Problems with "traditional arts" part 2

Discussion in 'Wing Chun' started by KPM, Jul 7, 2018.

  1. KPM

    KPM Senior Master

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    We have had two threads now that have touched upon the problems some people see with the "traditional" approach martial arts. So let's do a thread that summarizes and adds to it.

    The problems I have been seeing:

    1. Many "traditional" arts don't spar at all. They spend the majority of their time training forms, and in the case of Wing Chun, doing Chi Sau.
    2. When "traditional" arts do spar, they very often end up doing a form of somewhat sloppy kickboxing and an outside observer may have a hard time even determining what "traditional" art they represent. Very often no movements from the forms they have spent many hours working on are evident.
    3. "Traditional" arts often hold back information. They are somewhat secretive and unwilling to share or talk about what they consider important elements of their system. Among their own students they may teach the "secrets" or the "good parts" to only a select few that demonstrate loyalty over many years. Or they may string out their curriculum over a long period of time simply to keep students coming and paying the tuition.
    4. "Traditional" arts place too much value on the idea of "lineage." If a student does something that the teacher doesn't like, they are "disowned" or kicked out of the lineage. Then the teacher often devalues and dismisses that students background and training to try and discredit them. Leung Ting and William Cheung have done this to many students over the years. That was done to me as well.
    5. "Traditional" arts often have a very narrow and specific way of defining their method and techniques. So if you depart from that, you are no longer doing their art....and, once again, you may get disowned from the lineage!

    I could problem come up with more after giving it a little thought! ;) But what do you guys think?
     
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  2. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    Sparring is not the solution here. You can spar for 5 years, but after 5 years if you still spar the same way as you did 5 years ago, you just repeat the same pattern for 5 years and you have not learned anything new.

    You should spar by using techniques from your style. In order to do so, you have to define what technique (or techniques) can make you a winner. For example, if this week you can only score with a "foot sweep", all students will be forced to use "foot sweep".
     
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  3. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    I think these types of threads are pointless....that stuff can apply to some schools but not all of them. Same as anything it all depends on the instructor not the style. So saying its a problem with traditional martia arts is frankly just plain wrong
     
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  4. MetalBoar

    MetalBoar Yellow Belt

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    1. I guess I don't see this as a problem inherent to TMA, more a symptom of what has captured the consumers' interest. I think there are and have always been a fair number of people who don't really want to spar and then another subset of people who REALLY want to spar and a few in between. For a long time boxing was not accessible for the majority of martial arts "hobbyists" (for lack of a better term) because most of the good boxing gyms were, and largely still are, only interested in potential pros. This meant that for a long time all those people who wanted to spar, but weren't interested in pro boxing, did TMA and there were a fair number of TMA schools that offered sparring to attract these customers.

    With the incredible visibility that MMA/BJJ achieved during the 90's and their accessible gym culture, a lot of those people who really want to spar either started in, or moved to, those schools. At the same time that this transition was happening, the US was getting a lot safer. I suspect a lot of people who were on the fence about sparring didn't have an interest in the level of commitment necessary for MMA, especially in conjunction with societal changes that made it feel a lot less likely they might need to actually defend themselves. So, while they might have some interest in some sparring, it wasn't a big deal for them. TMA schools now had a majority customer base that either didn't want to spar or didn't care much about sparring and therefor an incentive to do less and less. So, while not a problem with TMA themselves, this has become a problem for many TMA schools and it is self re-enforcing.

    2. I concur that this is a problem. Many of the worst examples of this I've seen have been in freestyle type tournaments, so it's impossible to know if the competitors ever sparred at all in their schools or what kinds of drills and other training they might do. If you never spar with your art and you don't do any drills to ingrain proper application there is a good chance you'll revert to something like bad kick boxing under pressure. Again, not necessarily a problem with TMA, but a problem with the current economic reality that to keep your doors open in a commercial-ish TMA school you may be wasting your time and driving away your strongest target market if you focus on application and sparring.

    3. I hear this a lot and I've seen the recent thread where this has been an issue, but I have never experienced it personally. I don't know how prevalent it is, but I admit I'm a little dubious that it represents a wide spread issue in the modern US. Whether its widespread or not, I think withholding information is pretty counterproductive in general and to whatever degree TMA's promotes this sort of thing I would agree that's a problem.

