What is Aliveness?

Steve

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Ultimately, the crux of what Aliveness is boils down to whether you are learning to DO something or learning ABOUT something.

If you're not moving from comprehension to application, you're not learning to defend yourself. You're learning about defending yourself. Very big difference between the two.
 

mook jong man

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I know this is an argument from analogy, but have you ever had your clock cleaned by a boxer with no gloves on? I have. And not only is it VERY existential, but the guy did NOT break his hand. When I was running a school, one of my assistants had boxed for 8 years, and I sparred with him regularly. Therefore I am inclined to disagree.

I have had my clock cleaned by many things including an elbow strike that put a hole straight through my lip that I could whistle through.

The point is you were "sparring" , it wasn't a self defence situation where he is trying to hit you hard enough to kill you.
Also at some level you would be mindful of not hurting him by throwing up some elbow shields for his fists to run into.
Punch into the point of someones elbows and you will know about it that's for sure.
 

Josh Oakley

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I have had my clock cleaned by many things including an elbow strike that put a hole straight through my lip that I could whistle through.

The point is you were "sparring" , it wasn't a self defence situation where he is trying to hit you hard enough to kill you.
Also at some level you would be mindful of not hurting him by throwing up some elbow shields for his fists to run into.
Punch into the point of someones elbows and you will know about it that's for sure.

You are correct about the elbows. It's a practice I train and teach as well.
 

Josh Oakley

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I have had my clock cleaned by many things including an elbow strike that put a hole straight through my lip that I could whistle through.

The point is you were "sparring" , it wasn't a self defence situation where he is trying to hit you hard enough to kill you.
Also at some level you would be mindful of not hurting him by throwing up some elbow shields for his fists to run into.
Punch into the point of someones elbows and you will know about it that's for sure.

You are correct about the elbows. It's a practice I train and teach as well.
 

Chris Parker

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Hey Steve,

Great post, as usual, Chris. I agree that identifying the desired outcome is critical.

Thanks.

So, the analogy is still, in my no so humble opinion, perfect. Because the outcome has been clearly defined. Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that Golf IS a martial art. I'm pointing out how golf as a sport would suffer if we apply a very common martial arts learning model.

Ha, humble or not, your opinion is respected and appreciated. Of course, I'm still going to argue, just a bit....

I didn't think you were saying that golf is a martial art, but the entire analogy was to ask why other things aren't trained "the same way martial arts are", and the concept of "how martial arts are trained" was then applied to golf. And, due to the differences between the idealised usage and conditions of golf are so very removed from the idealised usage and conditions of martial arts, I feel that the analogy is rather inaccurate as the two learning/teaching methods are necessarily not going to be a match for each other (although great levels of similarities will be involved).

The ultimate application of the principles of golf-fu is facility on a golf course. The measure of elite level expertise is the ability to play consistently at or below par. Very cut and dry. So, in my analogy, if you've never played a round of golf, you will never... ever achieve this.

Agreed on the application of golf training (the ability to play a round of golf, or, more accurately, the ability to play a round of golf at a high level, or at least as high a level as possible for the individual). But that should lead us to look at exactly what that aim (playing a round of golf at a high level) actually entails, as it is very different to martial arts aims and environments, which is where the holes I am seeing a present.

Golf is a solo endeavour. The environment dictates that all a round of golf is, really, is an application of the "controlled" environments (driving range, putting greens, chipping ranges, and mock hazards such as bunkers and rough) where you attempt to control the environment to an ideal one with the acceptance that a less-than ideal environment can be encountered. Now, you might say that that's not too dissimilar to martial arts, but the difference is in the way that is dealt with by each.

In golf, you have the ability to consciously decide on your next move, whether it entails a choice of a new club, picking the direction and power of your shot, taking the time to survey the surrounding area of your ball, choosing whether or not to apply rules such as 'taking a drop' if in very bad rough, or even taking a "mulligan" (in less formal games....) as an out, and so on. And all of this is done with the pressure only really applied from yourself (and the scorecard), which puts it in a completely different learning mode than martial arts. In fact, to be blunt here, you can learn to play golf entirely without getting on the course. Your ability to apply the rules may be less than perfect, but in essence, you can still learn how to play without ever playing a round.

