Rabbit Hole

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Clinton Shaffer, Feb 21, 2021.

  1. Clinton Shaffer

    Clinton Shaffer White Belt

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    I hear some martial artists speak of the continued study of their style, saying they wish to “see where it takes them.” Some say certain styles are more... sportish... if you will... and are primarily “what you see is what you get” while other styles run deep with discovery, hidden truths, etc. If we assume this to be true, then how do you know which is which? What styles have this depth of learning? Or is it in the way the style is taught? Both? And finally, how can you know you’re walking this path? I’d like to hear from you folks on this topic. Thank you!
     
  2. dvcochran

    dvcochran Grandmaster

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    I get the feeling you have a pretty good idea what you are looking for. At this point, unless you are very mobile, it comes down to what is practically available in your area.
    As a very rough rule, a lot of TKD schools are more sport oriented these days. There are exceptions and I have found these schools to be some of the best three fold training (physical, mental, spiritual) I have ever experienced. Beyond that I would say Japanese/Okinawan to be the most steeped in philosophy and tradition with Chinese styles being a close second.
    The knowing can only come from trying/auditing the schools close to you.
    Are you currently training and if so what style?

    And welcome to the forum Clinton.
     
  3. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    It's less the art and how it's taught and more how it's learned. You can make anything mystic or engage in self discovery.
     
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  4. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    If the experienced guy consistently beats the less experienced guy then the training has that mysterious depth.
     
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  5. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    one way to tell a martial art with depth vs a sport or superficial. look at the age group that participates. i wont go into specifics here as someone somewhere will be offended but generally speaking , if there is a large volume of practitioners that started when they were young and are still training in their 80's then there has to be something of depth there that kept them interested all these years. depth of an art allows the participants interests to grow and change. as we get older your priorities change, our abilities change. An art with some depth can manifest something that keeps the person involved at all stages of life and not just teaching others but as a means of growth. some of that does depend on the teacher because he or she could be stagnant themselves and keep people boxed in even if the art has tremendous potential. but some arts just lack that depth.
    i found as i explored the depths and my own personal art changed over time i ran into brick walls both with teachers and with styles. at times it is like archaeology i dig into something and come up with gold nuggets and find meaning in something i found long long ago but didnt know what it was or what it was for but now the meaning was revealed. In other arts i find that the rock was really nothing more than just a rock and it wasnt even an attractive rock at that. It was just something someone stuck in the art because they didnt know any better and it just causes people to step on it and hurt their foot.
     
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  6. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Black Belt

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    You speak of "martial arts." This is a vast category.

    Re: Karate - Indeed, Clinton, there are schools where what you see right off is mostly what you get. These are sport oriented schools, kids oriented, and quite a few others where the instructor's depth of knowledge is limited (regardless of rank.) The important point is that it is not so much the style as the instructor's training and experience. There is a huge range of levels in this regard.

    Style-wise, Okinawa was the origin point for most all of karate. Traditional Okinawan schools (generally speaking) have the most potential for the depth and layered teaching you may be looking for. But since, during its spread and dilution over the decades, much of its techniques' true meaning has been lost to many current instructors. There is no way to outwardly know which school has instructors that have learned their style in its true depth.

    Here is one way you can tell if the school teaches true Okinawan karate: Ask the instructor if they employ a lot of grabbing techniques as one progresses. If they answer, "No, there's a little, but karate is mostly punching, blocking and kicking," you have your answer. They do not understand what it's all about.
     
  7. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

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    My personal opinion is that if you have to stretch too far for meanings in teachings, then the teachings did a very bad job of giving you meaning. I can teach you a form and tell you that a technique can be a punch, a block, or a throw. Or I could simply teach you a punch, a block, and a throw. If I teach you the form and only teach you how to use it as a punch, then the form hasn't taught a block or a throw. And if you have to change several fundamental details of how you're moving to make it into a block or a throw, then it's no longer the same thing you do in the form.

