Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Validation Through Purchase ?

  The issue of a “titles” and "ranking" has always been a misunderstood subject in the Western understanding of Oriental martial arts instruction. At one time (and not so long ago), it was unheard of to find anyone who had been awarded a ranking of 5th Dan (or higher).
  In many of the more “traditional” (older) systems, it was an award granted because of time acquired in the individual system. This could have even been presented by one's peers within a particular system. 
  Those “rankings” could be presented because of an individuals ability, their age, or more often because of their knowledge regarding the system being taught/learned. What is seen today, are persons who have been presented (or more often, have awarded themselves) these rankings because of their financial investment in acquiring those ranks. And yes, I'm saying they bought their "rank". 
  It was once accepted that (many of) these rankings would/could only be attained after numerous years devoted to the study of a (single) particular system/methodology. With the now popular method of selling ranks, It has become a system for the further generation of cash.
  One need only seek how many 8th, 9th, 10th Dan instructor's are out there! These ranks were (originally) reserved for those instructors who had spent years practicing/teaching their art. Now it is common to see those ranks being claimed by 20 to 35 year old's (?WTF!). They won't just claim to have these ranks in only one system, they claim to have them in multiple systems.
  Because of a general misunderstanding over the use of “titles” that have been associated to those rankings (within the martial arts), there are an inordinate number/amount of these would-be “masters” who permeate the seminar circuit (often teaching speculative nonsense that detracts the attending students from any practical application of their chosen studies).
  Even after dismissing the self-promoted charlatan's, there still remains a large number of person's who (supposedly) hold ranks (and titles) that assert they possess knowledge and/or ability (that they feel others should have to pay monies to, in order to learn/share in that knowledge).
  Individual “titles” are or should have been (separately) awarded, and include certification from peer/instructor review (NOT automatically attained from a promotion for some “rank”). Numerous students (often) make the mistaken assumption that they will (or should) be addressed by a particular “title” (solely) because of a rank promotion (or purchase).
  The vast majority of individual's claiming to be justified in using those titles possess no certification that (actually) bestows that title. Most are only claiming it because of having received a “rank” in their particular system.
  The fact that there are (monetary) “charges” associated with acquiring these “titles”, only belittles any of their supposed value (if not negating their validation IMO). Their only real value, has become the justification for the money being made from the use of that title.
  Certification has always been a self-serving gratuity. The only person it (really) should mean anything to, is the recipient. It is (supposed to be) a confirmation of one's ability(s) and/or knowledge in a particular subject. This was often (originally) awarded by one's peers (for recognition of that ability). The fact that your (now) paying for that confirmation, should be a little “telling” in/of itself. What it has become, is a money generator (“cash-cow”) for instructor's who fear the eventual loss of further income (from that individual).
  What I've observed most in the industry (in general), is a general lowering of the bar. What once took students years to attain, is now becoming available in 24 months. This hasn't occurred because of improved teaching methods, but from a lessening of those requirements necessary to claim those levels.
  An ability to perform a certain action, is not equivalent to having the knowledge or ability to convey that skill to another. Individual motions (techniques) are only applicable (productive) when utilized with a practical methodology. That “practicality”, only becomes apparent/proven when demonstrated in (actual) use (and no, “sparring” is not actual use).
  For the past 20+ years now, I've been unimpressed with the quality of instruction being generally taught (within the “seminar” circuit). The majority of it consists of complicated nonsense that serves no purpose for the common (average) student/practitioner.
  The realities of a confrontation have not changed over the past 100 years, so why do student's "suddenly" need to learn some confusing miss-mash of “power-based” applications that will only work if that student is a young, fit and male practitioner? One can argue that “weapons” are now a factor (but they always have been?). There are also some situations where the practitioner will be unable to (adequately) prevent being injured (if they were to attempt to resist).
  If/when there are no other options (but to resist), then (maybe) you can justify some of those radical responses, but the likelihood of that situation occurring is (or should be) extremely rare. Their most common occurrence is the result of inattention (to one's surroundings). Training in any martial art is no substitute (or cure) for acting stupidly, LOL.
  It isn't young, fit males who need to study this manner of training. It's older and unfit/unskilled males, and females who need to learn how to protect themselves from a threatening aggressor. Learning some manor of complicated application might make the instructor feel all giddy, but it accomplishes nothing for the student who needs to learn something that they are capable of performing (that will accomplish the needs that they require).
  Fancy belts, neat sounding (foreign) titles and flamboyant techniques and theories are all the rage in the instruction of today's martial arts, but students really just need to learn how to perform the basic motions and practices that can be used to protect themselves (and isn't that what "we" as instructors, are supposed to be teaching them?). 