Martial arts, on the other hand, have a very broad range of idealised aims (results), depending on the system, even if the arts are very similar. Judo and Aikido both grew out of Jujutsu Ryu-ha, but their idealised aims are very different to each other (and both are very different to Koryu Jujutsu in the main as well....). Realistically, the closest to your golf metaphor would be something like Kyudo, Iaido, or Tai Chi, something done individually (solo) and based in repetition of determined skills (actions/movements). But that is really nothing like the aims of golf, where the repeated skills learnt are then applied to changing environment; instead the aims there are closer to the perfection of actions, with ideas of aesthetic ideals being rather dominant (especially in Iai and Kyudo) as a means of self-improvement, and are actually removed from the ideal of combative use and application as described in the metaphor anyway (and, for the record, these are about the only martial art systems, and those like them, that I can think of that employ training methods that Matt would not describe as "alive" almost exclusively.... and even then that's not really true in Iai and Tai Chi training either).

If we look at the systems that have "combative application" as one of their end aims, then every single one of them trains in what I would consider an "alive" fashion, including those who train only via kata. Really, I think that Matt has little to no real understanding of what kata training actually entails (again, I'm talking specifically about the traditional Japanese method of paired kata here, but it also extends to solo kata in systems such as Karate). But if we take your golf metaphor (and Matt's approach of what he considers "alive" training) to the logical extension of "if it's not experienced in application, then it's not really being trained properly or truthfully", how do you do that with a combative system? One not designed for sports application? Do you actually start engaging in duels with swords for something like Katori Shinto Ryu or Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu? Realistically, these systems cannot "play a round" to ensure applicability, there really is no way to do it safely. And these systems have produced highly functional warriors for much longer than any of the modern "sporting" systems have been around, frankly.

Add to all of this the fact that the martial arts (by and large) exist (in application) in an environment that is a lot more chaotic than a round of golf, with much greater dangers and pressures, and in a way that removes the conscious mind's decision making processes that characterise golf's training and playing. This means that while the golf training is designed to develop the ability to consciously decide on the best option to take, that is the opposite aim of training a martial art, and thus the training must be different. The catch, of course, occurs when people like Matt don't understand exactly how the existing training methods achieve this (and, to be fair, there are a large number of instructors in these systems that don't seem to understand it as well), so they go looking for what they feel is the "truth" of it all. Which is great, but that truth (that Matt has discovered) is applicable to only a small section of the martial arts, and quite frankly, it's more suited to the things he is teaching and training (sports-based systems), not what he's talking about (self defence).

If, in martial arts, your goal is self defense, it would be critical to work against multiple opponents. In golf, that's completely unnecessary.

Ah, I left self defence off the above list of ideals for two reasons. 1, it would be covered here. 2, it's not what Matt deals in, regardless of the rhetoric he uses. 3, martial arts aren't designed for, or about, self defence when it really all comes down to it. But we'll deal with it here anyway.

Let's say the aim of your personal training is self defence (that's not uncommon in martial arts students, really, despite, as I said, martial arts not being designed or ideal for such an aim). How do you propose we get to the "application" aspect? In golf, you can go out and play a round of golf on a golf course, and get some understanding of how you are going in terms of your ability to hit a ball outside of the "controlled" environment of the driving range, and find that you may not hit quite as well under the pressure of needing to keep a score. But self defence? The only thing I can think of that is the equivalent is to go somewhere nice and dangerous, and wait to be attacked.....

Even the "random attack" training methods (that we employ, as do many other groups) are not the same, as you are in the dojo/kwoon/gym/dojang etc which automatically changes the mindset to one in which you are (psychologically) prepared for conflict/combat. And sporting-style sparring/rolling is very removed from self defence physical combative encounters, so using those as an example removes the applicability of such training methods for self defence as the aim.

Now, regarding the rest of your post, there are two things going on with martial arts: the primary applications and the secondary benefits. Same can be said for anything (even golf). In martial arts, if you never move past comprehension to application at all then it's reasonable to say that you're not achieving the main goal. If, after 5 years of golf lessons, you are unable to play golf... that's bad. If, after 5 years of "self defense" training, you cannot competently defend yourself, that's also bad.

