A hunch about sparring emphasis and real-violence denial in the MAs

exile

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I've been wondering for quite a while about why it is that TKD and increasingly Karate emphasize a curriculum built around tournament sparring—the amount of time and training energy devoted to learning spectacular but highly street-risky complex kicks, with emphasis on high targets, for example. My own experience is that most adults, and a fairly high percentage of kids, do not seriously entertain ideas of themselves as tournament competitors, and more than one TKD student has told me that they have no interest in watching competitive TKD or karate—they just don't have any interest in participating in the sport form of these arts.

Recently an explanation for this apparent paradox has begun to suggest itself to me, and I'm trying to think it through carefully. My idea is that MA schools emphasize tournament-based curricula because, in a nutshell, people are fundamentally averse to training for self-defense against real violence, because that kind of training pretty much forces you to accept that you are vulnerable to that kind of violence—something a lot of people seem anxious not to accept. And it's true, the odds for most people of encountering serious street violence are probably well below the odds of getting into a car accident. But if you don't want to train for potentially deadly personal violence, what are you doing MAs for?

A tournament combat-based curriculum is a perfect solution: all of those violent movements you're learning now have a raison d'礙tre, without your having to contemplate fighting for your life. Even though you may not have any interest whatever in competing, you get to use the kihon techs you learn in a way that gives them some applicability—even though everything we know about the history of these arts makes it clear that their intended purpose was something far more destructive than the uses they're put to in a match context (to the extent that they appear at all). I'm not saying that this is why large national organizations—the Korean TKD directorate, for example, or the Chinese government—emphasize competitive or 'spectacle'-based forms of their respective national MAs; for those entities, I don't think there's any doubt that national political and economic ambitions are by far the main driving force behind tournament TKD and modern acrobatic Wushu. What I'm suggesting is that the clientele for these MAs are happy to accept this kind of emphasis because, at some level, they'd rather be training for a kind of sport activity they have no intention of getting seriously involved with than training for violent, dangerous street encounters with their physical survival at stake—because they do not want to think about the possibility of such encounters.

So the bottom line, on this view, is that the increasing sportification of the high-profile MAs is the outcome of a kind of tacit bargain struck between the large national sponsors of these MAs on the one hand and their largely violence-averse customer base on the other. The idea is, we'll teach you some martial-looking moves and techniques and give you a chance to use them, in a context which isn't nearly as dangerous as what could happen to you should you find yourself facing a sadistic bully or drunken defective in a parking lot some evening. And in exchange, you'll gladly accept a sport-based version of the art, even with some largely decorative elementary self defense largely unconnected to the kata/hyungs/xsings of the art, 'glued on' so to speak, and more or less disconnected from the rest of the curriculum. The conclusion you're driven to, if you accept this picture, is that the current arc of MA history is powered by the paradoxical situation that most people learning it do not want to contemplate the necessity for open-ended destructive violence in their own self-defense.

So my question is, does this hypothesis, this hunch, really, have any kind of ring of truth to it? That's the first question. And the second is, if it does have some truth to it, then what are the real motivations for people to study MAs, if they are neither interested in sport competition nor anxious to immerse themselves in practical self-defense methods that require them to consider the real possibility of street violence?

What say you?
 
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Kacey

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It's an interesting premise... however, it also assumes that all MA classes of the types you refer to are the same. We frequently spar with and without pads; our rules are not the rules seen in Olympic TKD - our target zone is the front of the torso and the entire head, with no targets below the belt, behind the floating ribs, or on the neck. We practice with pads because tournament competition (spurred by insurance requirements) requires pads - but we also spar without. The above-listed target zones are to prevent accidental injury to easily-damaged body parts - knees, kidneys, throat, etc. - although they do get hit now and again by more enthusiastic and/or less capable students; it's the risk one takes when sparring.

I will admit that when I started TKD, the sparring portion of it did not interest me; my greatest interest was then, and remains now, patterns. Still, I did learn to spar, because it was required for advancement, and I never really thought anything about the rules other than that those were the ones I was taught. I knew nothing about sparring when I started except that it was some form of fight - and even in today's information-saturated world, I suspect that most people walk into a MA gym with little idea of what sparring really is, or what it's for, unless they've had previous MA experience.

