Archive for May, 2012
How many times have you heard this? “Thats wrong! this is the correct way” it can be packaged up whatever way you like, in the end it comes down to an instructor stating that they know the way that it should be done and you are the student, so your role is to follow and mimic the moves exactly!
I often ask the question during seminars, or of new students that have a degree of experience, “why do you do the move that way”?
All too often the reply is, “because that’s the way my instructor taught me”. On the face of it this is not a problem, you may think to yourself maybe he will give me the answers later.
You put complete trust in your instructor and the Art that you have chosen to partake in, how many of us students and I include myself as a student, ask ourselves why we started the art we did? New students are what keeps any Martial Arts school running and they are attracted through the door in a great many ways, drawn to the mysticism of the arts.
There is absolutely no problem training in any art, just as long as you are aware of the reasons for your choice and the goals and direction that your chosen art follows. You may have chosen a traditional art which requires hours and hours of focus on one move, with an absolute dedication to the historical application of your moves, or maybe one that has a focus on spiritual understanding, traditional Chinese or Japanese weapons, street self-protection, the list goes on. What’s important is that your instructors are clear with regard to the arts application. The one thing you do not want is an art designed for the ancient battlefield trying to cope with the yob down the local Hostelry. All I am saying is be clear on the reasons for starting the art you choose, keep an open mind and always ask questions.
If we understand the reasons behind the teaching, it makes it easier to accept being told “that’s wrong, this is the correct way” when practicing a more traditional art. The essence of the art itself is the discipline and the self-control needed to emerge yourself completely in mastering the exact movement required. This type of practise is arguably the hardest of all especially in today’s environment of quick fix sensory input where students quickly become bored and want to move on to the next part of the technique. Being continually corrected on the smallest of detail soon tests the patience of the student.
The point with regard to the title of this Blog comes into question when the subject of the art is self-protection in today’s environment, especially if you have been told by your instructor that what he is teaching you is the answer to all the problems that you will ever encounter on the street today! I have heard instructors say “this is the way it happens, and this is what you have to do, if anyone says anything different then it’s just BS”! They are the complete authority on the subject and what they say is written in stone. We all have egos but this type of statement speaks volumes as to how large theirs are. Keeping a check on ourselves is maybe the hardest thing in the world, that’s when you need a balancing element to yourself and your teaching. One size does not fit all especially when it comes to protecting yourself. In any street encounter the one thing you can guarantee is that the violence and the moves required to survive have no set path. Those few techniques that you were told would fit suddenly abandon you and you find yourself in an unpredictable constantly changing situation, which you have to meet with spontaneous movement and a mental attitude that ensures your survival. Being manipulated and controlled within a set perimeter of techniques, without the room to alter or adapt might not be the best way to achieve this. Remember the statement by Bruce Lee “learn what is useful and discard the rest” how do we know what is useful and what should be discarded? Especially if we are constantly told that the way we are moving is wrong and this is the right way.
What do you think are the reasons that some instructors want to be so controlling? Is it a power thing or maybe insecurity?. Who knows, the important thing is to be aware of the potential problems. That way you can avoid being in a class where the above statement occurs and then find yourself in a situation that you are not equipped to deal with, both physically and mentally.
Arguably your mental skills should be better than your physical skills, you should first seek a path of peace and not war.
What should be gained from the above, is how lucky you are if you find an open secure instructor, one that encourages learning, not just from his own art but from others as well. Always be mindful of the reasons why instructors preach that what they do is better than everything else out there. None of us have all the answers and we can all help each other. The Martial Science University, headed by Dr R Chapel has the motto “integrity through excellence”, walking the path of integrity and honesty should go hand in hand with instructors values, especially when you are in the responsible position of teaching others a Martial Art that is designed to potentially one day save your students or one of their family member’s life.
In a great deal of schools you can hear the words “we will teach you what comes naturally” So the question to your instructor should be; what is natural movement and how do we know it’s natural?