See, I'd argue that this is not correct in it's initial premise. The main goal of a martial art is not necessarily the application of it's techniques, in fact I'd only argue that that is the case in the sporting systems (although, realistically their primary goal is more akin to "gain success in competitive methods by utilising the techniques of the art within the ruleset"). In others it's the cultivation of the self via the physical methods, in others it's to do with preserving teachings of strategy and tactics, in others it's developing sensitivity with the world around you, allowing you to live in a more harmonious way, and so on. The combative applications can very easily be secondary aspects (or even tertiary, or later) for training in martial arts.

You know what, let's take a system that deals only in kata (paired, as well as solo), as well as being one of the more "combatively" inspired and designed systems out there, and look at the "application" aspects as regards to the aims of the system itself. The systems I'm talking about here is Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, and to begin with I'm going to show a couple of clips of the system so those reading can see what constitutes a "kata" in this art, then we'll discuss the application aspect, as well as 'aliveness' as it exists within the kata themselves.

[yt]cQB5Lc1C_a8[/yt] This clip has the Kenjutsu (long sword), Ryoto (two sword), and Kodachi (short sword)

[yt]LbTrKhvxRvA[/yt] The second part has the Iai (seated, solo), Battojutsu (sword drawing, standing, solo), Bojutsu (staff), and Naginata (short bladed polearm).

In terms of moving to the "application" of the methods, the application that is needed to be attained is the performance of the kata at a very high level (which means fast, powerful, exact, and dangerous!), not necessarily going out and getting into sword fights. And I will say explicitly that this form of training is far scarier than training in something like BJJ, and is certainly something that I would class as "alive" training (especially as it is training you to remain alive!).

As you can see, the kata are performed fast. So fast that someone I was speaking to about his experiences training in the art in Japan spoke about a particular senior student who he was warned against training with unless he really knew the kata intimately (which means not consciously, but internally, so he didn't have to think his way through it), or he would get hurt. And that, honestly, is a great deal of the truth of kata practice, it is actually closer to real combat than sparring methods in many ways (when done properly, that is!), and is certainly a very "alive" way of training!

But there are secondary benefits to any activity. In boxing, for example, the primary goal is functional ability in the sport of boxing. We box. It's boxing. Secondary benefits, however, would include being very good at punching things... things that move and punch back. I would also be in pretty good shape, able to punch things for at least 9 minutes. I would also be pretty good at avoiding punches and moving in a way that would make me harder to punch.

I'd put all your "secondary" benefits in with the "primary" when it comes to boxing there, the secondary ones are more about things like confidence, co-ordination, better muscle tone, and fitness (which you did mention). It gets deeper with the non-sporting ones as well, it must be said.

Is that self defense? No. But they're real skills that can be applied to defend myself if I need them.

This part I don't argue with!

On the other hand, if I'm learning a martial art that purports to teach "self defense" where this is the primary, desired outcome but uses the learning model outlined in my golf analogy, the student will not be moving to application level with any of the physical skills he or she is learning. In other words, a boxing student is learning to hit things competently, at an application level. A martial arts student learning without "aliveness" is learning to hit things at a comprehension level only. In a pinch, who's going to be more likely to hit what they're aiming at?

I'll cover the I-Method in my responce to MJS, but suffice to say that I don't know of any that actually do train like that (unless they really don't have a clue about anything they're dealing with, martial arts, violence, self defence, or anything related). And such schools are best left well alone, really, I think we'd all agree there!

Once again, the conclusion I have come to is that the way we learn is more important than WHAT we learn. We've had many discussions on these boards about "traditional" martial arts, and I've found that more often than not, when someone talks about a martial arts style as being "traditional," they're referring to the learning process and not the techniques.

Ah, now to me, it's both. The physical techniques of "traditional" systems are, by necessity and definition, "traditional" physical techniques, which are representative of attacks and methods from another time and place (another culture), so that is definately a big part of it. As to the training methods, they can definately be "traditional" as well, but exactly what is meant by that changes according to the system itself. For example, I know of systems which contain free form training methods, to the point of "sparring" as their traditional training methodology, and modern systems that don't use it at all, relying only on pre-arranged drills to instill skill in the students. And in each case it comes down to what methods best reflect the mentality and approach of the system in question (which is why Matt can't just say that his "aliveness" concept to training is applicable across the board in martial arts, in some systems, such as the Katori Shinto Ryu shown above, it's just damn stupid).

