Breaking the spirit?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by shesulsa, Oct 6, 2013.

  1. shesulsa

    shesulsa Columbia Martial Arts Academy

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    Some traditional old-school teachers bring their students up and proceed to break their spirit at some point before they get serious about training for black belt.

    I really know little about the psychology behind this and am hoping we can have an enlightening discussion about it.

    Please share your thoughts, feelings and education on the purpose of this tactic so commonly employed by martial organizations (e.g. military).

    Thanks!
     
  2. Stargazer

    Stargazer Yellow Belt

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    Thank you for posting this thread. I've seen the same thing happen at some schools and watched this happen to one particularly gifted young teacher to his disadvantage. I think martial arts should be about enlivening, strengthening, and healing the spirit.
     
  3. Hyoho

    Hyoho Black Belt

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    Its not about breaking the spirit but testing it. Your teacher knows you have that little more than you realize you have yourself. Nine times a week for years in Japan my sensei would try and break me down. Its just medicine. Its takes a long time to treat aggression as relaxation. You learn by losing, not winning.
     
  4. DennisBreene

    DennisBreene 3rd Black Belt

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    I know a little about the military aspects of training. More particularly in the arena of training Navy pilots. While some of the training is demanding and can appear harsh, the goal in this case is to "reprogram" bright, independent individuals to respond to commands instantly and without question. There is no time for second guessing a command to eject when a carrier catapult takeoff malfunctions. The pilot will end up dead. This is hardly breaking their spirit; but the rigors of the training will weed out the individuals who can't cut it and instill the necessary reflexes in those that make it through. I suspect that there are many parallels in training for military combat as one small aspect of creating an effective soldier. I've never seen an instructor who acted with the intent of breaking a students spirit. If anything, the demands and challenges were to elevate the students confidence and sense of accomplishment.
     
  5. Zero

    Zero Master Black Belt

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    That insight is interesting Dennis, do you think that type of programming/training has a valid place or a worthwhile place in mainstream martial arts training?

    Sure, if it is still in the context of a military, possible life or death, environment, I can see that. But I am not so sure it is required in the modern world of martial arts, be that in a commercial, SD or purely tournament/sport context.

    If it is just a test of spirit, then I can see where this is coming from if it is in the form of intense training and conditioning. I do not think in the dojo context, this would need to spill over into the "mental" arena, with a drill-sergeant mentality etc, and the need for questioning authority/orders to be erased. I would have thought a well honed free thinking / open-minded martial artist would be as good, if not better, than a "programmed" or maybe we should say "rebuilt" karateka.
     
  6. Hyoho

    Hyoho Black Belt

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    Its not the intention of budo culture to program people to respond to commands. We are programmed if at all to respond to an attack in a natural manner. To learn the timing of things without tension.

    My founder was quite good at this. Zero seems to like his quotes. Lol
     
  7. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    The same Budo Culture that developed under the Shoganate? Where the Shogun essentially held captive family members of the Lords to work as hostages should they rebel or fail to follow Shogunate directives? The same Budo Culture that emphasized utter, unswerving, and unquestioning devotion to the Feudal Lord? The same Budo Culture that near-deified the 47 Ronin? The same Budo Culture that amazed and shocked 19th Century westerners by being able to order Seppuku and have it instantly obeyed? That Budo Culture?

    Let's not over-romanticize Budo (or Chivalry) any more than we have to. Budo Culture clearing emphasized, fostered, and rewarded unquestioning loyalty, following orders, and a fairly rigid caste system. Budo Culture wasn't all bad but it certainly had its share of shocking and unacceptable-to-western-sensibilities components.

    Take the good and acknowledge the bad.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  8. Hyoho

    Hyoho Black Belt

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    I was referring to the usual aims of a teacher to get the best from his student in particular arts. Its 2013. We don't carry swords anymore and are free to quit the dojo if we want to. I wasn't aware the thread had anything to do with Japanese Feudal History.

    If you have trained teams to win Japanese national championships maybe you know what I mean? Nothing romantic about it. Hard physical and spiritual training seven days a week.
     
  9. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Then why talk about "budo culture?"

    I noticed that. It must have been the funny looks I got while walking around carry swords to work on the bus.

    Then why bring "budo culture" into the discussion? It's not "budo culture" any more.

    Here we go again. At least this time I'm not being barred from the privilege of disagreement because I'm not a CIA Assassin. :p

    Look, training teams to win or lose, or whatever, has no bearing upon one's ability to comment on "budo culture." Being able to read history does.

    If you would like to amend your original statement to be something like, "Its not the intention of modern japanese martial sports training to program people to respond to commands." then I have no point of argument whatsoever.
     
