Saturday, March 19, 2016
I read an article recently that expounded upon the various “fallacies” taught within the martial arts community. Many of those observations I agreed with, but the author directed his “rant” to include the need/necessity for the inclusion of “sparring”. I've lamented upon this practice (repeatedly) in prior blogs. It's now “popular” to use the term “reality based”, though the practice itself has nothing to do with the subject. None of the “examples” presented look (anywhere) near to my own, or any of the confrontations that I've witnessed.
The referenced authors arguments mirrored (many) of my own disagreements (though I believe his intent was to present them as “positive” reasons to do so). Some of those “reasons” were the following.
“Sparring teaches you how the techniques will work in a confrontation (“fight”)”
This is only (moderately) true if you have clearly missed the “pre-fight” situation. The “physical” part of a confrontation rarely begins with an aggressor walking up to you and throwing a random “punch”. There is always some form of additional interaction (usually verbal) between the two individuals (this isn't necessarily the case when the confrontation is criminal, of which the majority of confrontations are not).
“Fights” do not begin with both individuals being in “Krotty” stances, they are (usually) at arm's length distance with their hands at their sides or positioned to their front or side. The “confrontation is usually verbal, and done at a distance. When they do (finally) approach one another, One or both, may have something in their hands (glass, bottle, etc,). They may (or may not) have their “dominant-side” foot to their rear. “This” positioning is far more common (depending on the situation) and is “visually” declaring an intent to engage. If/when you vary from your initial positioning (defensively), it is often considered to be an “acceptance” to engage in any (possible) confrontation. Whether remaining in a natural stance should be considered as being a “weaker” positioning (IE. Remaining in a “natural” stance, and standing “square”, IE.”facing” the aggressor), is debatable.
Regardless of how the aggressor is standing (when they approach), numerous “signs” are provided if/when any physical aggression is began (prior to the actual impact of a strike). The #1 manner that a confrontation begins, is the delivery of a “face/head” punch. It can be argued about “why” this is so, but regardless of the exact reason, It remains the most commonly attempted “first strike” (by an aggressor), when a confrontation becomes “physical”. This is usually preceded by varying amounts of “verbal sex” (“F-you, no, F-you” etc.).
The practice of “sparring”, develops the tendency to only feel “comfortable” when one begins (the confrontation) while in a “fighting” stance. This (often) results in a “trained” individual stepping “back” into their preferred (“fighting”) stance. Aside from this being non-productive (serving no real purpose), it telegraph's the person's intent (to begin the confrontation). If/when the person isn't in one of those practiced stances, they don't “feel” comfortable/ready (to begin).
Oyata taught that the “natural” stance, is where one should practice “all” of their defensive motions/techniques from (as one is “in” that stance 90% of the time). The instructed stances are to provide stability during or immediately following a techniques delivery. Beginning in one of those stances (prior to a confrontation) serves no purpose, other than alerting the aggressor to your having received some degree of training.
“Sparring teaches the student to “take”(sic) a punch”
This statement is just stupid (as well as being inaccurate). No one “learns” to take a punch, they may learn to not complain about being hit, but the strike will still produce some level of injury. In an actual confrontation, the body will release endorphin's (which will tend to nullify many of the minor “pains”) but any (actual) injury will remain. One's ability to continue a confrontation will be motivated by one's (basic) “survival instinct”.
The statement is a misogynistic fallacy (“it makes you tough”). The purpose of training is not to make you into a “fighting machine”, it's intended to train you to prevent being injured (ie. “survive”) when being involved in a physical confrontation. That may be by providing time to escape (the situation) or by inflicting sufficient injury to the aggressor that they can't continue their assault.
Sparring teaches neither of those attributes.
“Sparring teaches you how to utilize the instructed techniques”
This is completely inaccurate. 90% of the instructed techniques are not allowed for use during these “matches” (at least in "Oyata's" system). How, Is this considered to be (productive) “training”? The use of “padding” limits the use/effectiveness of numerous “strikes”. This eliminates numerous “natural” reactions to the delivered techniques. Those “reactions” are part of one's technique choice(s) (whether injurious or not). Those reactions are not necessarily “injury's” (sustained), but they naturally occur and are therefor a “part” of one's understanding of how to utilize the technique. Participating in the practice of Sparring teaches (the student) to not use those techniques.
The use of padding, and the restriction of what techniques can be utilized, reduces this manner of training to the strongest/biggest person (always) being the victor. It is commonly stated that if both participants are of equal ability, yet one is “bigger/stronger”, that (bigger/stronger) individual will (always) be the victor. This is blatantly untrue/inaccurate. Combatants are never “equal” in their abilities. Everyone has a “bad day”, or “makes the wrong move/provides the wrong opening”. On any given day, one (of the two) individual may be subject to “some” disadvantage (be it “physical”, or “mental”).
Every (so-called) “advantage”, can be become a “disadvantage”. Most (so-called) “advantages” are based upon “sparring” standards. When the confrontation occurs in “the real world”, those “advantages” lose most of their value. “Sparring” allows those advantages to be utilized, reality doesn't (unless the defender allows them to be). “Size” is rarely proven to be a determining factor, knowledge proves to be the greater “advantage” (regardless of “size/strength”).
To address one of the commonly used “excuses” (that many people will use), people will state that “their” (systems) techniques are too “deadly”(?) to use during “sparring”. Yes, numerous techniques have the potential to dislocate joints and/or cause a serious injury (which obviously, can't be utilized in a “sparring” match, between fellow students). There are very few techniques that can't be controlled (yet recognized as having the potential to of caused injury) to prevent inflicting that injury. This (of course) depends on the ability's of the student.
