Moving beyond acceptance of the status quo by asking ‘why?’ should not be taken as a call to throw away everything that has previously been learned. Change for the sake of change does not necessarily bring progress.
Regardless of how you wish to dress it up, all martial arts and the physical aspects of self protection training are forms of games. There will always be training compromises that differentiate what you do from ‘the real thing’ unless you are already participating in an activity that recognises itself as a ‘sport’, and even then in the contact sports there will be compromises to reduce injury in training and to maximise fitness for any competition event.
Anyone who has worked in education for any length of time will be familiar with the ebb and flow of different ideas and trends in teaching
You don’t necessarily have to empty your cup to take on board new knowledge. You may not have to tip anything out at all. You might choose to simply collect and learn more and more things even if they are contradictory, useless or of no feasible value to you whatsoever. That’s your choice.
Afterwards I asked which of the methods used on the two days made the learning process easier, form first or function first?
Unless your strikes have no power, when you hit a person, they will move. Unless they believe your strike has no power or will not land, if people see you trying to hit them, they will move.
It is possible to study a martial art and neither be learning self protection nor self defence. It is possible to study self defence and not gain an understanding of self protection, nor become proficient in any martial art. It is possible to train in ‘self defence’ and not learn anything applicable for self defence. It is also possible to study self protection but not learn anything applicable to actual self defence.
It is an oft-repeated maxim that as you train your karate should become your own. It is also, I feel, a much-misunderstood concept.
This pithy analysis is attributed to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, but despite the clarity of his insight and his credentials as one of the greatest generals of the 20thcentury, this simple premise seems to be largely unknown or ignored amongst martial arts and self defence groups.
“I liked that drill. It wasn’t complicated like the other ones.”
Most people realise that collecting tools does not necessarily make you an able, efficient or skilful tool user.
Anyone involved in the martial arts who uses social media will no doubt have seen many different memes purporting to inform them what a black belt is, and what a black belt isn’t.
In any unsolicited violent or aggressive event our primary aim is to remove ourselves (and others if we feel responsible for them) from danger of bodily harm. The aim is not to ‘win a fight’ for this is not consensual violence; in most cases therefore (excluding for example threats on the doorstep of our own property) we are endeavouring to create an exit.
To escape from a situation we need space to run/barge or walk through, created by the absence or inability/disinclination of prior threats to engage or stop us.
In my last blog post, terms and terminology, I drew a distinction between self defence, as the physical aspect of using force to protect yourself or others, and self protection; the broader umbrella comprising the more important aspects of crime prevention through personal safety awareness, avoidance, deterrence, threat negation (running away, de-escalation through language and body language), physical control (where necessary and appropriate) and finally self defence.
The other day a respected friend of mine made an observation about the number of clubs, particularly the pyjama dancers (as I call them), advertising that they were teaching self defence, when at best all they were doing was giving their students fighting skills.
It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid…
Are you dreading the physical toll of a dearth of training combined with a number of days of feasting?
Why do you train? What could you train for? What should you train for?
Across my clubs and those that are affiliated to me, we use the phrase training for life.
The other day while reviewing some light personal training I’d just done, I found myself wondering what a younger version of me would have made of both my current ability and direction, and my current approaches to training.
In the UK the recent release of crime statistics indicating a marked rise in the percentage of both moped related robberies (both of the vehicle and using the vehicle as a means of facilitating crimes) and acid attacks have caught the attention of the media.
There are lots of ways to train the martial arts, and many different and differently weighted reasons to do so. There is a danger however that through misguided training weighting choices, we may actually be hindering the skill development either of ourselves or of our students or worse, reducing it.
We all build the mental worlds in which we live, and we don’t all live in the same world, even if we believe we do.
Most martial artists build their personal training worlds on the backs of four elephants, elephants that I like to think of as the Fantastic Four (though admittedly some don’t even see or recognise all of them). These elephants that hold up our individual training worlds are Legality, Training Practicality, Training Viability, and Underpinning Psychology.
The loss of life and terrible injuries that occurred in the low-tech vehicle and knife attacks in London earlier this month shocked many across the world.
There are many unspoken taboos when it comes to discussing events such as this, and there are many things that armchair warriors say that should be dismissed.
For many people it seems to be incredibly important who their teacher was, who taught their teacher, what each person’s seniority within the dojo was and so forth.
It is in my Sim Days where my students experience the broader context of the tactical, ethical and legal repercussions of aggression and violence through simulating how they might respond to events in multiple scenarios, whether on their own, with peers, and with children (or adults).