    I have had the curriculum spread out over a long period of time, but it being a TMA school had nothing to do with it. In my experience, a lot of martial arts instructors aren't good teachers and have not been provided with or created any tools to codify their teaching into a coherent program. Some of this may be an artifact of historic TMA methods, but I think it's mainly that most people are bad at their jobs (whatever they may be) and that many martial arts instructors (TMA or not) have spent a lot of time learning martial arts and not a lot of time learning how to teach them. TMA's that contain 10,000 forms and 50 weapons may exacerbate this problem, but I think it still falls largely on the instructor rather than the art.

    4. I would agree that politics seem to be a problem in TMA, perhaps MA in general. I try to do my best not to get involved in that sort of thing, it can get petty, mean spirited and miserable for all involved. I guess if I ever started teaching I might have to worry about it, but in the mean time I'll just stick to doing my best to represent myself honestly and try to treat others with courtesy.

    Lineage is tricky in my opinion. Not everyone is looking for the same thing from their martial arts training. I don't think lineage, by itself, is any sort of guarantee of martial effectiveness or even knowledge. If your only goal is super effective fighting skills in the ring or on the street, then lineage in and of itself seems pretty meaningless. In those cases you only really care if the school produces good competitors or teaches effective self defense. On the other hand, if you have a real interest in learning a specific TMA because you find it's techniques and tactical approach interesting or something, then lineage is pretty important.

    If Joe down the street says he's teaching Hung Gar when in reality he's studied boxing and watched a few Hung Gar instructional videos he might or might not be great at teaching you how to fight, but he probably isn't going to teach you much about Hung Gar. If instead Joe could legitimately trace his lineage back through a reputable chain of Hung Gar instructors it's still no guarantee of anything but it does significantly increase the chances that he knows something about Hung Gar.

    5. This is also tricky, but I think it's fair to say that if you claim to teach an art, and your instructor and other informed practitioners of the style feel that what you are teaching doesn't utilize the principals and/or techniques of "their" art, that it is not unreasonable for them to say that you are not teaching "their" art. Going back to what I said above, your students can decide if what you teach matches what they want to learn. But, barring obvious politics unrelated to the practice of the art itself, if your teacher claims you aren't teaching "their" art then someone who puts an emphasis on learning that specific art might not want to study with you, regardless of how good what you teach might be in some other regard.

    I mean, let's be honest, if I charged someone money to teach them how to program in Java, but I what I actually taught was Python, people would have every right to tell me I'm not teaching Java, no matter how good my Python instruction might be and no matter how much my Python instruction might prepare them to learn Java in the future. This would be true even if Python was better suited to the specific programming problems they wanted to solve.

    The closest I've come to encountering this particular problem is with schools that didn't want me to cross train in other arts at the same time. The arguments against this have been of varying quality, and I've honored this request thus far, but I tend to be dubious about the validity
     
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  5. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    An art becomes better if it is conceptually driven by its practitioners. Not by its founders.

    Which is the primary issue with the traditional martial arts in they resist that concept as much as possible.
     
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  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    A lot of that seems more targeted at TCMA than TJMA, in my view.
     
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  7. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    This varies more so from school to school opposed to style to style. Each school develops a different training culture than others. Once a training culture(good or bad) is established it's very difficult to change it, for you already have a class comprised of individuals that adhere and encourage that culture.

    I agree 100% with the Chi Sau comment. Replacing sparring with Chi Sau is counter-productive.

    This is more reflective on the school rather than "traditional MA". When I studied Kung Fu I was taught very little before I started sparring. I was shown a few forms, how to kick/punch, I wasn't taught HOW to fight or HOW to spar. However, that was at that one school. I later moved onto other systems with much better instructors that taught me what I actually needed to know to develop as a Martial Artist. Combative drills, focus drills, tactics, strategy, etc. Essentially I think it comes down to the MA teacher and the school opposed to style.

    I think there are definitely teachers that fall into those categories, but I also think ignorance is another category. Meaning not all teacher were taught how to fight nor the applications of their forms. They can't teach what they don't know, but that's more a reflection on them and their teachers, not the style itself.

    Agreed. Knowing one's lineage and the history associated with it is important. However, when it's used to put other lineages down it comes off as childish.

    I can't speak of the WC lineage disputes, though I aware of the turmoil and history. However, I've encountered multiple traditional MA instructors who encouraged me to cross train, but only one that acted similarly to what you describe.