As far as pattern movements not being linked to sparring - that may be so in your experience, but in mine, they are closely related. Movements learned in patterns are modified and adapted in line drills (against an imaginary opponent), then further for step sparring (against a real opponent who knows what's coming) and then finally for free sparring (against a real opponent who doesn't know what's coming - at least in theory; many people lead their techniques to some extent).

So, do I believe that people who are averse to fighting - for whatever reason - are sucked in by marketing that downplays fighting? Certainly. But do I agree with the reasoning you laid out? Not really - it may be, based on your experience, that that's the way it is - but my experience, and therefore my interpretation, is different.
 

geezer

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So, do I believe that people who are averse to fighting - for whatever reason - are sucked in by marketing that downplays fighting? Certainly.

I agree. And I don't think it's really as complicated as Exile makes it out. I just suspect that most people, wisely, don't want to get into a lot of real fights. Why? How about injury, lawsuits and criminal prosecution for openers. Fighting ain't easy, even if you're tough enough to win most of the time.

So, how can you safely vent your competitive urge to strut your stuff? If you are really into physicality, there's cage fighting. If not, there's those point-fighting tournaments. And if it seems like everybody and his brother walks away with some kind of three or four foot tall plastic trophy...Hey, it's good for business.

As to why there's a lot of emphasis on tournaments, I suspect that giving out those big trophies is just like giving out kiddie black belts. A great way to keep 'em coming.

Now I'm going to shut up and go back to training with my instructor in his garage...
 

Gordon Nore

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So my question is, does this hypothesis, this hunch, really, have any kind of ring of truth to it? That's the first question. And the second is, if it does have some truth to it, then what are the real motivations for people to study MAs, if they are neither interested in sport competition nor anxious to immerse themselves in practical self-defense methods that require them to consider the real possibility of street violence?

What say you?

I think it rings absolutely true. The bread and butter of the neighbourhood dojo/dojang is kids. Parents, as consumers, want tangible results. What they see when they walk in (some schools) are prominent displays of coloured belts, trophies, certificates of a affiliation to various federations, and pictures of winners. The testimonials in their brochures invariably say, "Johnny has so much more confidence, and he's gettng better grades," and not "Johnny finally flattened that bully who's been punking him since Kindergarten."

I don't discount the value of point sparring as a tool to learn to improvise, develop combinations, etc. However, I think the general public equates martial arts excellence with participating in tournaments. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked how many trophies I've won or how tourneys I've been to. (The answer is one and one.) My version of excellence, or the pursuit thereof, is having done thousands of pushups, breakfalls, kicks, punches, locks, blocks.

As for preparedness for real violence, the reality is that after more than a decade of training, I do not believe I am prepared to confront the kind of rare extraordinary violence that occurs on the streets of my city. I suspect there are fewer, rather than more, schools out there that (1) can prepare me for that, or (2) that I would want anything to do with.

Ideally, each and every school would say (and many do) specificially what they are good at. Example: We train students to be champions at tournaments. We train for fitness. We train for aesthetics. We train in combative strategies.

Having said all of this, I still firmly believe that martial arts school can be great places for kids and adults. I've people develop a strong sense of fellowship from training together. It has many, many positive attributes. It's the marketing that I don't like.

And I did have fun the one time I competed at a tournament with my son in 2000.
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exile

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Kacey, thanks for your response. Just so it's clear where I'm coming from in bringing this idea up for discussion, I'd better amplify a few points that probably weren't clear based on what I was saying in the OP

It's an interesting premise... however, it also assumes that all MA classes of the types you refer to are the same. We frequently spar with and without pads; our rules are not the rules seen in Olympic TKD - our target zone is the front of the torso and the entire head, with no targets below the belt, behind the floating ribs, or on the neck. We practice with pads because tournament competition (spurred by insurance requirements) requires pads - but we also spar without. The above-listed target zones are to prevent accidental injury to easily-damaged body parts - knees, kidneys, throat, etc. - although they do get hit now and again by more enthusiastic and/or less capable students; it's the risk one takes when sparring.

I will admit that when I started TKD, the sparring portion of it did not interest me; my greatest interest was then, and remains now, patterns. Still, I did learn to spar, because it was required for advancement, and I never really thought anything about the rules other than that those were the ones I was taught. I knew nothing about sparring when I started except that it was some form of fight - and even in today's information-saturated world, I suspect that most people walk into a MA gym with little idea of what sparring really is, or what it's for, unless they've had previous MA experience.

