Saturday, June 25, 2016

Digging for nuggets

Every fighting system out there has a certain pool of techniques, some specific, some very similar to those in other systems. Sometimes, the entire difference between two such martial schools is not even the mechanics of their techniques, but rather their application. That said, even within the system there could be more than one possible expressions of a chosen move, hence the emergence of individual practitioners' personal styles.

How does one learn about various possibilities with a particular movement? Obviously, the easiest way is to be shown, by the instructor or a fellow practitioner. The problem with such an approach is that quite frequently those shown applications tend to become the accepted "only true" ones, while other options, even if stumbled upon, are discarded as "not right". That happens to be a common occurrence with interpreting the individual techniques from karate kata. Sometimes two or more practitioners will learn differing bunkai of the same kata, end then sink into the heated debate about whose is the proper one.

The other angle is to do your on research, investigation and experimentation. The advantage of this approach is that the discoveries could be more authentic for the practitioner and better accommodating their personal physical attributes and mental aptitude etc. Also, these are usually better remembered and understood in the long term. The disadvantage, however, is that some people may get lost in the quest for the sheer quantity, thus losing sight of the need to seek the functionally best applications. Well,,,if one is training for the functional goals in the first place.

Namely, a lot of things are possible, but in our training we should do enough drilling and testing to figure out which of those are also more likely and probable.

Take a look at an exercise I did with my friend Daniel from Germany. You'll see that the first move this two-piece combo is treated in the following order:
- as an elbow strike;
- as a punch defense;
- as a grab defense/release. 

Naturally, the effectiveness of each particular application will depend on the proper distance and timing, as those elements are the key factors. Unfortunately, they are often forgotten about, and the problem is sought in improving the mechanics. Sometimes, the mechanics will turn out to be fine, and the technique/application will be discarded undeservedly. 

Certain martial systems have this sort of research as an integral part of their methodology, Such is the example of pecahan in pencak silat, where the sequence of moves is take apart in order to thoroughly analyze its elements, and then put back together with new understanding and new views on what could be done with it. This is the simplified explanation, but you get the gist of it. The following clip of Rita Suwanda offers a nice example. 

To conclude - if you seek a deeper and broader understanding of you chosen discipline, then don;t just take things at their face value. Do your work and be critical about the results, and over time it will bring ripe fruits of your labor. 

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