Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Within the martial arts community, it has become common place to refer to and/or example a person's validity (for whatever they are promoting) via their having a Higher (5th-10th) level of Yudansha (black belt) rank. Presumably, those individuals have been involved with study/training for extended periods of time, and therefore (also) have greater knowledge/experience in whatever it is that they are presenting/teaching.
Particularly within the United States, this is a poor methodology for determining a prospective instructor's knowledge/ability (much less the ability to teach that subject, regardless of the individual's ability).
Rank (in general) is more often “purchased” than earned. Though understanding that the majority of martial arts are being taught as being a financial income source, thereby making that endeavor and (only) a profit driven entity. Having a higher rank, provides one with (presumed) validity (for whatever they are teaching). By one having a “higher” rank (than the other person/instructor) one will attract more students (presumably).
Oyata always stated that before you open a school/dojo, have a real job (to earn money to provide for your family). And NO, running a Dojo is not a “real” job. It can be fun, and even very fulfilling, but a real job doesn't depend on teaching a subject that will be unlikely to fulfill someone's life. Those types of “jobs” only fulfill a niche/interest of the paying (and teaching) individual.
In America, “profit” is the worshiped entity. If you can make a profit at doing anything, it's viewed as being productive (?). Anything that doesn't provide a profit, is considered to be a “hobby”. If your (actually) providing a need, you should (ethically) be doing so for Free. It can also be argued that if/when someone gets something for Free, they don't/won't fully engage themselves in that pursuit.
This is the conundrum that instructors commonly find themselves. Beyond (commercially) “running a Dojo”, the need for achieving a higher rank (beyond Yudansha) is only useful in regards to one's social positioning within the martial arts community (and thereby attracting more students). Though I have interacted with numerous higher level Yudansha, I have considered (very) few of them to be any more/less “knowledgeable” than any of the others that I've met.
Rank, is more commonly being used to compare individual's to one another, rather than being any acknowledgment of knowledge or ability. Higher rank is often associated with longer time having been spent training, learning (and/or doing “something”) that has increased their knowledge level. More often this is not the case.
Rank is far more often purchased. Once a testing fee has been paid, the individual is most likely going to receive that “rank”. I've seen it so many times, in so many systems, styles and martial art's organizations that I (and most people I've spoken to) have been affiliated with that it has become the accepted standard/norm.
Though awarding higher rank “may” acknowledge some difference in one's knowledge/ability (often only within that specific group of individual's), that rank should not imply any presumed general superiority (of either knowledge or ability).
I've encountered numerous individual's who had impressive levels of knowledge. “Rank” rarely had any bearing on the validity of that knowledge, or in regards to their ability to apply (or teach) that information. Many of those individual's had only minimal (if any) recognized “ranking” in any system.
My personal interest has always been in the transference (teaching) of knowledge. Not every “skilled” individual is a good/competent instructor. One's personal “ability”, is a separate skill-set (from being able to convey that knowledge/ability to a student). That ability most often comes (only) after having years of (teaching) experience. It's for that reason that I encourage interested parties (student's) to observe and to question an instructor's student's (as to an instructor's competency). That includes my own.
Depending on what your wanting to learn, “Rank” (of the instructor) should be one of the last considerations. The majority of systems require paying (the requisite amount) for whatever “rank” one deems it necessary to “teach” (whatever it is that is being shown). Keep in mind that there are NO “industry” standards in this regard (or any other regard for that matter). There are (approximately) 8 low to medium quality instructor's, for every 2 of decent ability to teach (not necessarily perform) some manor of “martial art” (regardless of the “system”). Even in those systems that require “performance” (of/for the required motions/techniques) for the awarded “ranking”. Their abilities (or lack thereof) in regards to instruction (teaching), are rarely if ever addressed (much less taught).
Any rank, is only recognized within the individual organization that it was issued in. Every system/methodology/school has different “standards”, and few (if any) systems are in place to confirm/validate the testing of Yudansha (Black Belt) applicants.
The majority of systems promote the idea that those “ranks” awarded above (approx.) “5th” degree/level, are “honorary”, and are only representing the amount of time that the individual has devoted to the system. This might be easier to accept (believe?) if those same individual's didn't have multiple (Yudansha) rankings, in multiple systems(?).