I agree, most people have no clue what sparring is when they walk into their school. But they quickly learn that it's not no-holds-barred, reality-based violent attack/survival defense, that it's got rules and structure and a constant emphasis on 'respect' for the opponent, and that while you can get hurt, the other person's intention is not to cause you possibly irreparable damage, as vs. what happens in a real street fight. It's that sense of the containment of violence to relatively safe channels that I'm suggesting appeals to people who are uncomfortable with the prospect of a deadly-serious physical encounter with a dangerous, possibly sociopathic adversary.

As far as pattern movements not being linked to sparring - that may be so in your experience, but in mine, they are closely related. Movements learned in patterns are modified and adapted in line drills (against an imaginary opponent), then further for step sparring (against a real opponent who knows what's coming) and then finally for free sparring (against a real opponent who doesn't know what's coming - at least in theory; many people lead their techniques to some extent).


Pattern emphasis works in the same way, but even more so in a sense, because there, there's not even a rule-governed exchange of blows. We're kind of unusual, because we don't actually do sparring at all; we focus on defense against a real physical attack, involving grabs, shoves, sucker punch tactics and so on, and while we train complex kicks for balance practice, our main tools are upper-body strikes, knee techs and simple front and side kicks with both the back and lead leg. The attacker isn't the traditional tori, but someone attempting to damage the defender with head-butts, grab-and-strikes, haymakers and punching flurries, and so on. And we use the counterattack methods encoded in the patterns, involving throws, pins, and elbow strikes to vulnerable places like eyes and throat, guided by bunkai of the kind that we're seeing more and more of these days.

But I know that this approach to TKD is extremely uncommon. For years, my instructor, who is fifth dan KKW certified, dutifully followed a KKW type curriculum, but after a certain point, he decided that traditional TKD was all about self-defense against street thugs—that's what it started out as on the mean streets of Seoul, Inchon and Pusan during the Occupation and the Korean War era and after—and he's been trying to get back to that 'pure', strictly SD combat oriented version of the art for a long time now. My thinking here is based on what I know about other dojangs (and dojos) in central Oho and elsewhere, and the role sparring plays in their curricula.


So, do I believe that people who are averse to fighting - for whatever reason - are sucked in by marketing that downplays fighting? Certainly. But do I agree with the reasoning you laid out? Not really - it may be, based on your experience, that that's the way it is - but my experience, and therefore my interpretation, is different.

I'm not exactly saying that there's a lot of marketing out there that actively preys on people's fear of real violence—I was a bit worried after posting my OP that I might be giving this impression, so I'm glad to have the chance to emphasize that no, I don't think this is happening. It's not a matter of deliberate and overt pandering to people's fear of violence, so much as major organizations—who find the sport MA format to be both lucrative and high-file—developing curricula where the natural application of the techs they teach is the controlled combat environment of sparring (whether WTF, ITF, JKA or whatever) and therefore giving people who learn basic martial techs a context for using those techs in a way that allows students to avoid confronting the possible need to used them in real-life, desperate defense situation. I'm not talking about conspiracies or plots or even the kind of deliberate psychological manipulation that puppet-master-for-hire psychologists do on behalf of the advertising industry (as per e.g., Vance Packard's classic expos矇 The Hidden Persuaders, written half a century ago about motivational research and its methods, tactics and morality). I'm talking more about a confluence of priorities—MA organizations' desire to promote themselves and their national sponsors on the world stage for fun, fame and profit, on the one hand, and MA students' interest in avoiding thinking of their arts as tools for damaging SD under dangerous, and possibly lethal, conflict situations, on the other. Basically, what I'm saying I guess is that if the vast majority of MA students really wanted their training to allow them to defend themselves in conditions of grave peril, we wouldn't have the very common kind of 'civilized sparring' emphasis as the bedrock of current MA curricula. In short, it takes two to tango....
 

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The problem is that from the outside, non martial artists think that all martial arts are the same. But when you start to learn them you realise that they have many different goals. Some people like tournament fighting, to compete and win is what drives them - judo, TKD, kick boxing are good examples of these styles. All can be used for self defence, but the focus is generally on points scoring / tournament fighting.

Some people (like me) just want to learn a traditional style, with functional self defence techniques. Others want to be healthy, relax (tai chi chaun etc) and some people want to learn how to fight for real.

