn Tuite, and in every case, they tell me that their system teaches something similar (then, Why do they come to me to learn Oyata's method?). Those differences can often times be minor, but when combined with their system's methodology they (more often than not) prove awkward to integrate (into that system). When a student from another system comes to my class, and they're a kyu ranked student, I (generally) inform them that what I teach, will more often than not, prove difficult for them to apply (until they understand Oyata's methodology). Some are able to adapt, some aren't. Yudansha student's (that wish to study from me), I inform that the way that we do things, is going to mess with (if not conflict with) what they were previously taught, or at least are used to doing/using. That shouldn't imply better or worse, only different.
  I believe any new trend (in teaching) is spurred by similar beliefs. This is how/why ground work/techniques have become so popular. Nobody (well, hardly anybody, LOL) else was doing it before. Now it seems like everybody is concerned with “ground” technique's. The thing to consider is, they first have to get you there. If that doesn't happen, then it's not a concern (and they have most likely fucked-up, BAD). I work (practice) with student's who are familiar with those “take-down” methods being utilized (by the MMA/Gracie “methods”), and I don't understand the motivation behind them. Is the “goal” to eliminate the kick/punch repertoire of the martial artist? The only purpose, seems to be to get them on the ground (and sit on them, LOL). When I have those student's (who work with this shit) begin their “take-down” attempt, it seems to be (quite) easy to thwart that attempt. Using even basic point applications, their attempts are (easily) countered. The other “weakness” to their technique's (which I consider the greatest), is that they (their technique's) won't work against a larger/stronger opponent (even a less talented one). Mass, and Strength are Major factor's to their technique's (and I use that term loosely) success.
  I keep reading Blog's, that “tip-toe” around the whole MMA issue, and frankly I'm sick of it. These individual's are skilled “sports” figures. They are by no means skilled combatants. If you watch one of these matches, note that every one of them, is in prime physical condition. They're young, strong and full of piss and vinegar. ALL, notable attributes for a “sporting” contestant. I would defy you to take any of them, at age 45 or older, and see if anything (that they presently do in this MMA shit) even works for them at that time. When you can present to me, multiple 70+ year old practitioner’s of any of this MMA (or related) trash, that's even able to do it (much less force any of it to work) then maybe I'll consider bestowing any respect towards it. The difference being (between that tripe, and what I practice) is that I have an example to aspire towards. Granted, he isn't 70 year's old (he's freakin' 83 year's old!), but I would definitely feel more confident knowing what he knows, compared to anything that these MMA/ground-fighting/what-ever mook’s are selling.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Figuring out what is, and isn't "Bunkai"

  I was reading a recent blog about how techniques weren't hidden within kata. I would have to agree with that basic statement. I don't view those techniques (within the kata) as being hidden either. But the fact that one has to understand how to interpret those motions, could (easily) be misconstrued as to their being hidden. The remainder of the blog in question just got “stupid”(IMO) with their logic, so it wasn't worth entering into a discussion (with the blog's writer) about it. 

  I believe that (many of) the motions in kata, are deceptively obvious. That doesn't make them easy to recognize though. One has to first have an understanding of what is being illustrated from the motions being presented. For the individual who created the kata, those motions are obvious (enough) for the purpose of practice. But for someone unfamiliar with what they represent, then those meanings could (easily) be considered to be hidden.

  Unless one has been taught/shown those meanings/interpretations by the individual who (originally) created the kata, the best that we can hope for, is that the method of interpretation that we utilize is the correct one. If you peruse the internet, you can find numerous (different) methods that are being utilized to do that interpretation process. It becomes a matter of which one do you prefer. 