IMO, “Part” of that problem could be rectified by requiring that every person entering a “New/Different” system (from the one they originally received their Yudansha ranking), be required to study that (new) system for 1 (?) year minimum, prior to receiving any ranking (in the new system). Personally, I feel it should only be done for the reception of a Shodan (1st Degree) ranking, regardless of any prior experience. Shodan represents having learned all the basic motions for the system, the assuming of the individual's knowledge (beyond that level), only belittles whatever system/methodology it is that being taught. Despite that (obvious) fact, numerous “instructor's” have (equally) numerous, and often higher rankings, in multiple systems of martial arts(?).
This situation exists in every system that I have ever encountered (either through study within that system, or through speaking/working with individual's within those other systems). Personally, I had 6 years of study within a different system prior to what I now teach, Beyond having learned some basic motions and positions (all of which had to be later changed/modified), I consider that time as having been wasted time (for my study and interests). I don't normally acknowledge it as having “added” to my knowledge level.
When I see the “lists” of different martial art styles/system's (and “ranks”) that an individual claims to possess, I have to conclude that none of those “systems” were adequate in their instruction (at least for that individual). That being the case, then why “list” them? The only “logical” answer (IMO) is for personal “Ego”.
The only common “fact” that can be determined by someone having/claiming/promoting the fact that they have a Higher (or any) Yudansha Ranking, is that they have spent money (in regards to now having that rank). The amount of (any) actual “knowledge” (or ability) they may have is more often than not, questionable.
That shouldn't imply that I haven't met some very knowledgeable people. Their “rank” meant little to nothing to myself. It was only when they emphasized that ranking, that my (personal) opinion of them evaporated. Though the few that I did feel were (exceptionally) knowledgeable, were (very) few and far between.
Oyata (often) referred to “Higher Rank”(and “titles”), as well as the various “colored” belts and patches, as “lipstick” (on a Pig). He didn't concern himself with a student's “rank/title”. All student's were shown (and practiced) the same techniques. Those that were concerned with them, he often (only) made note of. A number of them quit (or managed to get themselves expelled) prior to his death.
Higher Ranking only became vogue after the Japanese began teaching the Okinawan systems (and adopted the “dressings” of the Japanese systems). Being “a member” of a (whatever) system shouldn't be the only justification for the awarding of (any) “Higher” ranking. It can (should?) be recognized, but it doesn't (or shouldn't) imply that the person has been (actively) improving/increasing what they know (or how they do it). The only thing being “displayed” (via a higher rank/title), is the individual's ego.
When asked, I tell people interested in attending a (any) “self-defense” class, to question (and observe) the instructor's student's (the instructor's personal abilities/knowledge mean little if that knowledge isn't being conveyed). An instructor's “Job”, is to convey knowledge/ability, not to (only) example their own Rank, which should (only) be noted as a display of the instructor's ego.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
After 30-some years of teaching experience, I've found that students are inclined to obsess over Pain (either receiving it, avoiding it or creating it). For many (initially), they may be trying to learn to avoid it (at least occurring upon themselves). As they progress in their studies though that perspective is ..redirected.
As students progress in their study, they learn to seek a desired reaction in order to understand their own (proper) positioning for the application of that technique. Not that you should be desiring to (specifically) inflict pain, only that you seek to recognize the position and/or limits that create a practical “reaction” to the applied technique.
With that understanding, you can choose (while applying a technique in a defensive situation) whether only soliciting pain is sufficient, or if damage is required to neutralize the aggressor (as well as how to avoid it yourself, if/when a similar technique is attempted upon you).
Pain is usually measured by the level of reaction (motion) away from the application. The student needs to be familiar with the limb's R.O.M. (Range of Motion) so they can precipitate those reactive motions as they occur (or don't occur if/when the technique is improperly applied).
Understanding R.O.M. Will aid the student in responding to unexpected reactions as well (example: if you stomp on someone's foot, they will tend to strike or push you away prior to tending to their foot). This is often done with no conscious (or even necessarily malicious) thought, it's a simple reflex response.
Though pain can be a useful reference in a classroom environment, in an actual encounter, the adrenaline surge that is usually experienced (by both parties) and can distort, or even negate any perceived pain levels. It's for that reason that a thorough knowledge of R.O.M. Needs to be understood. The knowledge to mechanically limit/restrict the ability of another to move, is an often overlooked aspect of limb manipulation (Tuite).
The commonly misunderstood aspect of Tuite, is that although those techniques are often painful, pain is not the reason they work. Just as there are subliminal nerves that make your heart pump, there are nerves that oversee the well-being of the body. When those nerves detect an undue, or potentially damaging situation about to occur (whether real, or only perceived as being so), they create responses (commonly through body-motion) to avoid that occurrence.