    Even with a sport art, you can continue to dig for depth. I've been in plenty of arguments on this site in the past for my statement that boxing is simple. (People assume I'm criticizing boxing, when I'm simply stating that it doesn't have as wide a scope as other arts). But boxers train for years and continue to learn new ways of using their relatively simple amount of techniques. Boxing has a small variety of punches, a couple of stances, and a few ways of guarding and moving. If you compare boxing to an art like Taekwondo:
    • Taekwondo has a bigger variety of hand strikes than boxing
    • Taekwondo also has kicks
    • Taekwondo has a bigger variety of stances than boxing
    • Taekwondo has a much bigger compilation of footwork than boxing does; because we're often on one leg and need to manage kicking and moving at the same time
    • Boxing has a greater emphasis on head movement than Taekwondo does
    I'm not buttering up Taekwondo, or trying to say either is better. (Both arts have their strengths and weaknesses). However, it is clear that boxing has a much narrower scope of training than Taekwondo. I could do this comparison for any other art, and boxing would come up with the narrower scope. With that narrow scope, you'd think you could learn everything about boxing in a short time. And you can...learn enough about boxing to excel against beginners. But people spend decades learning boxing.

    If something with as narrow a scope as boxing can be dug into over an extended period of time, any art can.
     
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  8. Rat

    Rat Master Black Belt

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    Im pretty sure any fighting study has a lot of depth to it in that you can nearly always continue learning something in it. the only one i would say that maybe doesnt have as much as the others in regards to long term continued study of truely new things would be combatives absed study. But that might be a issue that is being rectiified by some or pending place. (and then i would probbly say you learn how to use say these 5 basics in new ways as opposed to contiously learning new things as a example. )
     
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  9. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    You find depth....where you want to find depth.

    Depth is found by the artist not the art.
     
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  10. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    For example...my friend is a sniper instructor. After learning all the tactics and equations that wasn't enough. He kept digging deeper all the way to where he can explain what the ballistic tip of a bullet is made from and how hot the bullet gets while in flight.

    It's pretty funny when he goes into that and the look on sniper students faces until he tells them they don't need that info to pass the course. He just provides it in case they are curious.
     
  11. Clinton Shaffer

    Clinton Shaffer White Belt

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    Wow! I’ve gotten more well thought out responses on this topic than I thought I’d get. Thank you all very much. You’ve all given me a good deal to think about. For those who had asked me specific questions in your replies, I will try to respond in short time. Again, thank you!
     
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  12. Clinton Shaffer

    Clinton Shaffer White Belt

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    First, thank you for the welcome.

    Currently no, I am not training in any style of martial art. I took Shotokan and aikijutsu for about a year when I was 14. In the years that followed, I dabbled in boxing a bit but mostly put 99.99999% of my training efforts into bodybuilding, an endeavor that has been going for over 20 years for me (though, has slowed considerably in the last two).
     
  13. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    Welcome to the forums, hope you enjoy! :)

    That is actually a really really interesting question! I don't have any answer to it, but some great responses so far.

    Some arts seem 'deeper' than others. And by that I mean there's more to it than meets the eye, beyond surface level and there's a richness and vastness to explore once you have learned a really good foundation. That sounds very vague, and I can't provide much more than that haha.

    I guess it also matters what you mean by deeper. More content? More detail? Exploring deeper intrinsic qualities of what you already know at surface level? Continually rewarding or continual learning? Deeper as in philosophical/spiritual?

    But I've also seen the exact same art trained VERY different in different schools, some just training it very surface level, and perhaps this comes down to the emphasis of the particular school. If a school perceives the art as purely pragmatic, utilitarian, it may really focus on sparring, sparring strategy, competition etc.

    But I have not also stick around observing them for years, so I'm not actually in any position at all to say whether it's a 'deep' art.

    So HOW the instructor perceives or frames the art within their own psyche I feel makes the difference here. Hence when trialling out styles it's why I always sit in on the class first and make sure to have a good chat with the instructor. You learn alot about how they carry themselves, how they see the students, treat them, teach them, and in general if you're perceptive enough can gain an insight into how they themselves perceive the art (what it means to them) and subsequently how they teach it (and to what depth).

    The passion for the art also would play a big part I would say.

    Hope this helps, but would love to hear more thoughts on this subject, something of great interest to me actually, as it's what I'm looking for too :)
     
  14. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    So for example when say someone does a seminar on leg locks, literally teaches you what he does then effortlessly does it to pretty much everyone in the room.