    There are schools like that, but there are many other that have a more open mind to training.


    Traditional MA is a mixed bag when it comes to quality. I agree with most of your comments and have seen a lot of what you speak of from my own experiences. However, they only represent a small minority of my experiences overall.
     
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  8. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    That's my experience as well. IMO, Chinese MA is the most political and experiences a lot of the problems KPM refers to.
     
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  9. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    For the most part it isn't what martial art you train. What matters is how to train and practice.
     
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  10. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    Your school cannot stop you from sparring after school. It's your own responsibility to develop your sparring experience when you are young.
     
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  11. dvcochran

    dvcochran Black Belt

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    Man, that was good.
     
  12. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Add pummeling and takedowns.
     
  13. mrt2

    mrt2 Blue Belt

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    There is something to that. The day I started Tang Soo Do way back in 1979, as I put on my Dobok for the first time and come into the gym, waiting for the instructor to come out, there was a teenage green belt and a teenage red belt, sparring. And they were really going at it hard! The green belt went onto become one of the best tournament fighters in our school's history, traveled around the world, and owns a chain of martial arts studios on the East Coast. These folks showed up at the gym to spar before white belt class, over an hour before the regular class was supposed to start.

    That was dedication, and I agree. If you want to do a lot of sparring and application, then do a lot of sparring and application of your technique.
     
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  14. wckf92

    wckf92 Master Black Belt

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    This is the key. I think I've said this in other threads as well.
    I think you can take someone with just the basics of WC and train the crap out of them with intense pressure and realistic drilling, fight conditioning, etc and they will do just fine.
     
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  15. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I'll go a step further, Anarax. While this can be useful information, I'm not sure how important it is. I'll use my primary art as an example. Because I know NGA has roots in Daito-ryu, most likely taught by Kitaro Yoshida, I know it has near-direct links to Ueshiba's Aikido, more direct links to all the current lines of Daito-ryu, and some pretty thin indirect links (through Kitaro) to Yanagi-ryu. That's useful information, but I'm not sure it's that important. I've talked with students who, though they had to know that at some point to pass their yellow belt (first colored belt) test in the NGAA, have long since forgotten it or confused it. Why? Because it doesn't really matter to their training. It matters for those of us investigating to look for where principles came from (usually, because we either don't really "get" a technique, or because we're looking for a better way than what we know), but to the average student, it's just trivia. A clear case is the fact that we are almost sure Kitaro is the source of the Daito-ryu base of NGA, but we can't be sure. A knowledgeable instructor in another art tried to help us with researching that, but the Daito-ryu records are somewhat fragmented and might not even be complete at this point. His final response to us was (paraphrased), "I wouldn't worry about it. It doesn't really matter whether Morita trained under Kitaro, or he invented NGA entirely on his own from a bunch of made-up techniques. It's the effectiveness of the art that matters. Go train."

    This is why it bugs me when I see so much emphasis on lineage. It doesn't seem important enough to really deserve the air time it gets. My "lineage" in NGA is interesting, but I've only ever used it to help folks understand what to expect (some known differences between the two men who were once the ranking active NGAA instructors). If someone were to claim to have learned their NGA from Bryce Lee (who left the NGAA and probably stopped calling it NGA some 20+ years ago), that wouldn't really tell me anything useful.
     
  16. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    And that can even vary within a school, as it's quite dependent upon the instructor. I imagine if I could deliver personality assessments, those results would probably be a better predictor of this than would knowing which art they teach.
     
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  17. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I agree, and disagree, all at the same time, John. :p

    The student should take responsibility for this, but so should the instructor. Best outcome is if the instructor is using sparring as a teaching tool, and the student is using sparring as a learning and vetting tool - especially if the latter includes extra-art sparring.
     
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  18. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    Doesn't that change the drill into sparring?
     
  19. wckf92

    wckf92 Master Black Belt

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    I don't think it has to... I mean, you can have "drills" that introduce and train these aspects before moving on to more dynamic activities like sparring, etc.
     
  20. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    The issue is efficiency. If the system you train is less efficient then you have to be better at it to overcome someone working less hard.

    And that is entirely within the system.

    And wing chun can be a great example. So if you did chun striking but did not include head movement. You then have to address every single punch coming at you, deal with it and fire something back.

    And that is legitimately hard work at speed.

    If you used head movement then eve statistically less strikes will land. And so you will have a better time avoiding shots.
     
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