Renshi Graham Column. Osu
he Martial arts that came to us from the Orient so many years ago, were at the time going through many changes and limitations, due to the Western Worlds ideas surrounding sport and pugilism, and misunderstanding of the underlying principles and ideas that surrounded their fighting arts, also the issues surrounding WWII. Once the Western World decided to use the A Bomb twice, and devastate, the Islands of Okinawa, things had to change. We the Western World have accepted these arts and taken them into our hearts, both practicing and teaching them. We now understand that there are pre 1940's arts and post 1940's arts.
All that being considered the Oriental Martial arts are now facing a new challenge. That of the modernist approach, one that has been influenced by modern masters, with the underlying concept of 'Use what works and ditch what don't work'. So we now see youngsters bouncing around between different schools, no loyalty or dedication to one school or another, dicking around becoming members of every association that offers easy access, with no idea and attempting to develop their own School of martial arts. Ending up being a so so martial artist with little and no understanding of the arts and having a confused body movement.
But those who decide to study hard and find a bonafide school with a long tradition and dedicate themselves to the study of the school will develop real skill, and become a trusted student who will gain from the teachings and eventually discover the true understanding of the schools art, and develop into a true master of the arts, which will take time, and essentially based upon trust, dedication and loyalty.
However no matter who we are as an individual and as a human being we will eventually bring our own personality and personal development into what we have dedicated our study to. We will also discover that what we thought useless, after many years of study and practice will become a practical part of what we will eventually teach.
We must also remember that their are no secrets, just loyal study. As a perceived secret is just knowledge that one person knows and another has no clue about, until the so called secret is revealed.
But remember in modern times to enjoy your time in the dojo and develop your personal art slowly and in a focused way, and eventually become the Martial artists you deserve to be, with the correct mind set and dedication to learning the deeper meanings of our beloved arts.
Thoughts on Kata :
I am beginning to see many schools that are predominantly sport orientated, incorporating the sporting ideal into their kata practice. At first glance this seems to be a practice that looks commendably, however those with a deeper understanding of karate may condemn this modernist approach. Karate was never created to fit into the western ideas of pugilism, the idea of it being a sport was never the proposition of the designers with no suggestion of trading blows under a set of rules to score points, as Karate has an underlying principle of 'One punch one kill'. Designed for the protection of life. However in this modern world, especially for those of us who live in societies where human life is considered sacred, the idea of the one punch one kill may be abhorrent. Unfortunately there are still many places in the real World where human life is less than important, surrounded by those who will decide to take your life for little or no reason than you insulted them, and these people are finding their way into our peaceful lands in numerous numbers, due to the situations that exist in their own lands. Applying the techniques of kata has always been important, and it is a worthy effort, done by dedicated instructors, keeping the kata alive for the next generations of Budoka. Applying these to the sporting ideal is also a great way to create interest in the old ways, but as instructors we should also teach the true meaning of these techniques as applied to the life and death struggle, along side the modern ideas related to sport.
The question of Kata practice;
Many modernists tend to neglect Kata practice, maybe for good reason, is it an outmoded aid to learning in this modern World? Personally as an old school student of the arts martial I consider that Kata practice is really important.
The view of the modern ideals that Kata is old fashioned, and has no real meaning in today's World is maybe because many modern schools use Kata for the consideration of grade advancement, without really studying the techniques held within the forms? and or just learning the moves of one favorite Kata, developing a pattern that has drama, snap and imitated power for winning Kata competition. Or maybe the instructor/founder of the modern approach has no real knowledge of Kata, and the application of the techniques held within?, It is not for me to say or make assumptions regard's why many modernists prefer to not practice Kata in depth. However I can enunciate as to the reasons I personally consider Kata practice and study is so much more important than people may think.
Firstly I would add that we can only apply what we know to any Kata/Form/Hung, if we have no knowledge of Aiki-Jutsu,Jujitsu or Ju Tai Jutsu. Then we will never discover or understand these techniques that are held within the Form. Secondly if we only know kicking, punching, blocking and parrying, then again we can only see what we know. Thirdly if we have no knowledge of Kyusho then again we will never see it. To develop as a complete Martial artist we need a teacher who understands and wishes to pass on the knowledge held within these ancient patterns, a person who knows most of the codex, and is willing to help. Unfortunately people like this are few and far between and hard to find. Also if we find ourselves posted somewhere where we are asked to work in solitude how can we practice without a sparring partner.
Kata is the only time we can perform our techniques in an uncompromised way, with full power, full commitment, full intent, and mental attitude, as if we decide to do this with our training partner we will hurt them, in a way that they are unable to continue training.