And I'll tell you, the traditional learning model, consisting exclusively of dead drills (one step/two step drills), kata and unrelated mumbo jumbo is exactly like a guy teaching a person to play golf while prohibiting him from stepping onto a golf course.

Then I'll tell you that the "traditional learning model" you're refering to here, in my experience, really doesn't exist that way, and if you encountered it, then that showed that someone had little idea what they were doing. Kata is very far from "dead" training, and the one-step, two-step method of training (very similar to paired kata in traditional Jujutsu systems, if I'm reading you correctly) is also very far from being a "dead drill", unless it is done badly.

If you wish to fight (competitively, as in wrestling, boxing, MMA, kickboxing, TKD, sport karate, judo, BJJ, or anything similar), then Matt's concept of training is wonderful, although I would have to question why it would need to be pointed out. If you wish to learn a method of self defence, then the training must include aspects of adrenaline training and free-responce drills, but not sparring in the sporting sense. If you are training in a system closer to the Katori system shown above, then the training must all be kata form, but it must be recognised that the kata must be trained properly (with real intent, speed, power, all as in a real genuine encounter) in order for it to really be even considered kata training in the first place, until that is achieved, you are only going through the motions, typically learning them so you can then move on to train them.

As I said at the beginning of my first post here, I don't have any problem with Matt's concept of aliveness, or alive training, I just have some major issues with his approach and the limitations of his understanding of the realities of other training methods.

Hey Chris,

As always, another great post! I know that you and I have talked about this privately before, but I did want to hit on the underlined part. Let me start by saying that I'm not saying this because I'm Matts #1 supporter..lol...I'm just asking out of curiosity.

Thanks, Mike. Ask away!

Now, going on what you said in the underlined section, this is basically what I do (if I'm understanding you correctly) with my students. I teach them the basic moves first, and have them drill it repeatedly. Gradually, once they're getting it, the pace will be increased, faster, harder attacks, etc. Likewise, I too, dont let them move on to a faster pace, until they can perform the tech correctly, at a slower pace.

It's really the basis of all learning of martial arts, so I'd be rather surprised if you didn't do it! Even BJJ does the same, teaching the mechanics of the actions first, then applying them against more and more resistance, moving on to a form of semi-rolling in order to learn to apply the movements against resistance, and in the end moving onto full rolling or competition which allows the practitioner to apply what they have learnt in a random environment (which the BJJ practitioner is likely to encounter, such as in competition. It should be noted that such an environment is not likely for a self defence encounter, though, so the rolling form of drilling is not important there, or at the least, should not be trained for the same reasons, such as "practical application", as it frankly isn't practical application in a self defence scenario).

Now, I'm not sure if you're familiar with what Matt calls the "I" method. Link

Yeah, I'm familiar with it. It was brought up on another forum, and the immediate responce from a range of martial artists, those that were competitive systems, as well as non-sparring systesm, was "yeah, there isn't another way to teach, is there?" One of my students actually sent me a message asking if we could do anything similar, and I sent them back a detailed message, which basically said "we already do, here's how we do it".

Again, I may be reading wrong, but it seems to me that he's doing the same thing that both you and I are talking about.

He's doing the same thing that everyone else is doing, really, he's just using buzzwords to describe it, which is getting him a name by being associated with, essentially, common practice. He is also gearing his approach around the current MMA trend (before anyone jumps on me, that is not saying that MMA is really going anywhere, just that it's the most immediately recognisable martial arts practice in the public eye today, with more media coverage than any other, which gives it a proportionally greater popularity at present), which appeals to those following it and it's methods, with an attempt to tie it all in at once.
 

Indie12

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I was reading a thread on another forum where this guy saying Olympic style sparring was hard core fighting and attacking one poster who was big on forms. He kept saying that TKD sparring is full contact and has aliveness. He also forms are dead and useless.