Monday, February 3, 2014

Kick It Out

  Oyata taught that the use of kicks is to a great extent, limited. Not so much in their utilization, but in the variance of that use. As I've previously stated, the use of kicks are taught to be kept below the waist level, for that reason, their use tends to focus upon the legs of an aggressor. Their attempted use any higher, tends to be impractical (from Oyata's perspective). It's somewhat like saying “why aren't you practicing punching the calf of the leg?” Yes, the legs are far more “powerful” than the arms, but from attempting to utilize them higher, the user then creates such a vulnerable positioning that it is considered to be a far greater risk, than the minimal advantage offered from their use at those higher levels, (i.e. above the waist).
  Oyata's methodology teaches to target the legs on a fairly regular basis. Seeing that they carry the full weight of the body (all of the time), it only makes sense that we would do so. The nerves contained therein, are in a constant state of excitation (from carrying and moving the bodies weight). So very little effort is required to elicit a response from striking them.
  Depending on what one's purpose is from striking the leg(s), will determine how, that strike (kick) is to be done.
  If/when one's goal is to only distraction, then virtually any manner of solid contact made to the uke's leg will fulfill that purpose. More often though, one is desiring a specific motion to occur (on the uke's part). To cause a specific motion/reaction to occur, one first needs to understand what motions are natural, and then capitalize upon getting that type of an action/reaction to occur (by the uke) in response to the strike being made upon it (or upon their other leg). Take into consideration, if I were to walk up to you, and (lightly) knee spear your Left thigh, which leg would now be active? 99% of the time the Right one would now be active (because the natural reaction, is to remove all weight from the stricken leg). This is the logic associated to the double-kick technique's (generally, one rarely cares about the initial kick made, it's the second one that often attains the desired response).
  I've observed instructor's who inform student's (when performing a combination, or tuite technique) to utilize their 3 limb's (2-arms, 1-leg) all-at-once. Well, that sounds good, and (kinda?) makes sense, but doesn't really play-out in reality. (personally) I believe that this to be more of a motivational (type of) instruction (method?). If one has been paying attention during their practice of the basic technique's taught. One should already be aware, of the reactionary motions made by the uke during the implementation of the techniques (regardless of whether it's tuite, or a combination motion). By now, some of you reader's are (figuring that I've once again, gone way off-track) wondering WTF has this got to do with kick's?
  Well, (using tuite as an example) my optimal timing (for the use of a kick) is not (necessarily) when I first capture the uke's hand (which is when the “all 3 at once” logic would dictate). Granted, it would work (fine) there, and might assist with the ability to initially “grab” that hand, but if I wait (on the kick) until I apply the initial pressure of the technique (upon the uke's wrist), I then load that (sides) leg (depending on which technique I've utilized) and I can actually decide which leg I wish, or need to load before kicking it (thus amplifying the effects garnered from the kick). Not to mention requiring less accuracy, on the part of the kick, because of the nerves that are then being (further) activated, because of the tuite technique's implementation.
  As you apply a tuite technique, It will cause the uke to shift their body weight in response to that application. Depending on how that technique Is applied, will determine how that body weight is transferred, and to which leg. Knowing this, then allows the tori to not have to think about which leg they should be kicking from observance of the uke's reactions to the applied technique.
  Now the straight kick, happens to be our most utilized kick. It's simple, quick and effective (when done correctly) in the correct situations. I've found that for many student's, the straight kick is used (a lot) for distraction purposes more than anything else.  
 Student's seem to feel more comfortable with a front kick (I believe because of the “Impact” aspect of it's use). That, and I believe they feel like it will do more damage, and therefor is more practical.
(For reference purposes, have an uke stand in front of you in the standard beginning positioning).
  First have them lock the leg you wish to practice these kicks upon, then have them remove all their body weight from it (obviously, to the other leg, LOL) to prevent injury (during this experiment).  When both methods of kick's are attempted, there's only slightly different responses, the leg moves backwards (away from the kick) for both versions. From the front kick, they will experience some soreness (at the impact point), and if body weight were upon the leg during that impact, it would amplify that pain level quite a bit. From the straight kick, there is usually very little, to no residual effects, but if the leg had weight upon it during the strike, the effects would have been much greater.
  Once the leg is weight bearing, the physical(mechanical) actions of the straight kick cause the struck leg to rotate (outward), then the knee is pushed/rotated both back and sideways. What people fail to examine, is the reaction to the ankle of that stricken leg. The ankle folds sideways, and then is burdened with the (majority) of it's own body's weight, and is being forced (further) sideways by the straight kick's continued thrust. When utilized in actual situations, it's rare that the recipient will even be able to walk after receiving this kick's application. Yet, people like the feel of doing a front kick,...
..oh well.
  Oyata did teach us to utilize the majority of the more commonly taught kicks (that most every system is familiar with). Many of them that had demonstrated limited usability in those other systems (often from flexibility issues, or a lack thereof). When/if (only) limiting their use, to only be utilized upon an aggressor's legs, they all will then have greater application potential (though usually, only for circumstantial situations).
  I have to presume, that (because of that tendency) student's seem drawn to attempt to utilize those (which-ever) kick's upon their opponent's head. “I”, from my own experience, have NEVER been kicked in the head, in an actual defensive situation. I have been struck, but always from an aggressor's hand's/arm's. Taika has always told us, “if you want to kick someone in the head, wait till you put them on the ground”, LOL. Though said in jest, it illustrates a valid point.
  Though I don't really see the need to go through the application options of every kicking technique that we utilize in our student's instruction (and don't plan to), what I've covered here should answer many (if not most) of the questions in regards to our application of kicks.