Contradictions In The Martial Arts

There are two schools of thought on this as you noted. Learn a little but learn it very well before going to the next step or learn a lot of forms and work on them all eventually getting it down over time.

Historically, the former was the rule, spending 1-3 years on a particular form before going on to the next. The old masters may have learned eight or even a dozen or more forms over their long careers but chose to only teach three or five to their students. Why so few? Most forms are a lot meatier than they may first appear, each form perhaps representing an entire fighting system or doctrine. A single form easily contained a year's worth of info to learn, practice and gain combat proficiency with it.

I see two reasons the latter viewpoint became widely adopted. #1. As MA came to be taught to the masses (non-professionals) the new crop of students was not as strongly motivated to stay with a single form for a year or more; they needed more stimulation and advancement to keep their interest, especially as the arts spread to the West.

#2. The more basic reason, IMO, was that the advanced applications of the forms were lost over time, and they no longer had the complexity and depth they once had. Having become more basic and losing much of their combat application, it no longer took two years to learn and become "proficient" in a form. Teachers didn't have enough knowledge to pass on about the form to stretch over a year or two. So instead of depth they used quantity to fill out their curriculum.

Since most modern TMA practitioners are not professionals, I can see the value of teaching a bigger variety of forms, though one can go overboard in this regard. But I lean a little more towards the quality over quantity of forms, especially as the trend is rediscovering the depth and combat applications most forms really contain.
Before modern karate, yes. Before there were Pinans and Naihanchis (or Gekisai in the case of Goju-ryu), or any "fukyu" katas that various styles have come up with to place before Pinans and Naihanchis. Back then, you would start with Passai, Kusanku, or other katas that are typically learned at brown belt (or even black) in modern karate.

So it would make sense that so much time was spent learning a kata back then. Naihanchis and Pinans give you enough of a foundation so that you don't have to spend two years learning Passai Dai, etc.
 
I would expect the depth approach to result in a much higher rate of attrition. Particularly in the early stages.
This only happens when the student is no interested in being able to apply the techniques. When they want to apply the technique then each successful application of a provides the drive to learn more. BJJ training is a an example of depth. Each application that is learn provides the foundation of the technique to be learned.
 
The 1st method is called "depth first". The 2nd method is called "breadth first". In AI, both approaches will cover the entire MA tree (starting from the MA tree root).

IMO, if you want to train fighter, the 1st method is better. But if you want to train teacher, the 2nd method is better.

In Chinese wrestling, I was taught with method 1. In the 1st 6 months of my training, I was only allowed to use one technique on the mat. In one tournament, I used that technique to win 7 rounds total. Nobody could escape my attack. After 6 months, I was taught to use that technique to set up other techniques. My truly Chinese wrestling learning then start.

I believe the striking art can be learned the same way. For example, you can use jab to set up many different attacks (jab-jab, jab-cross, jab-hook, jab-uppercut, jab-overhand, jab-grab-pull, ...). Unfortunately, instead of mastering a single technique first then go into combo training later, striking art teacher ask his students to learn a form first. So, depth first approach has never been used in the striking art learning.
As an instrructor, I found myself doing both in different areas. There were things I found students developed better in if they had a full intellectual understanding of them (so teaching was more detailed and stayed on the topic longer), and there were other aspects where that seemed to develop better as students explored them across more techniques and movements (so teaching these introduced broader subjet matter in a shorter period of time). Sometimes it just depended what the student seemed to learn better from.

The same goes for self-discovery vs. teaching explicitly, both at the system level and for the individual student differences. And I think the student's need changes over time. There were periods where I just needed to churn through material with repetition, and there were times when more repetition didn't help - I needed explanation and intellectual understanding to progress.
 
Sometimes, people judge someone's MA skill/ability by how he may perform his solo form. This bothers me a lot. IMO, MA is 2 persons art. It's never solo.

For example, someone said, "If I were to think 'going deep' I would probably think first of Liu Jishun (in the following video)".

What the meaning of "going deep"? Am I the only person on earth who believes solo form performance has nothing to do with his MA skill/ability?

There are some things I would judge someone's solo form on, because I don't think a good martial artist (in the art the form is from) have certain issues. Mostly, for me, this would be about balance and focus. Mind you, they may be good in other areas and just not good at that form yet, so I'd have to know their experience with the form for that kind of judgment to be meaningful. And there are sometimes things in forms that are meant to be challenging, and issues in that part of a form may not be indicative. One of the forms I created was built to have specific balance and movement challenges in it. I always struggled with some of them, because they were meant to be hard to do within the training of the art. (To clarify that last sentence, some of those would have been easier for someone from TKD, for example, where turning kick movements are much more common - so a student coming to me with TKD background would likely do those sections better than I would.)
 
Reminds me of advice given to new writers. There is a tendency to want write the first chapter, scrap it, write it again, and on until its perfect, then move to chapter two. Write chapter two, then go back and edit chapter one, because chapter two changed some things. And about this time, the writer stops writing and may never pick it back up.

The advice given to these newer writers is to press on, keep writing, and finish the book. Resist the urge to edit on the fly. Then go back and edit it, as many times as needed until it is refined. Approach the entire process as a cycle, and not a series of individual steps that must be fully mastered before moving on.