Sometimes the hardest thing about martial arts is finding what you want to get out of it, and then finding a club/instructor that can provide you with the required training.

Remember, some styles really are not suited to street fighting (or at least they do not seem that way). People that train for TKD tournaments may find themselves in a lot of trouble in a real fight. So often on landing a kick they lower their guard and celebrate their point. Very bad habit to get into.

But no style is going to be perfect for anyone forever. What you like today may bore you in 10 years.

My reasons for studying:
1. to learn an authentic style
2. to learn to defend myself - although I have realistic expectations on this!
3. to get fitter
 

terryl965

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The thing is time have changed what MA really was about, It is no longer about self defense, it is more about diet, getting fit and something the family can do together. Sport peope like the thrills that come from competition, parents nees to see little Johnny win a trophy, me I do it because it has been part of my dailt routine for over forty years. My family does it because of me and I am sure when my son's grow up they will do it for there reasons as well.
 

Makalakumu

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Or maybe the need for self defense really isn't as pressing as we like to think. Society is relatively peaceful. There is TIME to practice sports. If people had to fight more, they would spend more time preparing for it.
 

Gordon Nore

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Sometimes the hardest thing about martial arts is finding what you want to get out of it, and then finding a club/instructor that can provide you with the required training.

But no style is going to be perfect for anyone forever. What you like today may bore you in 10 years.

I can relate to this. I'm semi-retired from my art currently: a polite way of saying that I haven't dragged my butt to class in a year. Part of it has to do with how my needs have changed. At forty-eight just thinking about getting to a class that runs from 8:30-9:30 pm makes me sleepy -- the adult club where I've trained is small, with a limited schedule. Despite years of ukemi practice, I am tired of flying over people's shoulders onto the mats. When someone does a wrist lock on me now, I cannot get to my knees fast enough to mitigate the pain.

At this point, I'm seriously considering taking up Yoga again. Though not martial, it is an art. They also let you lie down, which is appealing. And nobody shouts. I'm getting old.

My reasons for studying:
1. to learn an authentic style
2. to learn to defend myself - although I have realistic expectations on this!
3. to get fitter

By the way, I like your list.
 

HM2PAC

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Exile,

Thank you for starting this thread. This captures one of my biggest gripes with the TKD that we are involved with right now. The sparring, while it is great exercise, has little to no actual application on the street.

Exile wrote:
My own experience is that most adults, and a fairly high percentage of kids, do not seriously entertain ideas of themselves as tournament competitors, and more than one TKD student has told me that they have no interest in watching competitive TKD or karatethey just don't have any interest in participating in the sport form of these arts.
(This is me to a tee.)

The school we are in is great, and our instructors are talking about a more SD applicable sparring class once a week, so I am holding out some hope.

I relate the choice of sport over fighting skills to the same mindset that prefers meat from a butcher shop rather than raising it or hunting it oneself. After a generation or 2 goes by, hunters and farmers alike are looked upon as brutal, uneducated, and as relics of a time gone by.

But people still want their hamburger in a cellophane package don't they?

Tournaments are dignified and "safe". Fighting can be avoided.
 

rhn_kenpo

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I've only been training consistently for two years. The general thesis offered by Exile is something I've wondered myself over the past few months. I train in EPAK, so the 'sport' aspect of my training is minimal. But I often ask myself whether or not the intensity we train with in a typical class is really preparing us for something nasty we might encounter in the real world. To really train properly for a violent street encounger, the SD techniques must be executed with a lot of intensity and there needs to be at least some contact. There must be control of course, but I think you need to be willing to get close to the edge to really learn and progress is a way that will help in a real attack. Going through the motions at a casual 25% pace all the time is simpy not realistic enough. There is a segment of the MA student population that IMHO is just not comfortable going beyond a 25%-50% pace in their training. If a school has a lot of this type of student, it will have to offer something other than realistic SD training to retain them and make the economics work (and I realize that the economics DO have to work). Tournament sparring fits the bill very well.

At my school, the intensity of the training varies enormously depending on which students show up for class. With one group of students, I leave class bruised and exhausted. With another, I barely break a sweat. With the former group, I do feel that I'm learning how to defend myself in a realistic way. My instructor(s) are very good at calibrating the comfort level and physical ability of the different students. I understand the reality and appreciate that my instructurs have to sort of shoot for the class median. So I find myself trying to attend certain classes and avoid others. I'm guessing this is a pretty typical situation at other schools too.