When a Tuite technique is applied upon your wrist, why do the knee's buckle? The body is taking care of itself whether any pain is felt or not (and motions the body in order to relieve that pain/perceived threat). Oyata's techniques, and the reactions elicited through their use, are based upon the body's natural motions and their responses.
We tend to view pain as a bonus. If it occurs great! (our job will be easier), if not, doesn't matter, the body is being mechanically manipulated (which will negate the subject's ability to physically resist and/or retaliate).
Typically, people associate Kyusho with pain as well. This is a similar scenario. Though Kyusho points are often painful, that pain, is not (always) the desired reaction. There are numerous Kyusho locations that elicit NO pain what-so-ever (when utilized).
Many of those locations are unrecognized mechanical leverage locations as well. I find it amusing to have student's ask about the locations of Kyusho points. They often expect them to be some not previously recognized location. Most locations are (in fact) realized, it's just not known how they should be utilized.
In either case (Tuite or Kyusho), it isn't always the pain that is the (sole) motivator, or immobilizer. It's the mechanical inability to counter the technique and the recipient's inability to prevent the response or reaction, that makes the technique valuable to know (as a defensive tool/response).
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Personally, I thought the “Anomaly” fallacy had been (finally!) dismissed as being untrue (or at least “inaccurate”). This fallacy was commonly associated with a person's ability to perform a “Tuite” technique upon certain individual's (the so-called “Anomaly”). This was commonly demonstrated by various (popular) “instructors”, by exampling particular individual's (that they provided). They would perform (at least “their” version of) a “Tuite” technique upon an individual, and “show” that the technique couldn't/wouldn't work upon that individual.
It was never even suggested that the individual (performing the technique) was (simply) unable to perform the technique (correctly) upon that individual, it was “always” that the person was one of the (implied) “anomalies” and that the technique couldn't/wouldn't work on them. The person (who couldn't perform the technique) would then claim that a certain percentage of the population (which varied, depending upon the person providing the claim) couldn't have those techniques performed upon them.
Though not necessarily being an untrue claim, the percentage provided was (as the percentage provided was commonly between 30-40%) definitely inaccurate. To compound the person's ignorance (of “Tuite”), the person would commonly claim that more “power” would be required to cause the technique to function.
Though being sure that there are people who may be resistant to those manner of techniques, the claim that the number is of the quantity claimed is ridiculous. It (more often) only requires that the technique be done correctly (which in every example I have witnessed, it wasn't). I have been teaching this art for over 40 years. I've performed these techniques upon (literally) hundreds of individual's. I have yet, to of encountered one of those “anomaly's” (yet, these individual's claim that they encounter one or two at every seminar???). There do exist individual's who are difficult (meaning that the technique must be performed exactly correct to elicit the desired response) but we have encountered NONE for whom the techniques could not be achieved.
Obviously it's easier to make the claim that there are “anomaly's” out there, and whatever it is that they are teaching, won't work on them. That would infer a lack of knowledge/ability upon the person attempting the technique (something that these individual's would never admit to).
Oyata taught that Tuite required (correct) technique. The size and/or strength (of either the tori or uke) was irrelevant. This means that the smallest student, should be able to utilize the technique upon the largest/strongest student, and achieve the desired result. The fact that an individual has a high pain threshold, or is extremely flexible, makes NO difference for achieving the desired result. Using the “anomaly” excuse, should only be a sign that the individual doesn't (completely/correctly) understand the techniques application.
Obviously “strikes” used in conjunction with a techniques application will (often) make that technique easier to apply/make function (mostly by through being a distraction). That shouldn't imply that doing so is a requirement for it's functionality. Slow Practice of the instructed Tuite motions should be done to understand how/why they do or don't work (for the individual). The addition of superlative strikes (whether hand or foot) are (almost) always included in actual defensive situations.
Seminars (in general) do not allow one to learn/practice a newly shown technique (Tuite, in particular). There is insufficient time to do so. These types of techniques require months (of practice) to perfect (or even become somewhat competent with). Seminars are intended to elicit interest in further instruction (commonly by the presenter of the seminar). They should not be considered (serious) “Training” sessions. Nor should one believe that they are (completely) competent in a techniques application after having (only) learned a technique at/during their attendance at a seminar.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
When I'm working with students on their technique/combination execution. I'm constantly telling them to be Active, and not Reactive. This often goes against many (other) instructor's teachings. It seems that most classes drill on speeding-up a student's reaction time (in response to the aggressive actions being made upon them). There's nothing wrong (per-say) with doing so, but in the long run, it works against the student.
