Core Principles in Different MAs

Nolerama

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From a few recent threads and a conversation today, I've noticed that some practitioners place a high regard in terms of the "Core Principles" of a martial art. From my experiences, I have met people where a MA/gym/dojo/etc Core Principle is the selling point for training that MA.

Not all MAs have a distinct set of Core Principles, nor would they want to write them down as a set of goals to be attained.

What are the Core Principles of your art?

Do you think that Core Principles have the potential to "get in the way" of properly training the functionality of an art?

Do you think that all MAs have to incorporate a moral compass to a practitioner? If so, what makes that different from a cult?
 

tellner

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From a few recent threads and a conversation today, I've noticed that some practitioners place a high regard in terms of the "Core Principles" of a martial art. From my experiences, I have met people where a MA/gym/dojo/etc Core Principle is the selling point for training that MA.

Not all MAs have a distinct set of Core Principles, nor would they want to write them down as a set of goals to be attained.

Bruce Lee has a little to answer for, but not too much. Back in the early 70s most of what was out there was rote learning. There was the Revealed Wisdom of the Orient that shambling big-nosed foreign devils were barely worthy to receive. And that was pretty much the martial arts world. Then along came a half-breed Chinese guy with four years of martial arts and an acting career. He did all sorts of things wrong. He didn't have "Twenty years, no can defend". But he analyzed and asked inconvenient questions. And do you know what? It worked.

Some of his analysis was off. There was a lot he never got to see. And he called a lot of things "principles" that were observations or limited-use rules of thumb. But the idea that you got better results if you did what worked instead of always copying whatever the guy with the fancy uniform told you was a good one. If you had some way to analyze what you saw and make better guesses based on it you might do even better.

All of a sudden everyone had principles, lots and lots of principles. They were usually an elaborate mess of everything they'd ever been told with no attempt at organization or coherence, but they had the latest buzzword. The Revealed Wisdom was renamed and became just as rigid an orthodoxy. The problem is that a lot of people who weren't that bright and didn't really have analytically trained minds wanted to appear wise and marketable.

It's a lot like flow, weapons, trapping, groundfighting, military usefulness, multiple attackers or no-rules fighting. In the thin-margin world of martial arts business you have to have whatever is trendy. And you have to have always had it. Otherwise you're just selling one more product like everyone else. Brand recognition and loyalty require that there is never and never has been a deficiency in what you're selling.

What are the Core Principles of your art?
The Core Principles? That's a tough one. I can give you any number of heuristics that are useful at different levels of development or in different situations. Some of them don't make sense without context. Others are simple. But what's important is usually simple. And what's simple is seldom easy.

Some are pretty universally applicable like "What you can do high, you can do low. What you can do inside you can do outside," or "Always have a backup"

Others are useful simplifications that you use until you develop more understanding and skill like "A throw works on Base, Angle and Leverage. Two out of three will work. Three out of three work first time, every time."

Some are simply things that are obvious once you know them like "Weapon before body for speed. Body before weapon for power," and "There's no such thing as a fair fight."

Every one of these and many more is useful. Every one of the rules can be broken or the principles ignored. But that's only true once you've achieved a certain level of skill and really understand what's going on.

Do you think that Core Principles have the potential to "get in the way" of properly training the functionality of an art?
It's all about your level of understanding. If you have people memorize huge lists of "principles" you'll just screw them up. If you introduce ideas gradually and use them as a vehicle for enhancing training and making sense out of things they won't get in the way. If you don't have any sort of organizing principles informing what you do you'll just have huge steaming piles of unconnected technique.

Do you think that all MAs have to incorporate a moral compass to a practitioner? If so, what makes that different from a cult?
When you fire a gun you are responsible for every bullet that comes out of it. When you teach someone to be dangerous you're responsible for the consequences of that action. If you really don't give a **** who you teach and couldn't care less if they're rapists, murderers and thieves that's certainly a philosophical position. But even if you don't have any ethics there's still a legal term known as "due care and diligence". If your conscience doesn't bother you the Law still can.

What students learn from you isn't always what you meant to teach them. If you treat breaking necks the same as blocking you're providing a moral compass. It's a thin, puny wobbly one. It's still there.

If you exercise strict control over all sorts of aspects of your students' lives with iron rules for everything you're providing a different sort of training and teaching them different lessons about the relationship between judgment and authority.

Children can not be counted on to exercise their judgment in serious matters. Adults are supposed to.