As i read the two training approaches above, the breadth approach seems more aligned with human nature and much more likely to succeed. I would expect the depth approach to result in a much higher rate of attrition. Particularly in the early stages.
I'd tend to agree. The exception, for me, would be the fundamental bits. So I'd keep students for a long time working on basic punches and movement, for instance, before I'd leave it to their own work and the side effects of their overall training. But while doing that, they'd also be progressing in other areas to add breadth, because most folks are more interested in new material, and people learn better when they are interested in the moment.
 
I'd tend to agree. The exception, for me, would be the fundamental bits. So I'd keep students for a long time working on basic punches and movement, for instance, before I'd leave it to their own work and the side effects of their overall training. But while doing that, they'd also be progressing in other areas to add breadth, because most folks are more interested in new material, and people learn better when they are interested in the moment.
I trained for two years 4 times a week before I was taught our first form/kata. @Steve is correct that attrition was very high in our school and in my Sigungs school as well. Hard physical exercise drilling foundations in balance, posture, and coordination is all a student got until they were invited to attend the advanced class where forms, applications, hard sparring and even more difficult versions of foundational exercises were taught. Most people quit within the first or second month because they could not, or would not put the hard work in for that first 18-24 months to get the fitness and foundational exercise necessary to move on to more complicated and more strenuous advanced class. To further compound the difficulty, anyone who moved up to the advanced class was still required to attend the beginner classes in addition to advanced classes which were scheduled back to back. For those of us that attended TaiChi Chuan classes as well, this meant approximately a 3.5 hour workout each time we trained, for me this was 4-6 times weekly. A couple of my training brothers were putting in 25 to 30 hours a week. Most people wont or cant meet the requirements to succeed in this. The process was entirely unforgiving and we never had more than 17 people at one time in advanced class, usually more like 6-8 serious athlete level students. I do still train 5 times weekly but with the exception of Sundays I do 2 hours, and to be honest, with not nearly the vigor and rigor of the old days.
 
I trained for two years 4 times a week before I was taught our first form/kata.
When I was 11, my brother-in-law (Luo Han system) taught me an open hand form and a pole form. When he found out I was interested in combat, he stopped teaching me any more forms. He forced me to train "1 step 3 punches" for 3 years.

Adam Hsu told me that the reason he didn't get into Xingyi because his XingYi teacher asked him to stand in Santi stance (3-7 stance) for 1 year before any other XingYi training.

A White eyebrow style teacher told me that he would ask his students to train the footwork "front foot step in, back foot slide" for 6 months before starting any training.

Today if we look back, those 6 months, 1 year, or even 3 years mean nothing. Whether we spend those time in front or after, it makes no difference.
 
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When I was 11, my brother-in-law (Luo Han system) taught me an open hand form and a pole form. When he found out I was interested in combat, he stopped teaching me any more forms. He forced me to train "1 step 3 punches" for 3 years.

Adam Hsu told me that the reason he didn't get into Xingyi because his XingYi teacher asked him to stand in Santi stance (3-7 stance) for 1 year before any other XingYi training.

A White eyebrow style teacher told me that he would ask his students to train the footwork "front foot step in, back foot slide" for 6 months before starting any training.

Today if we look back, those 6 months, 1 year, or even 3 years mean nothing. Whether we spend those time in front or after, it makes no difference.
I only tell what I did, I dont have an opinion on what is better. I am not a Sifu, only a senior brother who teaches out of necessity. I dont enforce all of those things the way I was taught. Any decisions about methods I always consult my training brothers who teach with me.
 
When I was 11, my brother-in-law (Luo Han system) taught me an open hand form and a pole form. When he found out I was interested in combat, he stopped teaching me any more forms. He forced me to train "1 step 3 punches" for 3 years.

Adam Hsu told me that the reason he didn't get into Xingyi because his XingYi teacher asked him to stand in Santi stance (3-7 stance) for 1 year before any other XingYi training.

A White eyebrow style teacher told me that he would ask his students to train the footwork "front foot step in, back foot slide" for 6 months before starting any training.

Today if we look back, those 6 months, 1 year, or even 3 years mean nothing. Whether we spend those time in front or after, it makes no difference.
I don't understand the restriction to this level. It makes no sense, except as gatekeeping. There are plenty of simple fundamentals that can be trained for an extended period of time while building some of the actual skills, rather than just spending months or years only building one or two fundamental mechanics that will later be used within the skills.
 
I don't understand the restriction to this level. It makes no sense, except as gatekeeping. There are plenty of simple fundamentals that can be trained for an extended period of time while building some of the actual skills, rather than just spending months or years only building one or two fundamental mechanics that will later be used within the skills.
Part of this may have to do with the habit of keeping technical skills secret in the old days. Sifu Woo was notoriously secretive in his early days of teaching. It may also have to do with the time investment of CMA, Sifu would tell people that didnt pay attention that he did not have enough time to waste on them. Making people prove they want to be there gets rid of any half *** students. This also contributed to the culture of serious martial artists putting in hard work and being focused. Those of us that were grinding hard every day dont want to slow down our progress for someone who wont put out.
 