These are training events that comprise elements that test a participant’s response, but also give them training in more optimal approaches and multiple opportunities to learn from what they and others have experienced throughout the day.
On Saturday, under my supervision, four teenage boys (aged 13-14) experienced a fake abduction. This was a single scenario in a multi faceted training day for both adults and teenagers. While this is a very rare event, it is perhaps one feared the most by parents, and so we wanted to see what we could learn from replicating an example.
Martial arts training can comprise aspects of self defence, but unless the art has been specifically devised for that purpose recently, it isn’t the same thing.
It’s not that you don’t do it. I’m sure that if you are a form practitioner interested in bringing a functional purpose beyond postural exercise to your forms then you do. It’s just that some people seem to pay no more than lip service to actual analysis when arriving at their applications.
Is this all too obvious? Then ask yourself honestly, how many of these do you really adhere to?
One of the most prevalent myths I’ve noticed over the years in the martial arts community is efficacy of hitting men in the groin as a one-stop solution to the problem of physical violence.
In all of my books and videos there are deliberate differences between my kata and my paired application (oyo) that has resulted from my analysis (bunkai).
“Practicing a kata is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another.”
Gichin Funakoshi, Twenty Precepts
There is a difference between training (for development and/or testing of skills) and utilizing those skills outside of your training, whether in a competitive format, in scenario training or in an unsolicited violent situation.
What we do in training is a game. That is true whether you are competing in any of the top-level martial arts competitions or whether you are engaging in the most realistic self defence training possible.
To kick or not to kick, that is the question.
When it comes to applying martial arts techniques in self defence, context and training methods determine the results. We get good at what we train for.
Kata, for most of us, is fixed. It is a set construct that we learn and rehearse. It does not vary very much. Over time different instructors have figuratively taken the same block of ice and carved away at some of the edges, added on smaller blocks, broken it down into lots of blocks and reassembled it in a different way, or taken chipped off elements from lots of different blocks to form a new block for others to replicate.
As a state of matter, ice is limited. It is strong, incredibly strong, but not adaptable. It can be cut to fit shapes, but then is limited to those shapes. It is limited to predictable fixed scenarios.
“In war it is all-important to gain and retain the initiative, to make the enemy conform to your action, to dance to your tune. When you are advancing, this normally follows; if you withdraw, it is neither so obvious nor so easy. Yet it is possible. There are three reasons for retreat: self-preservation, to save your force from destruction; pressure elsewhere which makes you accept loss of territory in one place to enable you to transfer troops to a more vital front; and, lastly, to draw the enemy into a situation so unfavourable to him that the initiative must pass to you.”
The size of the toolbox is not what impresses me; I’m not impressed by high numbers of techniques, drills or kata: it is the versatility of a small carefully stocked toolbox and the user’s ability to skillfully use the best tool for the job that catches my attention.
Sensei John delivered a remarkable seminar, leaving us with a deeper understanding of the 5 Shotokan Heian Kata. His knowledge on the subject is staggering, spanning some 25 years of training. His teaching method was structured and pleasant and kept all of us involved and interested throughout. It was a fantastic experience for all who took part.
Karateka across the world owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Okinawan and Japanese instructors who, in the first half of the Twentieth Century, laid the foundations for a little known minority martial art to become one of the most practised in the world today.
The techniques of karate kata have many possible interpretations. What each individual sees in the kata will vary according to their own experience and how skilled they are at identifying potential applications.
Today Isaac Newton is recognized as a great figure for his work in furthering our understanding of the laws of physics. His work paved the way for further research, discovery and refinement in diverse fields by other great scientists such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, some of which is known to (and partially understood) by laymen.
When I am delivering personal safety training I occasionally get asked whether a car should be parked ‘nose in’ or ‘nose out’. Often the person asking has a preconceived answer based upon what they’ve heard or read. I also have a preconceived answer, but it might not be what you think.
Every year I deliver a number of single sex and mixed sex personal safety and self defence courses or lectures. A moderator on the online forum Martial Arts Planet recently approached me to write a short article about how I approach the subject of female self defence. The subject is far too large to sum up in a single article, but what I can do is give my opinions on the starting points for creating a worthwhile course.
The majority of self protection lies in the assessment, avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation of aggression and situations where conflict is likely, but regrettably this is not always possible.
I’m John Titchen. I’ve been regularly training in the Martial Arts and approaches to self protection for almost thirty years and have learned from instructors across the world. I’m the…