"Kick-the-dots" tournament-oriented sports require a different level of concern than lessons in throat slitting.

Somewhere in there there's a balance. You'll just have to figure it out for yourself. After all, you're the one with the fancy uniform and title.
 

geezer

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What are the Core Principles of your art?
That depends on the art, since I'm currently practicing both NWTO Wing Tsun and Esscrima. However, they share many of the same core concepts. Among the essential concepts of Wing Tsun are Efficiency, Simplicity, and Economy of Motion (which, of course, are interelated), as well as emphasis on Straight-line Attacks (also related to maximizing efficiency), staying of relaxed or "soft", deflecting rather than blocking, yielding before superior force, and borrowing an opponent's force to use against him. These last four can be included under the concept of "Springy Energy".

Do you think that Core Principles have the potential to "get in the way" of properly training the functionality of an art?

Only if you apply the concepts in a rigid and unyielding manner, ...which, come to think of it, contradicts our concepts! But seriously, if what you do doesn't work, you better change something.

Do you think that all MAs have to incorporate a moral compass to a practitioner? If so, what makes that different from a cult?

In the case of one association I used to belong to... not much. Especially, when the "compass" revolves around a single leader or personality. When you find yourself in that kind of environment, it's time to bail! Now I belong to a different association, and we take responsibility for ourselves. We respect the skill of our teachers, but there is no cult of personality. And questions are encouraged.
 
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jarrod

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shingitai jujitsu is as much a training approach as it is a set of techniques. shin (mind) refers to having your mind focused on what you need to do, whether it is win a sport match or survive a more lethal encounter. gi (technique) refers to the techniques of the art. these are based primarily on judo & sambo. body (tai) refers to physical conditioning. so the core principles of shingitai are pretty straightforward: know what you need to do, know the techniques, & be in shape. of course there are more advanced principles, but those are the basics.

jf
 

Ironcrane

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What are the Core Principles of your art?

Do you think that Core Principles have the potential to "get in the way" of properly training the functionality of an art?

Do you think that all MAs have to incorporate a moral compass to a practitioner? If so, what makes that different from a cult?

Question 1
That's kind of a big one for me. One concept I'm trying to work on is "attack, and counter attack." I would make that as one of my core principles.

Question 2
Yes I do. I think that anything that is taken as the gospel truth, with no chance to experiment with will get in the of an art.

Question 3
No. Lead by example. Many of the Martial Artists that I've worked with, who are overall some of the best people I've ever met, have never once said anything in regards to having a moral compass. They just simply do it.
I think potential students will get far more from that then having a moral code spelled out for them.
 

jarrod

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i completely missed questions 2 & 3!

2. no. fighting spirit, technical knowledge, & physical fitness have never been detrimental to a martial artist. one thing that i like about shingitai is that it is ever evoloving & very open ended.

3. yes, but only as much as anything else should impart moral lessons. iron crane is right about leading by example. lengthy lectures on morality aren't necessary if students observe sportsmanship, humilty, compassion etc in the instructors & advanced students. i think that this is the way to impart good character through the martial arts rather than having a list of rules or swearing oaths before or after class. in real life, nobody posts the rules. you have to learn by observation, & by doing.

this isn't something that should be the exclusive realm of martial arts though. in business you should observe fairness, in casual interactions you should observe basic manners, & so on.

jf
 

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From a few recent threads and a conversation today, I've noticed that some practitioners place a high regard in terms of the "Core Principles" of a martial art. From my experiences, I have met people where a MA/gym/dojo/etc Core Principle is the selling point for training that MA.

Not all MAs have a distinct set of Core Principles, nor would they want to write them down as a set of goals to be attained.

What are the Core Principles of your art?

Do you think that Core Principles have the potential to "get in the way" of properly training the functionality of an art?

Do you think that all MAs have to incorporate a moral compass to a practitioner? If so, what makes that different from a cult?

Core principles of any art.
Breath, movement, and structure. These 3 will help with all the rest. But understanding them, and incorporating them into your art, is another story.
Breath: how it relates to power.
Movement: how to maintain it (balance), while staying rooted and centered.
Power: how to issue it properly, from the ground up.
 

tellner

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This is a strange place for me to be. What I do is very, very principle-based. My teacher has a very analytical mind. So do I, and with more formal education. When the website is back up it will be full of principles, rules and a few laws.

