At what point does accomodation of a student remove them from practicing the actual art?

Daniel Sullivan

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Over in 21 year old 6th dan thread, a question was posed about whether or not one can do 'karate without kata, kendo without sparring, or aikido without falling' which led to a tangent (as is often the case in threads that go on for more than five pages).

We got to the subject of a student training in the art but not doing at least one mainstay practice in the art. Though no specific reason narrowed down, several were mentioned; medical reasons, psychological issues, embarrassment, fear, or inability to purchase the equipment necessary for that part of the class.

Chris maintained that if the student cannot do essential parts of the art, then really, they're just practicing some techniques from the art but not the art itself (paraphrasing Chris' comments over a six page discussion). I suggested starting a separate thread to Chris and he indicated that he was game.

So here is the question: in accommodating a student to enable them to practice the art, at what point, if any, is the student no longer really practicing the art?

Bear in mind, that this is not about disallowing the student from participation or from training; only as to whether or not training under such accommodation can still be considered practicing the art. This is not specifically about disabled students (the student who just never purchases sparring gear but continues to come in and train for years came up), though disabled students fall into the scope of the question.
 

dancingalone

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Good topic.

I brought up those examples because I don't really think one is doing any of those arts without if you leave those parts out. Kata is karate, just as aikido without ukemi forgoes harmony in training. Ukemi isn't just about learning to fall safely - in learning how to take a fall, you learn much about the technique used to throw you also, possibly how to neutralize it... Kendo.... Well, I don't practice the art unlike you, Daniel, and while I've read your perspective on the other thread, it doesn't resonate with me. Kendo without sparring is like playing baseball with only one team, playing chess with only one color.

These aspects of each art are integral to them in my opinion. Take them out entirely, and you may be doing something close to the original art, but it's not the same thing at all.
 
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Daniel Sullivan

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Kendo.... Well, I don't practice the art unlike you, Daniel, and while I've read your perspective on the other thread, it doesn't resonate with me. Kendo without sparring is like playing baseball with only one team, playing chess with only one color.
Short of some medical reason, it would be an unusual circumstance for someone to train in kendo and not participate in ji-geiko (undirected practice) or shiai geiko (tournament practice), regardless of whether or not they ever choose to compete.

Then you have the difference between how long the student needs to 'bake' so to speak, which is different from an accommodation; 'I'm not ready to buy bogu' versus 'my doctor has told me not to spar but I can participate in the rest of the class.' I would consider both to still be practicing the art, but at a lower level than those who partake of the full program.
 

clfsean

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There are certain pieces of the puzzle that have to be there for the puzzle to be complete. Kata (karate), Ukemi (aikido), Sparring (kendo) are all good examples of that. Those pieces have to be there otherwise it's not complete.

There may be certain techniques within the puzzle that can be "altered to fit" that don't change the spirit or intention or scope of the puzzle to accomodate people. Usin me as an example, I have arthritis in my right hip. It is mind boggling painful to perform high side kicks. This is due to the mehcanics of the high kick. Low side kicks are ok because the mechanics are slightly different. So when I practice sets or teach techniques, I will substitute a high front toe kick or a low side kick (whichever is appropriate) & have the students "do as I say, not as I do". Does it effect the spirit or scope of what I do? No. It's a mechanical change. Does it effect the puzzle? I don't believe so because my students are receiving the proper transmission as I originally did, but just can not perform as originally learned.

I have a special needs student as well. He has some learning difficulties, but he tries harder than the kids who don't. However, he will never reach the non-disabled kids level of proficiency in the same manner as they do. But he will reach & probably exceed his potential as it applies to him with little doubt. I think his family's financial background is such that he won't ever be able to afford a training uniform. That's ok, I'm already planning on picking his up for him. Will I grade him as I grade the others? No. Will I grade him compared to the others? No. I will have to grade him on what he can do to the best of his ability. Will he learn everything to complete the training? Probably not. He will reach a point with physical movement & cognative processing of those motions that will be his ceiling. I think everyday people have those too. However, I won't ever let him think he's less than or let him be treated as less than he has reached, where ever that goes. His puzzle won't be completed. However, he will fill it in pretty dadgummed well.
 

Chris Parker

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Hey, Daniel,

Over in 21 year old 6th dan thread, a question was posed about whether or not one can do 'karate without kata, kendo without sparring, or aikido without falling' which led to a tangent (as is often the case in threads that go on for more than five pages).

We got to the subject of a student training in the art but not doing at least one mainstay practice in the art. Though no specific reason narrowed down, several were mentioned; medical reasons, psychological issues, embarrassment, fear, or inability to purchase the equipment necessary for that part of the class.

