Monday, April 30, 2007

A Fine Distinction

Over on the Uechi-ryu forums a guy who uses the name 'fivedragons' made a great point. It was more or less a throw-away comment and may not have meant as much to others, but it resonated:

"I don't think "karate" is really meant to teach someone how to fight. I think the deal is that someone decided that it would be nice to know how to break another person. "

Sometimes we look at things on too grand a scale. To teach someone to fight we teach strategy and tactics, how to read an opponent, how to move, what to do and even how to think. To teach self-defense we add violence, predator and crime dynamics; awareness and intuition; action triggers; escape and evasion; legal requirements and psychological survival and recovery. Throw in martial arts and it gets even more complex: philosophy, ritual, history and (too often) politics- sometimes even a value system with its own code of conduct. Add sportfighting and you need to teach rules and rankings (you exploit the rules in a tournament exactly the way you exploit any other aspect of the environment in any fight)... ideally there will be something about sportsmanship in there, too.

But when it comes to that ohnomoment you are going to use your human body (or a tool) to break another human body. That is a deadly simple set of skills.

Drilling with my son a few days ago I asked him to characterize what I was doing, trying to get him to see the theme- that in each movement I was trying to find the most efficient line, the fastest way I could get a weapon to a part of his body that could injure him (side note- this winds up with some pretty peculiar positions, so training time is spent elsewhere on the heavy bag or the striking post to figure out how to maximize power- so not only can you hit from three inches away while bent slightly backwards and twisted to the side but you can break something from there).

Another drill- G is short and I forced her head down and she tried to fight it. There was too much leverage for her to have any hope, but it was an instinct. By simply accepting what was, she could snap my knee from the inside with either her shoulder or her elbow. She was trying to fight, trying to maintain a comfort level of maneuverability and options that she was used to...when she could and should have just broken me.

Not fighting: breaking people. Keep it simple.


Anonymous said...

I learned what karate was a few years back, and it took me several months of gut checks to deal with it.
Oddly back when I was in high school I used karate to dislocate someones arm after which I didn't do martial arts for a few years. So I guess I was taught how to use my karate but wasn't given the mental tools to handle the outcome.


Anonymous said...

Just want to make clear that really learning what karate was and the outcomes of using it was recent and under my current instructor, the incident in high school was back in 1977 under another instructor.


Rory said...

Well, considering the "Outcomes" post I hope I misunderstood in a useful way.

Anonymous said...

Very useful. IMO both the Outcomes and A Find Distinction entries go together. I'm also thinking about how you have to be aware of the outcomes but at the same time not let them stop you when you from acting when you really have to.