R
 
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Rich Parsons

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I've been wondering for quite a while about why it is that TKD and increasingly Karate emphasize a curriculum built around tournament sparringthe amount of time and training energy devoted to learning spectacular but highly street-risky complex kicks, with emphasis on high targets, for example. My own experience is that most adults, and a fairly high percentage of kids, do not seriously entertain ideas of themselves as tournament competitors, and more than one TKD student has told me that they have no interest in watching competitive TKD or karatethey just don't have any interest in participating in the sport form of these arts.

Recently an explanation for this apparent paradox has begun to suggest itself to me, and I'm trying to think it through carefully. My idea is that MA schools emphasize tournament-based curricula because, in a nutshell, people are fundamentally averse to training for self-defense against real violence, because that kind of training pretty much forces you to accept that you are vulnerable to that kind of violencesomething a lot of people seem anxious not to accept. And it's true, the odds for most people of encountering serious street violence are probably well below the odds of getting into a car accident. But if you don't want to train for potentially deadly personal violence, what are you doing MAs for?

A tournament combat-based curriculum is a perfect solution: all of those violent movements you're learning now have a raison d'礙tre, without your having to contemplate fighting for your life. Even though you may not have any interest whatever in competing, you get to use the kihon techs you learn in a way that gives them some applicabilityeven though everything we know about the history of these arts makes it clear that their intended purpose was something far more destructive than the uses they're put to in a match context (to the extent that they appear at all). I'm not saying that this is why large national organizationsthe Korean TKD directorate, for example, or the Chinese governmentemphasize competitive or 'spectacle'-based forms of their respective national MAs; for those entities, I don't think there's any doubt that national political and economic ambitions are by far the main driving force behind tournament TKD and modern acrobatic Wushu. What I'm suggesting is that the clientele for these MAs are happy to accept this kind of emphasis because, at some level, they'd rather be training for a kind of sport activity they have no intention of getting seriously involved with than training for violent, dangerous street encounters with their physical survival at stakebecause they do not want to think about the possibility of such encounters.

So the bottom line, on this view, is that the increasing sportification of the high-profile MAs is the outcome of a kind of tacit bargain struck between the large national sponsors of these MAs on the one hand and their largely violence-averse customer base on the other. The idea is, we'll teach you some martial-looking moves and techniques and give you a chance to use them, in a context which isn't nearly as dangerous as what could happen to you should you find yourself facing a sadistic bully or drunken defective in a parking lot some evening. And in exchange, you'll gladly accept a sport-based version of the art, even with some largely decorative elementary self defense largely unconnected to the kata/hyungs/xsings of the art, 'glued on' so to speak, and more or less disconnected from the rest of the curriculum. The conclusion you're driven to, if you accept this picture, is that the current arc of MA history is powered by the paradoxical situation that most people learning it do not want to contemplate the necessity for open-ended destructive violence in their own self-defense.

So my question is, does this hypothesis, this hunch, really, have any kind of ring of truth to it? That's the first question. And the second is, if it does have some truth to it, then what are the real motivations for people to study MAs, if they are neither interested in sport competition nor anxious to immerse themselves in practical self-defense methods that require them to consider the real possibility of street violence?

What say you?


I will not speak specifically to an art style or sport.

I will relate what happened to me about a year ago.

I was taking a business class offered at U of M Flint for free. I took a bunch so the exact topic I cannot remember, but the following sticks out clearly.

There was a woman in a couple of the classes I was in. She heard that I was teaching Martial Arts. She approached me one night after class and asked me if she could take a self defense class from me. I asked her what she was looking for. She was concerned about someone who had abducted four women (individually) and raped them and then dropped then an our north in another town. I asked her if she was interested in a Firearms class. (* I was going to send her to a friend of mine *). She said no weapons. I then explained the blade and stick arts I teach and she got frustrated and said no weapons. I said ok, you are looking for empty hand techniques. I said we will cover "dirty" techniques to address pain to the opponent and then getting away. I explained that this would be a private course for her and that she could bring hre spouse or some friends, She was very frustrated. She then stated, "Don't you have a class I can take and get a certificate that say I can defend myself?" I smiled and told her I had been in lots of fights and altercations and that after 22 years I still practice. And even with all that practice and experience I cannot guarentee that I can defend myself. I still get hit, and have nto figured out how to dodge bullets. She turned and walked off.