  The bunkai that I was taught (30+ years ago) in Shito-ryu were vastly different than what I later learned, and presently utilize. Most (well, all), of what I was originally shown, I have since discarded. Mostly because it didn't make any sense. What I was (originally) shown, was geared towards “sparring” applications. These were explained as having “real” (confrontational) application, but when scrutinized, they had no logic associated to their use.
  I was fortunate, in that I was introduced to Taika early on in my studies. Over the years he has (continually) shown how to do those interpretations (so that one can recognize the techniques contained within the kata), a.k.a. “bunkai”.
  From reading the methodology's of others, I've seen them restrict those(their own) methods of bunkai. They establish certain “rules”, which (on their own) seem to be understandable interpretation methods, but they will then dismiss (any) alternate interpretations (or methods). From my own experience, (my own) translations of bunkai, that I've interpreted (on my own) will (often, LOL) require modification (from what/how I originally envisioned the technique to be utilized). I don't view those initial attempts as being wrong, just maybe not refined (enough). This is how I tend to view many of the interpretations made by others also, they stopped refining those interpretations too early. 
  As I see it, what-ever interpretation of a kata motion that you utilize, is fine. That doesn't mean that it can't be improved upon (or even discarded if/when proven to be impractical, or wrong). I feel the same about my own interpretations (including those taught to me by Taika). Granted, (as yet) I've never had anyone present an interpretation that I felt was better than any shown to myself by Taika. But I have had (several of) my own be dismissed (and then explained as to why) by Taika. 
  The First point of reference (for bunkai), that I utilize, is that the technique be utilized against a single aggressor. This rule(?) is one that is regularly dismissed (by numerous systems). The vast majority of confrontations are between two individual's (and it's virtually impossible to predict the actions of multiple person's in a confrontation). Even when one is faced with multiple aggressor's, you will only be able to act against one at a time(granted, you may be able to utilize one as a blocking agent between yourself and a second aggressor). But, For the creator of a kata, to of been able to predict the (multitude of) variables associated with multiple aggressor confrontations would have been ridicules to expect (much less believe) to even be possible.
  The Second point of reference (POR) would be, that the aggressor is(at the beginning of a confrontation) either in front of you, or behind you . This variable, is (understandably) known for certain, only to the creator of the kata. The fact that the motion was included within the kata, forces one to explorer both options (for every motion contained within the kata). This often proves the most frustrating for those of us who are attempting to understand the motions. Most often, one has to envision what types of aggressions are even possible (and practical) to react to from those circumstances. There are certain actions, that unless one is aware of their occurrence, there's nothing that can be done (a.k.a. “blind-sided”) to prevent their occurrence.
  The Third POR, would be body motion (in the kata). In the case of the Naihanchi kata, the motion of stepping can represent a sweep, a step or a rotation (the same foot motions are identical in each case). The differences between them, would be the hand motions involved with them. Which in turn (no pun intended), leads to the Fourth POR. 
  Direction (of motion), the difficulty to determining this aspect, is that numerous motions (within the kata) could/can be interpreted from either a forward, or a reverse direction (of the motion). I'm familiar with several examples of motions (performed in kata), that when applied, are done in reverse to the kata's motion (and have associated bunkai for either if not both).
  The Fifth POR would be “alphabet” theory of kata bunkai. Taika explains that all motions contained within a kata, are individual (like the letter's of an alphabet). Only when the correct motions (letters) of that alphabet are connected, does one form words (technique's). And, just like our own alphabet, those letter's (motions) are not strung together(in the kata) to form words (technique's). One has to pick-out the individual letters, and create their own words (which additionally points out, that not all letter's work with all other letter's). This theory of bunkai application, also explains the numerous variations of techniques prevalent in the martial art world that are very similar in (both) looks, and in execution
  The Sixth POR would be that to qualify (as being a correct technique), the motion should not be dependent upon the strength of the individual (using that technique), nor upon the strength (or lack thereof) of the recipient of the technique. The technique should work regardless of the strength of either individual.
  The Seventh POR being, that not all techniques/motions have to be utilized with motions only from the kata in which they are found. The letter theory should be expanded to include every kata (so that those letter's can be used to form words with letter's from other kata). Taika only teaches the 12 kata in RyuTe. Not, because those are necessarily the best, but that they have the most diversity, and least repetitions (of motions) between them (and the fact that the version of each that he teaches, is the oldest form of each that he could verify). 
  There are no doubt other POR's that one could include, but these are our basic (premise) requirements for bunkai research. Of course we have Taika available to us for reference/confirmation, but people often mistakenly assume that he “shower's” his (local) student's with a consistent flow of knowledge over all of the intricacies of RyuTe,.....Not hardly! LOL. He expects “you” (meaning all of 'us”) to figure it out on our own. He'll verify, or dispute whatever you come up with, but not until you come up with something that at least sounds reasonable, will he even discuss it with you. On (very) rare occasions (if your really close) then he might, offer some extra information to assist you. When/if you do get it right, he act's like it's no big deal, like you knew it all along. Unfortunately, he's probably right, I just couldn't (or was too stupid, LOL) to recognize it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ground Control of an uke