This goes back to the practice of sparring, “stopping” a match for any (supposedly) correctly delivered strike (“contact” does not equate to correctly delivered, IMO). Rarely will those strikes of “stopped” the opponent (in an actual confrontation), yet “matches” (being a sport) will (often) “restart” the match. This instills a “false” belief in a techniques efficiency.
The reality is, that the majority of physical confrontations are not (and are far from being) “life-threatening”. One's use of those “too deadly to use in a sparring match” techniques, are not relevant (for use during a common confrontation). IMO, this goes back to the (often touted) “we are training to be a warrior” mentality, which is both false and misleading. Unless you are in the Military, you are NOT any manner of a “warrior”. You are nothing more (or less) than a person who doesn't want to get their ass kicked (too badly, or at all).
Schools that focus their students training on “sparring”, are (basically) instilling the belief that unless you are bigger and/or stronger (than your opponent), you will not be capable of defending yourself. Why would you begin training at a school that has (and emphasizes) that mentality? The (intended) purpose for the majority of systems don't teach this belief (yet, many will still emphasize “sparring” for their adult students).
The manner that “sparring” is commonly done, has NO relationship to how the vast majority of altercations begin or occur. It “trains” the student to (often unnecessarily) create that situation, if/when that situation doesn't continue/occur in that (“practiced”) manner, the student is placed at a (great) disadvantage.
I've had (numerous) persons choose to debate me on this matter. I'm (usually) given various (often extravagant) “examples” of why/how “I'm” wrong (about the listed opinions). The majority of those rebuts, are based upon (some) elaborate example that they provide. There's usually some extraordinary circumstance(s) that are included in those examples. Those “examples” are FAR from the “norm” (of a commonly occurring physical confrontation). Almost all, could have been avoided prior to that confrontation's occurrence.
I've been involved in numerous confrontations (both professionally, and as a “victim”). NONE of those confrontations have had ANY similarity to a “sparring” situation, nor would that manner of practice aided me in any of them (when they did occur).
Only in “2” of those confrontations, would I have been “likely”(?) justified in the use of a technique that could of caused the potential for that individual to die from it's use. Those techniques were never even considered (by myself) for use. One, I was able to (verbally) nullify (thereby avoid), the other, I was able to escape from, to a position of safety and was able to “arm” myself (the aggressor, who was also armed, quickly left). The remainder were (ridiculous) matters of “bruised ego” and/or perceived incidents of “disrespect”(sic).
When I was involved in a “professional” situation/confrontation, the “sparring” (model?) was equally irrelevant. Those situations placed myself as being the “aggressor”(?) to “deal with/remove” the subject. What is taught in Oyata's system (generally) doesn't “train” one, to perform those “duties”. That training only becomes applicable if/when the suspect/person becomes combative (during the situation).
One's training should be for dealing with those situations that are most likely to occur. That doesn't include “sparring” situations. Those are “agreed” upon confrontations (that are rarely “life threatening”). Many (if not most) of my “professional” confrontations, were completed via limb manipulation/control (type) applications. Several began as (what could, or attempted to become) “fight” situations, but were avoided and/or reduced to being compliance scenarios. Those that argue that “Tuite and/or limb manipulations” have limited application, don't understand how/why they should or can be utilized. The majority of what I've seen (being taught), lead to creating “openings” to allow for strikes to be implemented. To myself, this (only) defines the instructor's limitations (in instructional abilities/knowledge).
Tuite is (only) another piece of the instructed (in our case, Oyata's) art. It is used as it becomes (or is made to be) applicable. When used in conjunction with the other instructed motions, it allows one to neutralize an aggressor while maintaining control of any (further) aggressive behavior. Though having the potential to be escalated (to more injurious levels), that potential is rarely required.
Do I feel that (some form of) “sparring” can be made to be practical (for practice)? Yes, I do. We utilize a form of it (though it bears little semblance to what is commonly being done). We will have “1” student put on the protective gear. Depending on the practiced motion/application, that student could be (either) the “tori” or the “uke”. The practiced “confrontation” is limited to 1-3 strike/grab attempts (by the uke). Motions rarely exceed that number of motions (by either party). Both, because it is unnecessary (unless the technique is misapplied), and (when done correctly) the uke is unable to do so. This method is began slowly (for acclimation / familiarization to the motions), and is increased in speed until the (aggressor's) strikes are “full power” (hence the gear). Depending upon the motion, “who” (needs to) wears the protective gear can vary. This is “our” version of “1-3” motion kumite.
There has been several of our (new) students who have argued that this practice is “unrealistic”. Once they've participated (in the practice) they (then) understand our reasoning. Their disagreement is usually based upon (their own) false understandings of “how” a fight occurs (or how that attempt is neutralized) . There is no opportunity for the “trading” of strikes (though they are allowed), the ability of an aggressor (to continue) is commonly nullified (with correct application of the instructed motions).
Interestingly, when the uke is allowed “multiple” strike attempts, they are rarely able (or allowed by the tori) to complete them. The most “productive” sessions (for the uke), are when the uke is allowed only 1 strike attempt. When multiple attempts are allowed, they will tend to focus on their final strike (though rarely are able to complete it).
What we've found, is that students (initially) believe that one will need to perform a continuous repetition of “strikes” to neutralize an aggressor. Oyata taught that only a few “strikes” are (or should be) required to achieve that objective. Properly applied “control” techniques can then be utilized to neutralize the majority of aggressors.
All said, “sparring” is great (fun?) for “kids”. I don't teach kids, so it's “purpose/usefulness” is nullified. I enjoyed it in my “younger” years, but (quickly) realized it's uselessness in relation to actual confrontations.