There are many who train for the physical fitness.

There are many who train for the sport.

There are many who train for the social activity.

There are many who train for some fear they have.

There are also many who train just to get a certificate or the false feeling that if they do "X" then they will always be safe. It is difficult for these people to understand the commitment to make it work. Many do not want to actually hit someone or learn violence, they just want to "feel" safe.
 

Gordon Nore

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Agreed, rhn.

You need to have a teacher who is really watching the class, watching individuals, and knows when and how to push people harder. There is a Japanese term, zanchin, which I believe means "lingering spirit." Even when two partners are practising a drill slowly, they are both constantly connected and present, even when the pattern is played out.

I think what teachers like mine are looking for in advanced students are people who maintain that connectedness even when the activity has ramped up -- faster, harder, more intense, perhaps even chaotic. Having that kind of focus is, I would suspect, the next best thing in preparing a student for extreme violence, without actually modeling that level of violence in the dojo/dojang.

When I speak of that more extreme level of violence, I think about conversations I've had with correctional service workers. Those are conversations worth having when you're a martial artist trying learn self-defense. For me, when I hear about how far people will go -- whether it be due to drug addiction, rage, despair -- that I begin to understand the limitations of my skills. We can practise all manner of scenarios; however, there are levels of violence that I think few of us can actually prepare for.
 
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exile

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There are also many who train just to get a certificate or the false feeling that if they do "X" then they will always be safe. It is difficult for these people to understand the commitment to make it work. Many do not want to actually hit someone or learn violence, they just want to "feel" safe.

Rich, this is exactly the mindset I was speaking about. And I think it's far more common than the other attitude: that people will do whatever they have to, no matter how 'dirty' and hard-edged, to give themselves that survival advantage.
 

HM2PAC

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rhn kenpo wrote:
At my school, the intensity of the training varies enormously depending on which students show up for class. With one group of students, I leave class bruised and exhausted. With another, I barely break a sweat. With the former group, I do feel that I'm learning how to defend myself in a realistic way. My instructor(s) are very good at calibrating the comfort level and physical ability of the different students. I understand the reality and appreciate that my instructurs have to sort of shoot for the class median. So I find myself trying to attend certain classes and avoid others. I'm guessing this is a pretty typical situation at other schools too.

This is how it is at our school as well. There are students that get offended if you actually hit them with any real velocity. They expect punches and kicks to be pulled. We also have a few students that like all the contact they can get. One guy is USN Shore Patrol the other guy has a BB from Okinawa.
 

Rich Parsons

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Rich, this is exactly the mindset I was speaking about. And I think it's far more common than the other attitude: that people will do whatever they have to, no matter how 'dirty' and hard-edged, to give themselves that survival advantage.

Exile,

As an engineer I can say many. I cannot say MOST as I do not have the data. ;)

Many carries what I meant more than Some.

But my using Many for all the descriptions I was able to show how everyone's individual experience is still validated and not be confratational.


That all being said.

I agree there are too many and "lots" in my opinion who have that attitude.

Thanks
 

Gordon Nore

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Originally Posted by Rich Parsons
There are also many who train just to get a certificate or the false feeling that if they do "X" then they will always be safe. It is difficult for these people to understand the commitment to make it work. Many do not want to actually hit someone or learn violence, they just want to "feel" safe.

Rich, this is exactly the mindset I was speaking about. And I think it's far more common than the other attitude: that people will do whatever they have to, no matter how 'dirty' and hard-edged, to give themselves that survival advantage.

Agreed, Exile and Rich,

That's an element that I hadn't been thinking of, but I believe you're both quite right. I don't associate that with my own training environment, as we have a very long time in grade to BB -- the fastest anyone has done it is seven or eight years. So people coming in thinking that a black belt will appear, and they will be protected, either drastically change their mindset or leave.