He was basically a troll who was looking for attention. But it has got me thinking.

But what do people mean by aliveness?

In my mind aliveness is everywhere. Not just sparring. I have seen karate black belts who just do kata and Bunkai and full contact drills. Even if they do not kumite much, they seem pretty alive to me. Even if they are not fighting, you can feel their fighting spirit coming out of them.

Unpredictability... Usually...
 

ATACX GYM

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Unpredictability... Usually...


Olympic style tkd IS very much underrated man.Have you every sparred with these guys? I have.It's...an eye opening experience.First and foremost? THESE GUYS ARE OLYMPIANS.They're not average folks.I myself am just about Olympic caliber athletically,but in addition to their athleticism they have dedicated their lives to this one sport and have usually received elite or Olympian COACHING AND TRAINING,and THEY SPAR WITH OTHER OLYMPIANS.It's...a true eye opener striking with them.

Olympic TKD guys are to kicking and linear punching what Olympic wrestlers are to wrestling. Wrestle with a community college guy,and then swagger your way on to the Olympian wrestling mats.That same rude awakening--or being rudely put to sleep--awaits for weekend warriors who just sashay their way onto the Olympic TKD mats.Those guys and gals wear head gear and chest guards for a reason.Those kicks rocket atcha with great levels of velocity and impact...and despite the protection they STILL get KO'd.Do't sleep on Olympic tkd; you could very well wake up and find that you're...still asleep from that KO kick that you never saw coming.

Can Olympic tkd stand improvement? Hell yeah.Everything can.But imagine this...Olympic tkd+Olympic Judo+Olympic wrestling+Olympic boxing+Olympic fencing.You wanna mess with that guy? Yeah...me neither.
 

ralphmcpherson

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Olympic style tkd IS very much underrated man.Have you every sparred with these guys? I have.It's...an eye opening experience.First and foremost? THESE GUYS ARE OLYMPIANS.They're not average folks.I myself am just about Olympic caliber athletically,but in addition to their athleticism they have dedicated their lives to this one sport and have usually received elite or Olympian COACHING AND TRAINING,and THEY SPAR WITH OTHER OLYMPIANS.It's...a true eye opener striking with them.

Olympic TKD guys are to kicking and linear punching what Olympic wrestlers are to wrestling. Wrestle with a community college guy,and then swagger your way on to the Olympian wrestling mats.That same rude awakening--or being rudely put to sleep--awaits for weekend warriors who just sashay their way onto the Olympic TKD mats.Those guys and gals wear head gear and chest guards for a reason.Those kicks rocket atcha with great levels of velocity and impact...and despite the protection they STILL get KO'd.Do't sleep on Olympic tkd; you could very well wake up and find that you're...still asleep from that KO kick that you never saw coming.

Can Olympic tkd stand improvement? Hell yeah.Everything can.But imagine this...Olympic tkd+Olympic Judo+Olympic wrestling+Olympic boxing+Olympic fencing.You wanna mess with that guy? Yeah...me neither.
I was talking with one of my training partners who used to bag out olympic style sparring big time. Recently they got the opportunity to spar against a top flight olympic tkdist. They have changed their mind dramatically, they said the sheer speed has to be seen to be believed and said the kicks are a lot more powerful than they are given credit for. I dont train olympic tkd, but I do believe they are judged unfairly in general by most martial artists.
 

ATACX GYM

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I was talking with one of my training partners who used to bag out olympic style sparring big time. Recently they got the opportunity to spar against a top flight olympic tkdist. They have changed their mind dramatically, they said the sheer speed has to be seen to be believed and said the kicks are a lot more powerful than they are given credit for. I dont train olympic tkd, but I do believe they are judged unfairly in general by most martial artists.


Absolutely true man.The explosive velocity of those kicks are on a level that's STUPID.I love it.I have long incorporated their training methods for kicks along with my own methods of kicking training.You know what ELSE is underrated? Back in the day,Olympic TKD allowed linear punches and kicks but they all had to have "trembling shock" impact to count as points.Meaning every punch and kick had to shake and/or move your opponent.That's partially how I train my linear punches and kicks.
 
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