How? by training the student to wait for an aggressor's motion/technique, before beginning their own motion/technique.
My problem with this manner of practice, isn't in the concept, only in the execution. What the vast majority of student's do, is to wait, until they see/identify the individual manner of an aggressor's attack method, before they execute their own defensive actions.
A great deal of this comes from systems stating that “such and such” (motion/technique) is for a “such and such” (attack method). This is repeated through (generally, 6-8) different manors of defending one's self, from whatever specific attacking method/manner is used each time. Frankly, it's too many choices to be made before a defense can even happen (which means it will never happen in a real situation).
This is one of those circumstances that having a choice can work against you. In a controlled, practice environment, I can come up with a dozen different responses to any particular aggressive motion made (towards myself). Experience has shown, that in reality, I will commonly utilize one of (maybe) 4 different responses to any given situation.
Recently, I've had student's working on our 2-handed strike. This technique is designed to offer an effective defense, while (also) providing the ability to strike an aggressor's arm (when they execute a strike). This technique is maybe one of the most miss-applied techniques in our repertoire.
As demonstrated in an earlier blog, the motion is simple and can be utilized against either a Left or Right-handed strike. It is performed in the same way, regardless of which hand the aggressor is utilizing. The purpose (beyond preventing the aggressor's strike from landing) is to disable the aggressor's arm. This 2nd goal is not always achievable, but should none the less be what is attempted.
Very often, and understandably, student's focus is on preventing the strike from landing. Though obviously achieving a purpose, it does nothing to prevent further attempts being made.
Merely hitting the aggressor's arm, will rarely accomplish much (short of preventing being struck). For some, this is sufficient. For our student's, this is considered less than ideal. If an aggressor is able to repeat the strike, then nothing has been achieved.
Initially, the striking of the arm is sufficient (for training). This is expanded to include a kick (and of course, a follow-up strike). For now, the goal is to disable the aggressor's arm. This can be accomplished by several different striking methods, as well as the particular locations being struck (upon the arm).
It's during this manner of practice, that those locations are learned, and attempts are being made to contact/utilize them. Because our focus is being limited to only performing the arm motions, this is difficult. Students can easily become frustrated (legs are included at a later date).
The individual motions are broken down to illustrate their specific actions, which have often been ignored, or over-simplified (by the student for their own benefit of execution). This modification of the taught technique, though simpler to perform, is now lacking in the ability to cause injury to the aggressor's arm/limb.
This is most commonly evident in the manner that the outside forearm strike is being performed. When done as taught, the motion will rise close to the tori's body, then motion outward (towards the uke). The hand is kept at a 45º angle, this is very important to maintain. If the hand/fist is kept at a flat, 90º angle, or even vertical, the tori will not be able to strike the (several) shown locations (points).
The fact that the strike leaves the body in a forward direction is what (IMO) confuses beginning student's the most. It's easier to understand knocking a strike away (by moving in a windshield wiper manner) than to strike the aggressor's arm (in several shown locations) and possibly injure that arm.
Part of what's not being realized is that the tori's body is going to be motioning also. Not that it's going to move a great deal (unlike some instructor's that will have their student's spinning around like a top, just to perform one of their “blocks”). That motion (for us) is only a 10-15º rotation. If the student has been practicing the motion correctly, that now makes the (practiced) forward motion, at an angle to the aggressor. It also allows more momentum/power to be included in that motion/strike.
Once this is understood (by the student), they can begin focusing upon their own strike (instead of the uke's). When the motion is being done correctly, the tori's strike will connect, and the uke's strike will be diverted (along with causing injury to the uke's arm).
Practicing in this manner will make the student faster, simply by eliminating those unnecessary steps (evaluating what the uke is doing, which technique to react with, Left/Right strike etc.). The less ambidextrous a technique is, the less useful it is.
The attempt at being reactive to whatever may be thrown at you (with a host of techniques to choose from), is an exercise in futility. The student should only have 2 or 3 (with little to no distinction between them) options. This often will only come, once one's basic technique motion is correctly understood. I often read that once one becomes Yudansha, they're always working on basic motions. Well, get a clue....