This is what makes me wary of schools that profess to teach self-defense under the guise of forms or point sparring. Similarly weekend self-defense seminars -- the kind where a bunch of people get to kick the crap out of someone dressed like the Midas man. Overtly or covertly, beginning students in some schools are getting the message they want to hear and not the one they need to hear.
 

rhn_kenpo

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Gordon Nore wrote:
When I speak of that more extreme level of violence, I think about conversations I've had with correctional service workers. Those are conversations worth having when you're a martial artist trying learn self-defense. For me, when I hear about how far people will go -- whether it be due to drug addiction, rage, despair -- that I begin to understand the limitations of my skills. We can practise all manner of scenarios; however, there are levels of violence that I think few of us can actually prepare for.

Yes indeed. I try to be very aware of the limits of my own abilities, both physical and mental. Realistically, mine are quite modest. But I do feel that I've extended my limits during my two years of training. A bully is one thing, and I think I could talk my way out of a fight wity a bully. But a violent attack is an event that lies 4-5 standard deviations beyond what most will encounter in their normal lives. It will be all instinct and adrenaline if/when it happens to me and I really have no clue how much difference my EPAK training will make. But I do feel that my odds will be greatly improved with the most realistic training I can get.

HM2PAC wrote:
This is how it is at our school as well. There are students that get offended if you actually hit them with any real velocity. They expect punches and kicks to be pulled. We also have a few students that like all the contact they can get. One guy is USN Shore Patrol the other guy has a BB from Okinawa.

I think physical characteristics are important. Certain physiques are just not made to give/take a lot of abuse. I can certainly respect that. But attitude and prior life experience are also important, and those vary a lot. No doubt advanced belts accept and enjoy contact because that is a quid pro for attaining a higher rank.
 

Deaf Smith

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Long time ago this guy, Jeff Cooper, wrote about initiative and how a person who desires something will go to extremes to obtain what they are after. They will almost kill themselves for it.

In the military it's ribbons, decorations and the like. Even Napoleon remarked on how "little bits of ribbon" motivated his men to fight.

This also applies to tournament sparring and trophies. Yes TROPHIES. Many a martial artist will put in lots of extra hours to win that piece of plastic and stone that most trophies are made. Not only martial artist but just about any competition where someone gets 'little bits of ribbon'.

Heck, I have FOURTY of them on the walls in my gun room. Yes I've been a trophie hound for years. Most shooting but three of them are martial arts ones. I put in lots of extra effort to get that good. And that's the benifit of competition and 'sparring emphasis'.

If some big named martial artist would have rules for a self-defense style sparring match and give trophies and maybe some money, you might see more people practice strait self defense... all with idea of gaining some 'little bits of ribbon'!!!

Now many of these sparring tournaments are agenda driven. Olympic TKD is for the 'new' TKD style, and thus the rules are set for lots of kicking, high kicking to be exact. Other tournaments bend the rules for punching, like Okinawan style matches. All of them have their own angle but all have one thing in common..... TROPHIES!

So do not blame the emphasis on sparring, instead embrace the fact people want those pieces of ribbon and instead offer a more realistic sparring match with say, no kicking allowed to the head and light 'point' kicking allowed to the knees and shins!

Deaf
 

Gordon Nore

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rhn kenpo wrote:

This is how it is at our school as well. There are students that get offended if you actually hit them with any real velocity. They expect punches and kicks to be pulled. We also have a few students that like all the contact they can get. One guy is USN Shore Patrol the other guy has a BB from Okinawa.

I've seen this issue come up. It helps to have a flexible instructor who will let you change up. Depending on who shows up, there may be people who just can't hit you hard enough. I've certainly been in classes where several of my experienced and stronger peers were absent, and I had to exercise more restraint with some classmates because they couldn't hit hard enough that it mattered, and I certainly wasn't going to hit them as hard as I was capable. In those situations it's nice to be able to agree to do something else -- like kata, perhaps.

I can understand people not wanting to get too banged up. We had a woman training with us years ago who bruised if you looked at her. She ended up quitting because the bruising on her wrists looked so bad, she wore long sleeved blouses to her office.

A lot of people go to the dojo/dojang as an activity, a night out. As long as they're paying dues, showing up regularly and participating, a teacher or fellow student can only expect so much. In my early years I was giving one of my seniors (who was several years younger than I) a ride home. As an assistant instructor, he was disappointed that a couple women in the class were not really working to potential.

I gently pointed out to him that these women were parents of small children and had full time jobs. Getting out of the house to train was (1) probably very complicated to manage and (2) a source of recreation, not something they wanted to kill themselves over.
 

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