Monday, June 27, 2011

Re-Cap and Thoughts

I feel obligated to recap the last three weeks and I'm not sure I can. Partially because parts are a blur, partially because I don't think I could write about all the great people equally and I don't want to hurt feelings to no purpose.

We did do both Plastic Mind and Scenarios in Halifax. Much of that was because Jim Maloney's crew had most of the physical skills down cold. Those guys were solid, physically and combatively. It was nice.

There were some oddities in the scenarios, a phenomenon that I'd read about in Amanda Ripley's "The Unthinkable" that I'd never seen in a scenario before. Can't describe it here because I don't want to give scenarios away- but it was interesting and disconcerting both. Saw some good tactics and hesitancy to commit and all the usual things, which is good. Most people who have trained are to some degree in denial. Scenarios help them get a taste of how much they will change when there is stress and things are moving fast. Just a taste.

Over the last three weeks I've played with at least sixty people and the most ferocious were the ones from the most traditional of the systems, and that got me thinking. It's not about system. I'm not even sure it's really about the individual. If the teacher is a real fighter, like Jimmy, someone who has thoroughly gathered perspective both in competition and countless real encounters, he gets the core.

Traditional or non-traditional, whatever we studied came from somewhere and was adapted for something by someone. If they sucked at what they were designed for, they quietly disappeared. (Now, what they were designed for my not be related in any way to their marketing or what their students or even their senior leadership believes they were designed for.) They all fill a need. Maybe the need is only cameraderie or testing yourself safely. And that's cool.

And a lot of the needs have changed over time. 350 years ago almost anyplace was violent beyond what most modern Americans can really grasp. Might did make right and there was no recourse or justice beyond what your tribe or family would and could provide (until a guy named Sam Colt made it possible for the small and weak and poor to make predation dangerous... my opinion, of course).

So 350 or even just 100 years ago when some of the traditions arose, people trying to kill you and take your stuff were baselines of the environment. As that need faded and the traditions continued, other things became important: hierarchies and ritual. precision becomes more important than effectiveness. All that stuff.

When a real fighter comes up in that system (or comes to the system or someone gets exposed to violence later after learning in a system) they see it entirely differently. If they have the courage to start teaching it for effect (as opposed to not rocking the boat and just making the hierarchy happy) it becomes an entirely different thing. The bones come alive and sometimes the bones are very strong.

Just some thoughts, sitting in the Halifax airport.


Anonymous said...

I had a little enlightenment experience about that with Akira Tohei, practicing aikido under him at the Midwest Aikido Center in Chicago in 1990. We were practicing a throw off a double wrist grab. I as uke wasn't letting go so tori was getting yanked off his feet and rolling under me. I was getting side control... and then stopping, of course, this was an aikikai, after all. Tohei sensei presented his wrist, I grabbed, he threw me, I yanked him sideways, his knee went high... and he broke form, looked down at the mat as his heel slammed into the tatami inches from my head, because if he hadn't deliberately compromised his form and balance he'd've crushed my skull.


Lise Steenerson said...

Those very words make me very happy to be in the school I am now. I am blessed with a teacher who is not afraid to rock the boat and adapt, as he understands what today's violence is. Nice blog Rory

Anonymous said...

Let's say that we are all aware that it's not the system which makes the fighter but the fighter who makes the system, meaning that proficient traditional or modern system won't produce competent students if they don't have right approach to training and are simply not made up to it, or if the teacher is not up to it (lack of experiences, understanding of the system, etc). However I agree with the remark made on traditional systems compared to modern ones.

From my personal experiences I have to say that modern systems in regards to traditional ones are not combatively sound. I'm not saying that they are not good for a street fight encounter (a person skillwise in boxing/wrestling and with his own ''pack'' of streefight techniques is an opponent you really don't want to fight against – if this is combat situation then situation can be totally different) far from that, but for a situation where your life is at risk, modern systems lack to address specific aspects of combat. They lack to do this because most of them are sport systems in their own nature.

I train in traditonal systems, but for example I've also trained in boxing. Boxing is great for conditioning one's body and getting used to get hit and even developing a bit of volition. I say a bit, because boxing is sport system, not a combative one. However cross training is never a bad thing. Always a good one.

Ellis Amdur says best when he said that '' interrupted attacks and staccato timing along with relaxed responses and hard sharp linear frames is the best anti-martial art or anti-aiki ointment out there. Theories and opinion will certainly abound-since our success is dependent upon our own experiences.''

Today we know a lot about biological stress, 'fight-or-flight response', etc. Anyone heard about Hans Selye? He is considered to be the first who demonstrated the existance of biological stress. He is also known for his theory of stress – GAS (general adaptation syndrome). Our precedors were aware of these ''symptoms''. If anyone doubts this should visit hopology society ( - a lot to read), or read a book or two written by Donn F. Draeger. Those more itnerested in this should read a book ''Koryu Bujutsu: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan''. I can say for myself that I was very interested and impressed with ''Marishiten: Buddhist Influences on Combative Behavior by David A. Hall Ph.D. '' There are also very good observations made by Liam Keeley (and others as well). What makes a martial system combatively effective is for instance very well-founded set of biomechanical and physilogical principles that are soundly based on the close observation and extensive empirical knowledge of the realities of close combat.

Modern systems today have one thing in common. Their ''founders'' believe that more is better. Is it? How about strategy within the particular system? Picking and choosing individual techniques from a variety of different styles is almost always sub-optimal as there is not strategic concept binding them together.

Philip Starr said best when he said:'' Don't try to change the form's spirit. You don't do a goju-ryu form with the same spirit as you would a uechi- ryu form and baguazhang sequence or form has a wholly different spirit that does a form from hung-ga or goju.ryu. Each system and each form of that system has its own flavor and its own life.''


Anonymous said...

SPOOKY! I just had "The Unthinkable" arrive from my library!! :D

and thank you for preparing people in that way!

shugyosha said...


just nitpicking, but "If they sucked at what they were designed for, they quietly disappeared."?

If I may, if they sucked at what they were used for. You can design a system for one thing (CYA or self defense) and use it for another (LEO use or money making). Unlikely to work. Not impossible, but...

Take care.