Chris maintained that if the student cannot do essential parts of the art, then really, they're just practicing some techniques from the art but not the art itself (paraphrasing Chris' comments over a six page discussion). I suggested starting a separate thread to Chris and he indicated that he was game.

Ha, sure am! And yeah, that's basically my stance. If you're not doing the art, you're not doing the art. Nice and clean cut.

So here is the question: in accommodating a student to enable them to practice the art, at what point, if any, is the student no longer really practicing the art?

Bear in mind, that this is not about disallowing the student from participation or from training; only as to whether or not training under such accommodation can still be considered practicing the art. This is not specifically about disabled students (the student who just never purchases sparring gear but continues to come in and train for years came up), though disabled students fall into the scope of the question.

I think my first point of contention is in the question there, actually. I wouldn't class them as ever having practiced the art, honestly, my take is that you're not practicing the art until you are, rather than them no longer practicing it.

If there is a case, such as a disabled student, where adaptations need to be made to the art for them, that's fine. In a case such as Sean's, where his hip won't allow him to perform high kicks, well, the question would need to be whether or not high kicks are fundamental to the art itself, or whether just kicking is. I'd put it that it's most likely just kicking (a specific method peculiar to his art, obviously), not high kicking, so there's again no problem.

The catch, of course, is that each different art has it's own fundamental aspects, immutable concepts and methods that define and identify that particular art, often a range of them in a unique combination. And, obviously, being unique means that you can't just name a trait and say "without that", and apply it across all arts. For instance, there's no sparring in any of my systems, but each have their own traits that define them, and often it really comes down to if the individual isn't doing it, they ain't doing it. And until they're doing it, they ain't doing it.
 

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I agree with you to a point Chris. If someone is not doing one of the core precepts of the art, then they are not actually practicing that art. However, if you take that too far, then no one will actually be performing said art until they have reached a high level of proficiency, because the basic precepts aren't truly learned until then. This would mean that none of the lower level students are actually training in the art since they aren't performing that art. For example, let's take ukemi in aikido. I agree with the concept that if you won't learn ukemi, then you can't learn aikido. However, it takes a while, sometimes quite a while, for the beginning students to learn ukemi. By your definition, these students wouldn't be practicing aikido until that time, even though they may be attending class two or three times a week.

I think you're trying to throw a blanket over something that is actually more a case by case question.
 

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I agree with you to a point Chris. If someone is not doing one of the core precepts of the art, then they are not actually practicing that art. However, if you take that too far, then no one will actually be performing said art until they have reached a high level of proficiency, because the basic precepts aren't truly learned until then. This would mean that none of the lower level students are actually training in the art since they aren't performing that art. For example, let's take ukemi in aikido. I agree with the concept that if you won't learn ukemi, then you can't learn aikido. However, it takes a while, sometimes quite a while, for the beginning students to learn ukemi. By your definition, these students wouldn't be practicing aikido until that time, even though they may be attending class two or three times a week.

I think you're trying to throw a blanket over something that is actually more a case by case question.

Let me ask you (generic you) this, then. Is "training" in an art the same as "practicing" the art? In this context, it could be argued that you're "training" until you reach a given level of competency, after which you're "practicing".
 
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tshadowchaser

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If one is not learning or doing essential parts of the art then they are only training in or practicing part of that art and there for not doing the art.
What we do is supposed to be a complet art at the level of training we have recieved. If one has never learned a kata one can not be expected to do it but if one just refuses to do a kata and has been shown that kata then the whole of the art is not being preformed and the art is imcomplete.
 

Chris Parker

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I agree with you to a point Chris. If someone is not doing one of the core precepts of the art, then they are not actually practicing that art. However, if you take that too far, then no one will actually be performing said art until they have reached a high level of proficiency, because the basic precepts aren't truly learned until then. This would mean that none of the lower level students are actually training in the art since they aren't performing that art. For example, let's take ukemi in aikido. I agree with the concept that if you won't learn ukemi, then you can't learn aikido. However, it takes a while, sometimes quite a while, for the beginning students to learn ukemi. By your definition, these students wouldn't be practicing aikido until that time, even though they may be attending class two or three times a week.

I think you're trying to throw a blanket over something that is actually more a case by case question.