The problem that I'm facing is that every bit of it is wrong.

What it comes down to is usefulness. A good teacher will teach you what you need to know in a way which will not screw you up down the line. When you use words you're creating a model, a way of looking at the world which will encourage you to do things correctly and to understand what is going on. The rules, principles, laws whatever you want to call them give the conscious mind a hopefully-useful model. There's a fine line between stupid training and too much thinking related to the three-legged race between intensity, skill acquisition and intensity.

The words are useful. They are only useful to the student at specific levels of development and then only as they create good habits. Eventually they aren't so much abandoned as they become internalized and extended until the lesson they were designed to teach is learned and its limitations are recognized.

Let's take an example from throwing.

Judoka say you need kukushi, tsukuri and kake - unbalancing, entering to the throw and execution of the throw.

Others say you need a fulcrum, momentum and to restrict the free motion of at least one of the opponent's supporting limbs.

My teacher came up with the terminology base, angle and leverage - a connection with something that you can use for structure and to generate power, movement of the body along a structurally weak angle and force in another direction to prevent the opponent from compensating.

These are all useful. They teach important lessons and help a student learn to do things correctly. Once the lesson's learned and internalized one has to understand the limitations of the heuristic and learn to work outside. All of the above are ways of keeping your center while manipulating the other person's. If you said "Keep your center. Feel his center. Control his center," your students wouldn't learn a damned thing. They could repeat what you'd said. If they learned how to throw someone it would be in spite of, not because of, what you said.

So what are the "Core Principles" of Silat?

That depends very much on who you are and where you are in your development and where I am in mine. These are both moving targets.

A couple years ago I could have given what I thought were the right answers. They weren't the same right answers I would have given a few years before. They aren't the same ones I'll give five years from now. At the moment I"m having to develop in ways which are not compatible with too much analysis. The struggle has more to do with maintaining a soft relaxed focus when everything is chaos. At some point it will be time to learn more stuff and make sense of it. That will require more words and cognitive understanding. Right now? I'm literally at a loss for words.
 

Thesemindz

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From a few recent threads and a conversation today, I've noticed that some practitioners place a high regard in terms of the "Core Principles" of a martial art. From my experiences, I have met people where a MA/gym/dojo/etc Core Principle is the selling point for training that MA.

Not all MAs have a distinct set of Core Principles, nor would they want to write them down as a set of goals to be attained.

What are the Core Principles of your art?

Do you think that Core Principles have the potential to "get in the way" of properly training the functionality of an art?

Do you think that all MAs have to incorporate a moral compass to a practitioner? If so, what makes that different from a cult?


Core principles is a difficult term to define. In the type of American Kenpo I train and teach, there are principles at every level. But I would say the core principles are survival, efficiency, logic, and results.

The purpose of our training is survival. It is fun, it is exciting, but most importantly it is for self defense. We train to survive violent confrontation.

In that aim, we practice logical, efficient, results driven martial arts. We are less concerned with flash than substance, and if you have a better way I am more than happy to see it. I am willing to learn new ways and discard the old when I find something more effective. It is our commitment to effective self defense which drives us, not our commitment to dogma our tradition.

Of course, there's a lot of dogma and tradition involved in what we do, but those are our core principles.

I think core principles certainly can get in the way of training, but that's a more case specific issue. If your core principles are overtraining, or brutality, than that could be counterproductive.

As to your last statement, it depends. In the commercial vehicle, I don't believe you have any right to force your customer to accept something he doesn't want and isn't paying for. If you are selling religious or moral education, and people are buying, fine. But if you are claiming to sell sport karate, and after you take their money you insist they worship your god or chant your oaths, then in my opinion you are guilty of fraud.

On the other hand, I wouldn't teach someone I thought was dangerous or evil, and I don't think any rational instructor would. It isn't about moral instruction for it's own purposes, it's simply a matter of personal responsibility.