Observe a new-born child a few days old, when a loving parent places their finger onto the babies palm, you see the baby grasp the finger. As soon as the new-born is able to stand, we see the beginnings of their attempt to walk! None of this is taught, it’s simply natural movement, this is the starting point for what I call Neuromuscular Programming (NMP). Over the remainder of our lives we will use NMP every day to perform our natural movement. A connection is built over time and is continually reinforced every time we perform the action, our mind recognises the postures and muscle firing sequences that tell it what action is intended by the body. The real trick is to create links from NMP to Martial Art movement and that’s what I will start to explore a little later, but first we need to get appreciation of what the body can learn that is not natural, this is learned bad behaviour.
Learned Bad behaviour
As humans we have the ability to learn and move in a wide variety of ways, some of which is unnatural. For example break dancing or even something as simple as walking in a straight line, analyse your own walking gait! how many of you walk with your feet facing outwards? over time what has happened here is that the major muscles of the leg have become lazy and allowed the feet to fall outwards, this then transfers to the feet and subsequently your own walking gait.
Which moves within the martial arts do you think our natural and which ones are learned bad behaviour?
What about, a hand-sword, a punch, a step, a kick or a block? Is it natural for us to fight at all?
From our early beginnings the one thing man has been doing is fighting, its part of our make up, back when we first walked the earth, the likelihood is that we never had complicated fighting systems, they came along much later. At a very base the level the natural weapons that we have are out teeth, fingers and nails. Over all the years that the Martial arts have been around different cultures and influences have changed the way we look at forming our natural weapons. The point here is that we developed weapons to fight with, we then termed our own body parts as natural weapons, to make a clear distinction between man-made and weapons that could be formed using our body. From this grew a great many variations of different weapons and the way they can be used. Some of these are simply not natural in any way. The weapon is not and the way it’s delivered is not either, this does not mean the weapon is not effective, it is, it’s just not natural. An example of a non-natural weapon is the top of the foot or the Metatarsals. They are part of our body, yes, just not a good natural weapon.
let’s look at one very specific weapon and try to discover its effectiveness. Remember nothing is right or wrong! It’s either not effective, effective, more effective or most effective. The traditional Handsword is a good place to start. This weapon is usually formed by touching the fingers together and straightening the fingers and the hand, so that it looks like a sword, hence the name Handsword right! Choose a target or something that you can hit, and try not to damage your hand. It’s not about what others feel it’s about what you feel that matters. Handsword the target a few times with the hand formed as described above. Now spread your metacarpus, the ones on the back of your hand, the thumb also needs to be pulled away from the hand, this is a complete reverse of the first posture, try hitting your target with this weapon. Hopefully you will discover that the hand has more structure to it. The posture in more in line with taking impact than before, you could say its more NATURAL!
We all move completely naturally in our everyday lives, it’s just what we do, why then is it that when we enter a Martial Arts school we are taught to move in ways that we have never done before? Movement is so natural most of us take it for granted. Just walking down the street is an example of natural movement, nobody teaches us how to walk! however when we observe people walking we soon learn that not all of us walk the same. Compare a natural walk with a sliding step often found within a Martial Art. We have never walked this way before and are now being told to slid the foot close to the floor! If we happen to ask why the answer may be, it teaches you to feel the floor in case something is there, it puts you in touch with the ground! Yep that’s right we never do it in our daily lives but because some high-ranking black belt tells you then it has to be right! No it’s not. Why? well that’s for later.
Look at the way you walk, do your feet point out to the side when you walk naturally? or do you walk with your feet straight, of maybe even with your toes in? each of the above have varying degrees of angles. We are all made to walk in a straight line and usually we place our heel to the floor first then the ball of the foot and transition through the toes as we lift our foot again. Walking naturally requires the foot to maintain an alignment through the ankle, knee, and hip joints, when we observe a person walking with their feet pointing out to the side, what we see is a relaxing of the aductor Longus, and the Couturier muscle’s.
This relaxing of the legs allows the feet to point outwards and with it the knees and the legs in general, effectively we walk on the out side of the foot, this is what I call bad learned behaviour, we walk in a manner that is not structurally correct. Over time this will have a detrimental affect on our pelvic structure and the lower joints of the leg. We should pay attention to this and make an effort to get our lower platform and legs working with the correct alignment. All of this will ultimately effect the way we move, making it more efficient, it will also help greatly with a Martial application.
While you execute a forward or straight front kick pay attention to the positioning of the supporting foot and the direction of execution, with the above in mind try to maintain structural alignment.
Let me know what you think.