Hey Paul,

In some systems, yeah, it means only those who have some particular level of experience are considered to be actually practicing the art. Agreed. Whether that's taking it too far, though, well that's up to the art in question. That said, I didn't require a deep understanding/skill level/immersion in such aspects, just that they are present in the training itself. If you train at a Kendo school that never spars, I'd say you aren't practicing Kendo, and ask to see the credentials of the teacher pretty quick... but you don't have to be good at the sparring, or shiai, or anything else. All that's required is that what makes the art what it is is present in the training. To look at the Aikido example, being good at ukemi really isn't part of it. Are they training in ukemi? Is ukemi part of the training syllabus? Then good! We have Aikido (with the provision that it's Aikido ukemi, of course... you can't go around doing parkour and saying it's Aikido!).

Let me ask you (generic you) this, then. Is "training" in an art the same as "practicing" the art? In this context, it could be argued that you're "training" until you reach a given level of competency, after which you're "practicing".

You could look at it that way, yeah. I was using them interchangably, but if you were going to differentiate, that's probably how I'd do it. With that definition, all I'm talking about is training in the system/art itself.
 

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But to make the devil's case here, an art tends to have a fundamental core concept they want to get across. I would argue that so long as that core principle is coming across, then you're teaching, and practicing the art, especially when we call it a 'do', a way. There is a line between the concept, and the particular techniques that implement it. We've been talking about aikido, where the core concept is to harmonize and redirect harmful 'energy'. We consider falling to be fundamental to this - it is the starting point for a number of startlingly effective techniques that lead to what we call ukemi - but fundamentally, it is not ukemi on its own. The act of reception by the uke is. I had a moment on tuesday night, during a sparring round, where my opponent was able to roll horizontally with my technique, staying on his feet to deliver a spinning backfist to my temple. Rolling around my technique was no less an instance of ukemi than falling with it would have been. The shift to the backfist, of course, marks the moment where he switched from uke to tori, but, still... An aikidoa who is teaching a person the fundamental harmonization and redirection without falling has a non-typical task ahead of him, but he is still teaching, at its base, what Ueshiba intended for his students to learn. This is still aikido.
 

Chris Parker

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Hmm. Devil's advocate, huh? Okay, in that line, let's look at it.

The core concepts and ideas of a particular system are, of course, the main thing, however a big part of that is found in the way such concepts and ideas are transmitted. Simply saying that, if you can get the idea of harmonizing across to a student, even without Aikido's particular methodology, it's still Aikido, well, no. I'd disagree entirely. It'd be a different approach to the concept of harmonizing, really.

You mentioned "Do", meaning "Way". Well, what's the way that Aikido teaches harmonizing with an opponents actions? A big part of that is Aikido's Ukemi. The way things are put across is just as important as what they're putting across, when it all comes down to it.

Out of interest, do you have any experience in Aikido? You list Tang Soo Do in your profile, so I'm assuming that that's where your sparring match was... what would make you think that spinning into a backfist had any real connection to Aikido? Oh, and this is more a pet peeve of mine, but no, there was no switch from Uke to Tori, as neither exist in a sparring match, especially not in a non-Japanese system. Uke and Tori are specific roles found in other forms of training. But I get what you meant (moving from being defensive to offensive).
 

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Is it possible to both practice the art, and techniques from the art as independant of it? Acknowledging where it came from, yes, but this is what takes say a side elbow strike from Krav Maga, understand its application apart from its original system, and then incorporate it into another.

Practicing elements of an art, seems to me to be practicing the art logically... just not the complete art. I don't feel this really matters, because no master teaches you everything at once, so it isn't like we're ever getting a complete training anyway. Save for a few drills, I've found that in one week, usually only one class really devotes significant time toward expanding what the practitioners know, while most other classes, and majority of drills, are designed to correct, and subtly enhance rather than teach. I think it matters when the teacher leaves out elements essential to the success of performing the techniques you choose use, which essentially handicaps it not only to being kept within its original art, but also handicaps the practitioners ability. If a technique can't be taken outside of a system, and only works within it, and only it, I don't really consider it a part of my natural fighting style, and don't include those techniques as a part of it.

While I practice a number of different arts over my martial arts path, none of them are what I would consider my natural fighting style, which is an amalgamation of every art I have practiced, trying to take what I found worked best for me and allowed for versatility and more importantly, choice. If you were to see me fight, or spar without practicing the control I did in the other video (for example there are no muai thai roundhouse kicks in that video, though I use that as often as I do my elbows in my natural style) you would see a much greater degree of diversity and range across styles.