    That is a good example of depth.
     
  15. Buka

    Buka Sr. Grandmaster

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    Welcome to Martial Talk, Clinton. :)

    I think the best answer concerning walking that path is - if you see a fork in the road, take it. :)

    That was a joke, of course. Just jump in, spend some years training hard. And have a ball doing it.
     
  16. dvcochran

    dvcochran Grandmaster

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    Sounds like you are active and that is a big plus. I still suggest you take the time to audit the options that are local to you. A reputable school will give you a trial period or at least a few classes no charge. Talk to as many students as you can, of all ranks. Talking to just black belts for example can skew the data.
    I would think a true Shotokan school would have a decent amount of history and more traditional. I do not know enough about aikijutsu to have an opinion.
    Let us know how it goes.
     
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  17. Clinton Shaffer

    Clinton Shaffer White Belt

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    Excellent point! ‘Depth’ in this context is kinda vague. Lemme try giving this as an example: I recall once hearing a story of a young kenjutsu student engaged in a duel to the death with his father during the modernization of Japan. Even though the son ultimately lost, during the duel, he was said to have “vanished into his technique.” Perhaps his vanishing act was made possible by the depth of his style.

    Even though it’s been a while since I hardcore studied martial arts, I can recall occasionally experiencing those moments when I felt as though I vanished into my technique. Maybe during a sparring match, a Kata, kihon, whatever... but it was almost like a low grade out of body experience. I could see everything, time slowed, and the mind-body connection was absolute. I like to think those were the occasional moments when I was going down the rabbit whole, seeing where the depths of my style could take me. Does that make sense?
     
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  18. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    I would argue that it wasn't the depth of the style but the son's will to dig deep into the style.

    Most things (martial arts, sports, hobbies, science, etc...) have way more depth than what 99% of people are willing to dig to. The depth is determined by the willingness of you to dig.

    Many times the claim of a lack of depth is really just a lack of willingness of the person to put the extra effort to look deeper.
     
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  19. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    Oh definitely man, for sure. I've experienced that too yeah, and studied/explored alot of this as it's of great interest.

    This may very well come down moreso to the individual practitioner, and how they frame their own training. What their orientation and intention is. I originally wasn't training for this reason (not that I was aware of), but this trajectory became more and more apparent the longer I trained, as I realised "ah, there's more to this...", and nowadays I'm pursuing it intentionally.

    How you hold your training within your own psyche dictates where it goes and what unfolds. It's like you set the 'field' within your intention, and that reorganises everything around you. People gravitate to and learn what they're looking for.

    My first main style was a very very hard style, and we'd constantly be pushed to utter exhaustion and way beyond. During a strong kihon section I had that of which you spoke of happen. So even though the style was a very external hard style and not teaching inner dimensions, that was still a vehicle towards those inner epiphanies. Or it didn't NEED to teach them, but could demonstrate them through the practice itself. But I couldn't really talk about it with the others as they weren't looking for that in their training haha.

    Alot of different physical pursuits can cater more to this Zen-like environment, martial arts tend to be one. But so can tea-making, flower-arranging, the other 'do' arts.

    So clearly it was my orientation that dictated where my training went... even though some dojos do discuss and speak of this stuff, I'm learning to honour that call within me, but not expect the teacher or style to necessarily teach that, if ANY of this makes sense haha.
     
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  20. Clinton Shaffer

    Clinton Shaffer White Belt

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    Simon, you and I are of one mind. It makes perfect sense and has me thinking and considering another possibility. What if this "rabbit hole" contained within certain styles is actually not within the styles but within the practitioners themselves? In fact, I believe that is what you and several other members have already said lol. I'm reminded of a martial arts movie from the eighties called "The Last Dragon." While the movie itself was a little cheesy (but still good lol), it had a line I will never forget and have used multiple times with my clients from when I was a personal trainer. "There is only one place you have not looked for the answer, and it is there." The hero's master was pushing his student to look within.

    You folks have a been a tremendous help with this. Thank you all very much! I truly appreciate it. I still welcome any additional thoughts on this topic. It's not as though I've solved it lol.123
     
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