  10. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    Old School Chinese martial arts had things like stand in Ma Bu for hours a day for long periods of time before the shifu would actually teach the person more. This had little to do with breaking spirit and more to do with student dedication and teacher self-preservation

    Back in the old days of CMA if a student went out and decided to rebel against the government, or commit a bunch of crimes, his teacher would likely be punished as well which could potentially mean death for him and his whole family. So it was rather important to find a serious dedicated student and not just accept anyone who showed up to train, it just was not a wide thing to do
     
  11. Hyoho

    Hyoho Black Belt

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    Nippon Budokan started to refer to budo as budo culture some 30 years ago. The use of words were to emphasize that its now a cultural activity as past history gave Budo a bad name. It uses the word culture to try and escape the bad history, not to embrace it. The word culture is OK with me and threatens no one when you use it. I dislike the words Martial Art. Some words are better left untranslated. I have taught what you describe as Martial sports in Japan for many years. But I can't really describe myself using a 4 foot blade as a sport.



    Budo itself is a relatively new word meaning 'A martial way/path. Bujutsu is the original word.
     
  12. Hyoho

    Hyoho Black Belt

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    Budo culture (Budo Bunka) were the words coined by the Nippon Budokan thirty years ago. Its members being the national Kendo, Karate, Judo renmei's. They use it to escape the bad use of Bujutsu over the years and describe what we do now as a cultural activity such as tea ceremony, calligraphy etc. I have no problems using it. I did teach what you describe as martial sports in Japan for many years. But I can hardly describe using a 4 foot shinken at a temple purification ceremony as a sport.

    Sorry slow server. Double post.
     
  13. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    HAHAHA Fair enough.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  14. Argus

    Argus Black Belt

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    The term "Martial Sport" as Iklawson used it is a somewhat accurate translation of 武道, I think. Modern Japanese arts that use this term have basically reinvented and reinterpreted themselves as sports with associated philosophies. There's nothing wrong with that, per say, but you should realize that you probably won't find those reinterpretations in 古流武術。
     
  15. Instructor

    Instructor Master Black Belt

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    I've seen this sort of breaking down building up process in military training only, not in a martial arts environment. Frankly I go to practice to work on my skills, have fun, and get into better shape. I think if we tried the sleep deprivation, yell at you till you cry approach we wouldn't get many students.
     
  16. elder999

    elder999 El Oso de Dios!

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    Deru kugi wa uteru.

    As kyokushin brown belts, shortly before black belt testing, we were privileged with this instruction, so as not to think we were so special because of the piece of cloth around our waists.



    Of course, that particular class wasn't too bad, looking back on it.....the one after we passed the test-our first class as new shodan-was even worse: endless calisthenics, and taikyoku kata..........
     
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  17. colemcm

    colemcm Orange Belt

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    I remember being pushed like that as an uchi deshi. It wasn't so much to break my spirit or get me to be obedient without question, as it was another way for my Sensei to teach me to get the hell out of my own way when I needed to act; a way to kill internal deliberation, and by extension, hesitation.
     
  18. Hyoho

    Hyoho Black Belt

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    Problem is the arts have had to reinvent themselves a few times in Japan. The late Gordon Warner showed me a copy of the letter sent by McArthur to Prime Minister Yoshida stating the all training in Martial Arts state that all practice should be ceased forthwith. And that based on the individual merits of each art they would possibly be reinstituted at a later date.

    Most were reinstated stating the values as a "sportlike educational tradition". It was then under the wing of Monbusho (Jpn education authority) as it is today through Nippon Budokan. Most is run regionaly in each prefecture. Kobudo remains with Nihon Kobudo Kyokai. Nothing to do with sport but is recognized for its educational values. Most 'recognized' Ryu are members.

    But a word of warning should be, you don't have to be a member. Many Japanese make up stuff and call it their own. Also they are not qualified teachers. But to many Westerners if the face fits it must be ok.

    To me spirit is a very personal path between teacher and student. Mine live in for long periods of training (uchideshi) in the hope that things are passed on in the correct manner rather than write it down. To learn to fight ones own weakness.
     
  19. DennisBreene

    DennisBreene 3rd Black Belt

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    I agree completely. Even in the military, the ideal is for a well trained thinking soldier. The example I gave is more to illustrate the special circumstances where the reaction time required precludes questioning. I imagine there are comparable self defense situations in martial arts where reaction needs to occur nearly reflexively. My experience has been that these reactions are achieved by repetitive drilling and that the thinking occurs in the process of analyzing how one would respond to a particular hypothetical situation.
     
  20. zDom

    zDom Senior Master

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    IMO, in the military they are reshaping them to fit into a unit. So, like a bone that has been incorrectly set, their spirit is broken, realigned, and then allowed to grow whole again.

    But for martial arts, I think it should be more like muscle training: we want to push their spirit as far as it can be without injury so it grows back stronger. If we tear that spirit, it must heal first before resuming training.123
     
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