When I spar, or fight using Chung Do Kwan's style, I deliberately limit my techniques to only those I know are found in that system. Yes, chung do kwan's punches are similar to other arts, and those are acceptable, but I think you guys know what I mean. Shotokan chambers their side kicks a certain way, and WTF TKD does it their own way, and each is unique to the art. If Im fighting in a specific style, I'm doing its techniques, its ways. But when we fighting using what comes to us most naturally, what when others watch, is what they would use to describe how you fight uniquely compared to others. I consider there to be a natural fighting style innate to each of us, though it is not codified or as defined (unless you work on it through training) as martial arts. Hence why you won't see a martial art espousing a 'natural style' like I am, you'll only find it as theory, or maybe the extent JKD is theory and application as opposed to its own system. I can think of several masters of the same style, from the same teacher, who all executed their kicks with perfect technique, and yet all have a unique kick to themself.

I'm just saying, taking elements from an art I don't think is disrespectful, or irreputable, inadvisable or anything negative at all. I think martial arts should be free, and shared with every person acting as both student and teacher. I hope styles remain and are practiced individualistically as well, but at NVCC, where we have students reaching their second year of practice, with the combined training of Wing Chun, Chung Do Kwan, Shotokan, Isshin-ryu, WTF-TKD, Tang Soo Do, Jiujitsu, that there are actually unique styles emerging, which look similar, but are unique to the practitioner utilizing elements of each of those styles and more. And I would expect that; in extreme diversity, martial artists will migrate toward those techniques which are practical, and utilizable, even if the range is huuuuuuge to draw from because of so much choice. It is self regulating in a sense- while at first it may not appear to be so, and they may look like crap... after a decade, I imagine that at least 3 individuals I train with, who right now as underbelts, I would not want to pick a fight with. Or maybe it's just that they're from the NOVA area like me. Must be something in the water.
 

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Worthwhile question. I think two aspects have been raised. The purity of the teaching/learning, and the willingness to accomodate a student who has a disability.

The purity of the teaching/learning seem to me to require that a teacher passes on all aspects of the art at an appropriate level. Then not go beyond that level until the student has learned what is supposed to be learned at that level. I do think some accomodations can be made. When I first started learning Hapkido, I was surprised to be told that there was not necessarily one-fits-all way of doing things, but that we should make a technique work for ourselves. We were taught what works for most, but allowed to modify if necessary. Granted that should not be some radical thing. But I think it has to be taken on a case by case basis, and art by art basis.

As to disabilities, I think accomdations are OK if all concerned are aware of it. In the case of a child with a learning disability as mentioned above, as long as the parents/guardian (and the student if there will be sufficient understanding) know what the limitations will be, and highest belt (if any) likely to be awarded (which of course goes to purity of the art again), I see no problem. That will probably put an additional burden on the teacher, but if the teacher is willing to accept that, why not?

In the case of physical disabilities, I think it would depend on the type of disability. How many have seen the movie Bad Day at Black Rock? Spencer Tracy portrays a one-armed man who can still effectively do many Judo techniques. Is that indeed possible? I think in some arts it would be. Can one learn everything a two-armed person can? No. Can one learn a lot of it, making accomodations? Probably so. Then what about testing? One expects from the movie that Spencer Tracy's part may have learned when he had two arms. But suppose not. He learned much. Should he be allowed to test for belt ranks? Good question I suppose, and I don't pretend to know a correct answer. Anyone wish to comment from that perspective?
 

pgsmith

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The core concepts and ideas of a particular system are, of course, the main thing, however a big part of that is found in the way such concepts and ideas are transmitted. Simply saying that, if you can get the idea of harmonizing across to a student, even without Aikido's particular methodology, it's still Aikido, well, no. I'd disagree entirely. It'd be a different approach to the concept of harmonizing, really.
I agree, an art is not the end result, it is the methodology used to achieve the end result.

To my mind, there are other things that have to be considered regarding accomodation. First, is a technique or concept part of the core of an art? To continue the aikido useage, I would say that yes, ukemi is central to aikido as an art. Second, would it be possible to properly teach said technique or concept without first learning it yourself? This is where the area starts getting grey. It may be entirely possible for one person to teach the concept of proper ukemi to someone else, even though they've never done it themselves. If they can, there's no reason that they cannot advance in aikido even though they can't do ukemi themselves. However, there are other people that could not figure out the concept of ukemi without first experiencing it themselves. These people, in my opinion, should not advance in aikido because they cannot do ukemi themselves. So, a case by case basis in my mind, and impossible to throw a blanket statement over.
 

Jenna

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Over in 21 year old 6th dan thread, a question was posed about whether or not one can do 'karate without kata, kendo without sparring, or aikido without falling' which led to a tangent (as is often the case in threads that go on for more than five pages).