I don't understand the restriction to this level. It makes no sense, except as gatekeeping. There are plenty of simple fundamentals that can be trained for an extended period of time while building some of the actual skills, rather than just spending months or years only building one or two fundamental mechanics that will later be used within the skills.
To repeat 1 technique 1000 times daily will get better result than to repeat 10 techniques 100 times daily.

One of my SC brothers who force his son to use "hip throw" for 2 years. 2 years later, his son won the Taiwan national SC tournament champion. I believe this is the only way to develop "door guarding" skill.
 
Part of this may have to do with the habit of keeping technical skills secret in the old days. Sifu Woo was notoriously secretive in his early days of teaching. It may also have to do with the time investment of CMA, Sifu would tell people that didnt pay attention that he did not have enough time to waste on them. Making people prove they want to be there gets rid of any half *** students. This also contributed to the culture of serious martial artists putting in hard work and being focused. Those of us that were grinding hard every day dont want to slow down our progress for someone who wont put out.
I can see holding some stuff back, but extended periods (months or more) on a single movement is excessive. This will also get rid of students who are serious about learning application, if they can get that elsewhere.
 
To repeat 1 technique 1000 times daily will get better result than to repeat 10 techniques 100 times daily.

One of my SC brothers who force his son to use "hip throw" for 2 years. 2 years later, his son won the Taiwan national SC tournament champion. I believe this is the only way to develop "door guarding" skill.
You're presenting a false dichotomy. There are a lot of points between those extremes. You could practice 10 techniques for a year, rather than spending months on a movement that's not a full technique, or even a single technique. Sure, if you add emphasis to a single technique, you'll get a lot better at it. But we can't just look at single instances where that worked. If you had a boxer practice nothing but liver punches for 2 years, they'd almost certainly be bested by someone with 2 years of well-rounded practice.
 
If you had a boxer practice nothing but liver punches for 2 years, they'd almost certainly be bested by someone with 2 years of well-rounded practice.
My teacher told me that when he was young, people would not wrestle with him if he used "twist and spring" technique. Can you image that your opponent prevents you from using one of your techniques because you are too good in that technique?

It takes a long time to develop a dependable technique. But after you have developed it, you can use it for the rest of your life.

The day when someone dies, he will not remember how many techniques that he has learned. He will only remember which technique that he has used successfully over and over through his lifetime.
 
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Part of this may have to do with the habit of keeping technical skills secret in the old days.
Some technique will require a long time to develop it. One day I was so proud of myself and told my teacher that I had spent 5 years in pole hanging to develop my head lock. My teacher said, "I have spent 10 years on it". I kept my mouth shut after that.
 
I can see holding some stuff back, but extended periods (months or more) on a single movement is excessive. This will also get rid of students who are serious about learning application, if they can get that elsewhere.
We dont take it to the level of a single movement. Its about the entire set of foundational skills, we were not allowed to progress beyond that until we were invited. No one got invited until after they had learned all the basics AND trained consistently enough to get through the workouts without gassing and laboring through it. As far as losing the students who did not demonstrate the patience necessary to progress, we dont want them anyway. The program is designed to cull the students who arent willing to commit. Why should I waste time teaching someone who isnt prepared to be patient? Why do I care if someone leaves because they arent being taught what they want? What kind of school only teaches a curriculum determined by students? Our schools have never been a business model, nor even remotely motivated by numbers of any sort. If that makes me an elitist pig, then I say snort snort. We want people who want to work hard and commit to the training model as it stands, we are not interested in rank, status, competitions, or trophies. We have a tight knit family with particular if not peculiar standards for ourselves. Patience, Courage, Virtuous harmony, Resolution of conflict( The Dao ). These things are of far more substance than the desires of the individual student. As I write this I am reminded of why we dont teach children of any age, even the ones who have decades of life behind them.
 
You're presenting a false dichotomy. There are a lot of points between those extremes. You could practice 10 techniques for a year, rather than spending months on a movement that's not a full technique, or even a single technique. Sure, if you add emphasis to a single technique, you'll get a lot better at it. But we can't just look at single instances where that worked. If you had a boxer practice nothing but liver punches for 2 years, they'd almost certainly be bested by someone with 2 years of well-rounded practice.
So worked means?
 
I can see holding some stuff back, but extended periods (months or more) on a single movement is excessive. This will also get rid of students who are serious about learning application, if they can get that elsewhere.
My thoughts on repetitive training is that it should only be done until the person has developed the movement to where it can be done without manually having to think about doing it and then deciding on doing it. It should work like keeping balance. When the body loses balance, it tries to maintain it even if that's not what is on your mind. Once a person gets to this point then he/she should start applying it against other systems. This will grow skill and ability more than just the repetition, and more than just application within the same school. A. Skill development in the same school = How do I fight someone from the same system.
B. Skill development outside the school = How do I fight everyone outside of my system.

A. is more valuable for same system tournaments. Train A. if you plan to do same system competitions and tournaments
B. is more valuable for everything else. Train B if you plan to use outside your system .
 

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