Kata holds the secrets and techniques of the masters that developed them after years of surviving the battle, and only someone with the same knowledge may completely decode the Kata as they know the codex.
My view on the Martial Arts World,
After over half a century of training, learning, working as a job and teaching the Arts Martial, I see the community as an incessant factory of basic training. Possibly ninety percent of all the books ever written are for beginners, mostly picture books designed as a fit all solution, and every class we attend we focus on the basics, and most martial arts schools cater for the new recruit, the beginner those new to the mat. Those of us who have been training for a substantial amount of time will help and chip in and teach, the basics at almost every session. The martial arts community is built upon the endless training and development of the basics. I would further suggest that most martial arts clubs are run by those who only know the basics. Maybe this is the true way, the only way to gain mastery, of both ourselves and the chosen art we have decided to follow? My personal journey for knowledge deeper than the need to bash out the basics forever and a day, has led me to the understanding that we as individuals must pursue the knowledge, search for those who know the deeper meaning of the basic's. However once we discover those people then we once again embark on the treadmill of the basic's, however these are very different basic's that if we have been taught correctly having a secure foundation of our own basics will have a deeper understanding, and realize that the new basics are an add-on to what we already know, and once again it is up to us to assimilate the new ideas and make them part of us and our personal martial art, through the struggle with the basics. Basics are important they are the foundation of any given martial arts school, the skill and expertise we see in others which we wish to have is a personal responsibility and journey of self discovery.
Keep training, enjoy the moments in the dojo, and begin your own journey, a journey of discovery, seek out others that will help you on this journey.
As the the years go by, I have been through several stages of development, a fifty year journey within the martial arts both as a profession on foreign shores and in the United Kingdom, teaching and learning. My personal journey has involved a discovery of the practicality and the spiritual aspects of the arts. I have sought out the very best to train with and learn from, some with a high profile and others not so well known. My attempt to discover the core of what we call Martial arts has led me into an interesting journey, of discovery, eventually leading me to where I am today, still enjoying the experience, still learning and still teaching.
It is important that the issuing of the shodan is at the right age, yes there are junior dan grades, however when one becomes an adult it should be right and proper to once again take the shodan test and show that you are now mature enough to understand the true meaning of the acceptance of the shodan.
However modern times have shown that the pressures put upon our young adults, has a psychological affect, one that is not apparent. The pressures from their academic community, take their focus away from the other things that were once important in their lives. It seems that the pursuit of better qualifications, takes its toll on our young adults. They are compelled by a sense of duty to pursue the academic path, and tend to forget what they used to enjoy, what ever that activity was.
The sad thing is that most of our young adults never return to their childhood activity, after School exams , college then University, and finally securing a job in their chose career, they will find themselves in a very different world, and maybe living miles away from their home town.
Therefore it is very important as instructors that we try and prepare them for the new battles they will face in today's world. We have the responsibility to ensure our young charges are both mentally and physically prepared to face the life they choose.
We as instructors can only hope that maybe one day the talented ones will return in their later life and continue the transmission of the oral traditions. The circle of life.
Thoughts on reality based teaching ; When teaching people the reality based techniques applied to the self protection aspect of the martial ways, it is important that we also understand the law of the land. Here in the United Kingdom there is the 'Use as much force as is necessary' well what dose this actually mean ?
So when we are confronted by a would be assailant, where do we stand under UK law? We are allowed the preemptive strike, so when asked by students how would they stand under law. I always say you are the one in danger, if you think it is time then strike hard once AS HARD AS YOU CAN, once. This should be enough to stop the immediate danger and in most cases put the assailant down. That is the point you stop. OK when making a statement if it comes to that we say:-
''I saw an immediate threat to my life and the peoples lives around me, so I took the preemptive strike and hit the assailant as hard as I could just once''
Do not add to this or embellish the statement. if asked again just repeat the above statement.
Training and Fun!
Although training in the martial arts is a serious venture, there has to be a bit of fun in everything we do, and the martial arts is no exception. The fun we have is always at someone else's discomfort. Its a sort of state of mind.
Why ? well because we all know how that feels as we have all been there, and understand that a good sense of humor will help us progress and learn the most important thing. Martial arts are very effective, and we also begin to understand through the laughing that the techniques of close combat are dangerous if applied with full power. As when practicing kyusho and Jutai Jutsu techniques we use a certain amount of control during training sessions, and by suffering the discomfort and mirth of our peers, and of the application we know that we should always be careful and only apply a required technique in the reality of life, level with the height of threat and circumstances we are facing, and being perceived at any given moment.