We got to the subject of a student training in the art but not doing at least one mainstay practice in the art. Though no specific reason narrowed down, several were mentioned; medical reasons, psychological issues, embarrassment, fear, or inability to purchase the equipment necessary for that part of the class.

Chris maintained that if the student cannot do essential parts of the art, then really, they're just practicing some techniques from the art but not the art itself (paraphrasing Chris' comments over a six page discussion). I suggested starting a separate thread to Chris and he indicated that he was game.

So here is the question: in accommodating a student to enable them to practice the art, at what point, if any, is the student no longer really practicing the art?

Bear in mind, that this is not about disallowing the student from participation or from training; only as to whether or not training under such accommodation can still be considered practicing the art. This is not specifically about disabled students (the student who just never purchases sparring gear but continues to come in and train for years came up), though disabled students fall into the scope of the question.
I think the omission of technique implies that the art is not being practiced as designed. Does this mean they are not practicing the art AT ALL? I think it depends on the goals of the practitioner and the goals that the instructor has for that practitioner.

Where is the harm when the practitioner intends never to use that art for anything other than dojo time?

However, if there is any chance that the art is to be utilised beyond the practice hall, either in competition or in a proper defensive situation then the omission is more concerning. This concern I think might range from bringing potential disrepute upon a school from revelation of syllabus holes through damage to the practitioner or their sparring partner in competition, to an incomplete practice of say, ukemi resulting in injury, and in a defensive situation, very definite harm.

I think there is another side to this though. Omissions in core aspects of practice CAN be COMPENSATED for. If this is done adequately then real world usage can be on a par. I have seen this with ukemi that is often omitted by more senior practitioners of my own art (Aikido). There are ALWAYS ways around these things. Are those gentlemen still practicing Aikido? Yes! and but it is because they utilise a broader spectrum of alternative Aikido techniques to compensate for their shortcomings.

How is this not Aikido?

I think incomplete practice can lead to the creation of an incomplete practitioner. It does not necessarily have to be the case though in my opinion. :)
 

pgsmith

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In the case of physical disabilities, I think it would depend on the type of disability.
It also depends upon the person. I would not ordinarily think that a person with no legs could compete in kendo, but then there's Henry Smalls who is a kendo yondan.
 

puunui

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If someone is not doing one of the core precepts of the art, then they are not actually practicing that art. However, if you take that too far, then no one will actually be performing said art until they have reached a high level of proficiency, because the basic precepts aren't truly learned until then. This would mean that none of the lower level students are actually training in the art since they aren't performing that art. For example, let's take ukemi in aikido. I agree with the concept that if you won't learn ukemi, then you can't learn aikido. However, it takes a while, sometimes quite a while, for the beginning students to learn ukemi. By your definition, these students wouldn't be practicing aikido until that time, even though they may be attending class two or three times a week.

Exactly. And at that point, the distinction between "doing" and "not doing" something becomes meaningless. What is the purpose of judging someone as "doing" or "not doing", other than going through some sort of academic exercise which leads nowhere? It's a waste of time, trying to figure out if this person or that person does or does not do a particular martial art.
 

puunui

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It also depends upon the person. I would not ordinarily think that a person with no legs could compete in kendo, but then there's Henry Smalls who is a kendo yondan.

I believe that person is from Hawaii. He's been training in kendo for a very long time.
 

puunui

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I brought up those examples because I don't really think one is doing any of those arts without if you leave those parts out. Kata is karate, just as aikido without ukemi forgoes harmony in training. Ukemi isn't just about learning to fall safely - in learning how to take a fall, you learn much about the technique used to throw you also, possibly how to neutralize it... each art are integral to them in my opinion. Take them out entirely, and you may be doing something close to the original art, but it's not the same thing at all.

Assume Ueshiba Sensei hasn't taken any falls for the last 40 years of his life, for whatever reason. Would you say that for the last forty years of his life, he wasn't doing aikido?
 

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Didn't this subject come up just a while back? I can't find the thread, but I could swear we had a discussion about disability and martial arts.

Anyway. My opinion is very similar to Chris' on this, but the key is to distinguish what the ACTUAL core components of an art really are.

But, to add to the discussion, I am not sure I see much value in distinguishing these things unless you're talking about grade and promotion. What I mean is, I see a lot of value in someone who is disabled (for example) training in an art that he or she is incapable of mastering. Even if a person is physically or mentally incapable of accomplishing a core task, there might still be a lot of positive benefit from training and so it becomes a moot point.
 

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