Sunday, January 17, 2010

How has your art changed in todays modern world?

Basics (kihon) are the foundation of karate

Just how much has the martial art you practice today changed over the last 20 or 30 years?

There are many martial arts today that compared to their former self of 20 or 30 years ago have changed drastically, sometimes to the point of not really being what the advertisement claims it to be, that is for the people that remember what that art was like and what it has morphed into today.

I’m not trying to pick on any one art here but just making a general statement about what you think you are practicing and what you’re really practicing.

Some examples are wing chun, escrima, karate, kung fu, kick boxing and even muay thai with the inclusion of western boxing for the hands.

So is this a good thing or a bad thing for the art and for you the practitioner?

Well if a wing chun school adopts Brazilian jujitsu into its syllabus or muay thai gym adopts western wrestling into its syllabus, are you still practicing wing chun or muay thai? respectively.

So that the grapplers don’t get their knickers in a knot I guess this question better be asked, if wrestling or Brazilian jujitsu adopted western boxing into its syllabus would it still be wrestling or BJJ that you are practicing? Or will it evolve into something completely different to its former self.

If classical ballet and swing are suddenly mixed and taught as a new dance form can you claim to be from one camp or the other (ballet or swing) while you are practicing the new dance form, are you an expert in both? (ballet or swing) dancing when you are practicing the derivetive form. 

Would your skills in the new dance form make you good enough to compete in both types of individual events (ballet or swing)? Or is the new dancing something completely different and alien to the two original forms of dance from which it was derived.

So where am I going with all this you may wonder?

For me the bottom line would have to be that studying one art in depth for a very long time, in the right kind of atmosphere with the right kind of attitude, frame of mind and instruction from the right kind of sensei will make you expert in whatever art (grappling or striking) you may be involved with and depending on the art and the way it’s trained will give you some sort of experience within the other areas, although you might not be an expert in these other areas you will not be a novice either.

Kata are the building blocks for self defence

The base arts (Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te) that make up traditional shotokan karate have evolved over hundreds of years in okinawa where they were constantly modified and refined by many generations of martial artists, who helped to change, develop and finally form these arts into the great and effective art that we all know as shotokan today.

At a glance shotokan may seem very simple but the more you progress the more you realise just how much it has to offer, one could say that there are no dead ends in shotokan and it would take a life time to unravel the art of shotokan karate.

Male or female it offers all age groups something to keep the interest up no matter how long you have been training and when explored correctly it always presents something old as something new to re-think and practice in a diferent way through ones entire life.

Shotokan as I know it has not really changed too much over the last 60 years or so and has not incorporated techniques from other arts into its arsenal, although many other mainstream martial arts have incorporated shotokan or parts of it into their syllabus.

These days its all too common to see cutting and pasting between different types of martial arts, but is this evolution or dilution of the base art, are you getting the original dark chocolate, or are you getting dark chocolate with traces of milk chocolate in there as well.

Shotokan karate has focused on the development of its very own unique and effective brand of techniques.

I’m not saying that shotokan is perfect, I don’t think any art is but shotokan has developed its own physiological techniques which are in accordance with Newtonian physics and has established its own unique formula for power generation, body mechanics, strategy, tactics and philosophy.

Shotokan karate has striking grappling and clinching within its syllabus all these techniques are still there to be found, explored and practised by whoever may have an interest.

They are not written down in a mysterious scroll or magical book that only the masters have seen or have access to, these techniques are embedded and intact within the physical library of shotokan which is kata.

There is not one technique in the shotokan arsenal that doesn’t come from its kata, the only problem is most shotokan schools around the world only use a small percentage of the techniques found within their arsenal which is kata.

There is only one thing that remains for all traditional shotokan schools in today’s modern world and its not to incorporate techniques from other arts into its syllabus.

Since shotokan has the majority of the techniques (striking and grappling) required for self defense within its kata there is no need to look outside in my opinion, all you have to do is reverse engineer the movements within kata to discover the multiple applications they can be used for.

No matter which new art or method you may try if you have spent enough time in shotokan you can relate these so called new or different techniques back to your kata, so all that's required is to practice the kata techniques the way they should be practiced to be effective in a real and live situation.

So next time someone asks you what you practice, will you have to think about your answer?

The JKA style of shotokan karate in UFC competition
The first shotokan karateka crowned UFC light heavy champion
Lyoto "the dragon" Machida (left)