-Rob
 

jarrod

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i think that something that is often overlooked is that core principles are often overanalyzed to the point that people begin to see differences where there are none. as tellner pointed out, we often get more caught up in the vocabulary than the actual concepts.

for instance my judo/sambo coach will say things like "lead with your hips. keep your center of gravity low." my kickboxing coach, who has a heavy cma background, will say "stay rooted. don't bring your head forward or you'll break your centerline."

now if you apply what they say, you'll be doing the same thing in either case, because fighting is fighting. one teaches you to maintain better base than your opponent so you can throw him, one teaches you the same thing so that your strikes come from a root while your opponent's don't. same principles.

often the only difference in principles from style to style is the emphasis. for instance, every style i have studied or dabbled in has taught that it is important to attack first. but in some styles of karate this was so important that it led to point fighting, supposedly based on the idea that the first strike will also be the last. no style that i'm aware of denies that it is a good thing to be in good shape. but a sport-oriented style demands more conditioning than another style. still, i don't think even a so-called internal martial arts instructor would discourage a student from cardio training.

so imo, the emphasis changes a bit from style to style, but the same principles have been winning fights since the dawn of time. it's good to have balance. it's good to hit first. it's good to be in shape. it's good to be where you can attack your opponent, but he can't attack you. it's good to be mentally prepared for a fight. etc.

everything else is just external.

jf
 

Aiki Lee

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Core principles should refer to the reason a technique works and the principles found in each technique should be able to be used in other techniques as well.

For example, in aikido the technique shi ho nage teaches that in order to execute a proper throw one must be "skin tight" to his opponent. If the principle was not constantly studied, the throw would be ugly and ineffective. Good principles help perfect the way the body moves and the mind thinks.

A principle based training system is the way to go in my opinion.
 

Xue Sheng

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There are multiple definitions of "Core" but I am assuming here that in this context you are talking the central, innermost, or most essential part

"Principles" also has many definitions but I would thing a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived might be applicable here

So Core Principles would then be, IMO, truths that are central to an art which members of said art are expected to share and adhere to and from these core principles the forms and techniques grow.
 

Langenschwert

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What are the Core Principles of your art?


The core principles in Kunst des Fechtens are, IMO:
  • Retain the initiative at all times.
  • Use strength against weakness, and weakness against strength.
  • Attack and defence are one.
  • Hit first, hit hard, hit fast.
Do you think that Core Principles have the potential to "get in the way" of properly training the functionality of an art?

No. At least, not in this case.

Do you think that all MAs have to incorporate a moral compass to a practitioner? If so, what makes that different from a cult?

No. Certainly MA training can make one aware of the ethical implications of combat. But moral compasses should come from your own culture. Preferably from your parents.

Best regards,

-Mark
 

7starmarc

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I actually wonder what you mean by "Core Principles", since you seem to mention them as a selling point for schools or somesuch. Do you mean a guide of character-associated/moral principles, or a set of guiding princinples for the martial practice of the art?

What are the Core Principles of your art?

In our branch of Seven Star Mantis, there are the Twelves Key Words, Eight Hard Princinples and Twelve Soft Principles. These are the core of the mechanics and ideas underlying Seven Star Mantis kung fu. These principles are incorporated in the forms, techniques, and instruction. There are many students who have experience with these principles without actually being able to articulate all 32 theoretical points. There are also students who perform techniques without knowing the underlying principles, as well as students who know the principles without being able to perform an effective technique arising from that principle. Some of the masters within our greater system are known for fighting "on principle", some are more recognized for techniques -- both are applying the principles, but they show up differently in their personal fighting style.

If you are referring to character-based principles, our school has an oath to honor teachers, parents, and teachings; and to learn humility, respect and hard work.

Do you think that Core Principles have the potential to "get in the way" of properly training the functionality of an art?

In the first way of looking at principles, not at all. I believe it should be the goal of someone in our system to understand and execute the principles as displayed through our learned techniques, and then expand on those principles as they are able.

In the second way, also, not necessarily. They do not take a large part of our instruction. They are principles that will help produce better results in training MA and life. Humility, respect and hard work are essential for a student to learn and progress. Honoring parents, teachers, and teachings are also essential so that the student will be in the proper mindset to receive teachings. And no, honoring does not mean "not questioning" or "blind following", it just means giving honor and respect to.

Do you think that all MAs have to incorporate a moral compass to a practitioner? If so, what makes that different from a cult?


No, not all MAs need to incorporate a moral compass, but I think it is the responsible teacher who tries to assure that his teachings will not be abused. I also think that moral principles can enhance a student's martial practice as well as their life outside of their MA practice.

IMO, a cult is an organization with certian teachings, most of which are meant to isolate members from the outside influences of friends and family. The teachings are not in the member's best interest. I have seen articles on "martial cults", I'm sure they exist. But, as in most things, it is not the tools, but how they are used, which will determine the nature and potential harm of the activities.
 

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