  The ability to manipulate and control an opponent (once taking them to the ground) is an essential skill set that we attempt to impart upon our students. Though not always applicable (in every situation), when it is (and is safe to do so), possessing this ability can allow the user to prevent injury as well as escalate to any necessary control levels (including injury).
  When beginning to guide student's through this process, we explain (and provide literature in regards to) the range of motion (ROM) for the bodies limbs. These ranges are the (clinical) standards. It's our opinion that with these, the student can estimate the limits that one can motion a limb (before dislocation/damage results). From the learning of those standards, one can limit (or create) the amount of injury being inflicted upon an uke/controlled subject. Although pain, is usually the associated indication of reaching a range limit, it should not be considered the major indicator for having effected control over a subject. If/when a subject is under the influence of (some) substance (drugs, alcohol, medication etc.) pain will be the last thing that a subject may experience.
  Understanding the natural motions, ranges and limits of those motions can provide the tori/student with the necessary knowledge to vary a technique's application to correct any miss-application or for countering any attempted escapes (by the uke).
  The placement of an aggressor/uke, face-down upon the ground can/will negate any (serious) attempts on their part, of continued or retaliatory strikes/aggressions against the tori. The tori also has the choice of blacking out the individual, if that would assist the tori in safely escaping a situation should the need arise. If a reader (of this blog) has access to the forum, they can examine the video's that have been provided there, showing the take-down aspect of the various technique's demonstrated there.
  System's that emphasize placing the uke(aggressor) upon their back, are Sport based, plain and simple. If one is only placed upon their back, they still have all 4 limbs available for retaliatory strikes (not conducive to effective control of that subject). Oyata does have techniques and corrections, for if/when an uke lands on their back. Though not a planned action, it does happen (just not intentionally).
  The whole MMA, and BJJ fanfare of late, is attempting to rewrite reality (IMO). It's actually a rarity for a fight to go to the ground (If, the defender has any training to prevent it from occurring to begin with). Once it does, it usually becomes a strength based conflict. Technique's and system's that emphasize those technique's(that are based upon strength) tend to appeal to young and strong students. Which (I suppose?) is fine (if your within that category), “I” am not, yet have no problem dealing with it, when presented with that situation. What I've observed, is that student's assume, that grappling begins on the ground. It should begin, when the uke/aggressor moves in to get hold of you. Whether they have attained (or are attempting  to attain) that hold, one's defense should have already began.
  When I observe their attempts being made for (their) take-downs, the tori's (lack of) preventative/counter motions are incredible (to myself). I can understand missing one's initial strikes (during their approach), but the lack of (effective) counter-strikes/holds being applied (against them) including once they (the aggressor) have achieved their hold (and/or take-down) are (or should be) embarrassing (IMO). Whether one's hands are trapped (inside of the aggressor's hold), or free (on top of the aggressor's grip), the tori has numerous targets available for utilization.
  Regardless, if/when one end's up on the ground, a different approach (usually) needs to take place. Yes, you can cover (and hope for an opening for a counter-strike), but opportunities are few and far between (if the uke has already achieved a “mounted” position). The ground and pound methodology which seems to permeate these methods is (or should be) embarrassing in and of itself. I'm not saying they won't (eventually) work, but really doesn't fall into the “trained” professional category either. The mere fact that they train to mount someone, I find particularly bizarre to begin with. It serves no function, it offers no controlling abilities, leaves the person on bottom completely able to counter-strike, and mandates the “top” person to focus (only) on the person which they are sitting upon. I realize that they offer all these cute wrap-ups and holds, but I have yet to see one that doesn't leave the individual vulnerable at some point through it's enactment (especially, if the person has compatriots who will come to their aid when that situation occurs).
  For our student's, we only recommend the placement of an aggressor/uke upon the ground if certain prerequisites are met. #1 That the uke/aggressor has no obvious friendly affiliations around (that would offer their assistance should you drop them and attempt a controlling technique). #2 That they can be placed there prone (upon their stomach), unless one is knowledgeable in the methods of immediately turning them over to attain the preferred prone position. Not every situation will allow for these circumstances to occur, when they don't (unfortunately), one will (often) be forced to inflict sufficient injury, to not allow the aggressor to retaliate (once the tori releases them).
  Because we (tend to) gravitate towards L.E. training and application, we do an extensive amount of ground manipulation. When dealing with the L.E. application aspects, it's often necessary to avoid causing any (serious) physical injury to the uke (ie. suspect). This includes the passive resistance prisoner. These prisoners present particular problems for an arresting officer. The visual aspect (for observer's) can become an annoyance, LOL, but when the officer performs techniques that simply motivate the suspect in a particular direction (with limited physical contact upon the suspect), this seems to placate those who choose to whine about police brutality (when none exists).