|Newsletter | November 2008|
For as long as I can remember people have argued that their particular art is better than your art. Log onto any of the various martial art forums and you’ll see what I mean.
But is one art better than any other? Should you only train in one art or cross back and forth between a few?
The answer is “Yes”, but lets look at both sides of the argument.
The Purist – You must train in earnest to gain mastery of one particular art, you must practice it daily. To train in another system will distract you from this goal. True.
The Cross Trainer – Different arts specialise in different things, take what you need from each of these and you will find your own way of fighting. Also true.
Most of the traditional arts promote the purist attitude. I believe that this is based on two things.
1- student retention, if the student thinks you’re the best why would he ever stray? If you are relying on the income from your classes, than fair enough.
2 – Many arts were developed in order to fight for ones life or to be effective against a particular style. Family systems were closely guarded, if an outsider learned your secrets he may use them against you. This is further brought about by an elitist attitude. Many of the system founders were great fighters and highly respected for their skills and could afford an air of arrogance, they were proven in combat and often accepted challenges, how could these people be in any doubt that their system is the best. Unless they are beaten.
This is all well and good, but the founder most likely spent his life training and fighting, eventually teaching to earn a living. His system will be a mix of his original training, honed by experience, I doubt his art at the end of his life would be the same as his art at the end of his life.
Then we have the cross trainers. This saw a massive surge in popularity over the last while. Big names like Geoff Thompson and the like openly advocated adding in judo and Greco roman to their karate foundations, grappling and floor work soon followed. Then there was the explosion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, that owes a nod to the ancient Greek pancration tournaments. The UFC and similar events have sparked an entire generation of martial artists to take up both kickboxing and jujitsu. Lads were breaking from their pure martial arts and taking up “mixed martial arts” with varying degrees of success.
So which camp is correct? In my personal opinion there are no pure arts, each traditional system was developed and tweaked upon by each successive generation. It is only in later years that they became stagnant. People like Geoff Thompson, Iain Abernathy, Ed Parker and more may be considered luminaries as they took their respective arts and made them their own, rather than purely imitating their instructors and forbears. They instead took their teachings and ran with it. Looking to other arts only served to give them a more complete picture, allowing them to see and adjust to fighting against other systems and to bring elements of that art into their own. This is no different to the great names of generations gone by.
In doing so they ended up more effective fighters and they served to advance their arts in the same way their forbears did.
However both camps can make terrible mistakes. I personally came from a traditional karate background, I have since trained in many other arts around the world so have some authority when I say this.
Cross training is best undertaken when the students has a base to work from. It doesn’t matter what art (to a point) the student begins so long as he (yes ok, or she, but from here on lets assume I mean both) learns proper body mechanics, he learns to move, to hit, to defend. When he has a good foundation then it would be a good time for him to look for ways to cross train and to improve his game. I have seen many students take up two or three separate arts only to become entangle in a web of confusion and contradictions, simply because they had no point of reference, no foundation.
The Purists run the risk of killing their arts. By copying faithfully the actions of a successful person, you run a good chance of becoming a successful person yourself. Just be careful that you don’t end up becoming a clone. I’ve seen innumerable debates between purists regarding the correct thumb placement in a fist, the correct angle the knuckles must be etc… All while they could actually be practicing, which is what the people they are imitating did, religiously.
I know not every one takes up martial arts for self defence or combative reasons, these are the people ideally suited to a purist type art. Take the art of Iaido, taught on Mondays in the academy. Iaido is beautiful, it is meditative and introspective. Because of it’s focus on millimetre perfect use of a Katana, don’t expect it to be of any use to you on a Friday night, but if you’re interested in Japanese culture and history, meditation and focus, it’s superb. I would equate it to speaking Latin, lovely to do but essentially useless in the real world.
Compare that to Kenpo or eskrima, still both technical arts, eskrima especially has a strong Filipino culture reflected in the training. But both have an eye firmly on real world self defence. Then there’s kickboxing and Muay Thai, both developed around the ring and governed by rules, by in the name of all that’s holy can those lads hit. And hitting is the name of the game on the street.
Each arts has something to teach, be it focus and control, extreme fitness and conditioning, systematic destruction of the human body, some work in close range, other at a distance, some on the floor others standing, some with a weapon, others not. Take heed of Bruce Lee’s immortal words “Take what is useful”
When it comes down to it are all individuals with individual tastes and individual requirements.
Your training choices should reflect this. At the Wild Geese Martial Arts academy, we expect and encourage this. Which is why we have such an array of classes, from the cerebral to the physical, from the martial to the art.
If you’ve been involved in the Asian arts, be it Chi Gung, Yoga or the martial arts, there’s a good chance you’ve been introduced to what is called in the physiotherapy world as TA Activation and in the heavy lifting world, Power Breathing. I’ve been power breathing for about 15 years now, ever since I first learned the tension Kata, Seisan in the Wado Ryu Karate system.
The core musculature centres around a muscle known as the transverse abdominis or the “TA”. The TA is the deepest muscle of the abdomen, basically the TA forms a natural corset. It starts on one side of the spine, wraps right around the front of the body to the other side. It is attached to the bottom of the ribcage and the top of the pelvis. Without it you’d have major difficulty breathing, your guts would slosh around a lot more and you wouldn’t be able to support your upper body.
So it’s pretty important.
I’m going to introduce here a method of training it that can be done anywhere, anytime with absolutely no equipment. The bonus points here are hat you’ll also strengthen the other deep muscles of the pelvic floor and diaphragm, the obliques (love handles) and rectus abdominis (6 pack) get isometrically worked and according to the yogic and chi gung teachings, your internal organs get massaged with a healthy knock on effect to the digestion. You really are getting stronger from the inside, out.
So what do we do? We breathe, but not as we know it.
The initial step is to learn how to breathe deep into the abdomen. Place your hand on the belly, around the belly button. Now take a deep breath in and feel the stomach expand outwards. If your chest expands instead of the stomach, you’re breathing shallow. Keep practicing, expand the stomach first followed by the chest, you want to feel like your lungs are filling from the bottom up.
Next place the tongue to the top of the mouth, just behind the teeth. I could wax lyrical here about how this lines up the meridians and allows for chi to flow, but what we’re really doing is creating resistance. The tongue and the teeth are to prevent air escaping, nothing magical or mystical, We’ll save all that for another article.
Squeeze the butt cheeks together as if trying to stop yourself on the toilet, pull up the pelvic floor and use your abdominal muscles to force the air from your lungs. You should make a hissing sound as the air is pushed passed the tongue and between your teeth. Done right you’ll feel a strong contraction all through the midsection. Be aware, this procedure is not recommended for those with high blood pressure as it WILL cause it to spike.
Keep pushing until all the air is expelled and gradually relax. You’re now ready to take another deep breath and repeat.
Alternatively if you’re a little more advanced you may add in what Pavel calls “second focus”. Basically when you reach the end of the exhalation, “spit” the last remaining air out explosively. You will feel a much stronger contraction as you force the end of the movement. Just imaging your being kicked in the gut and you’ll get the idea.
You may treat this as any other exercise, performing sets and reps. Personally, I like to just do it when I’ve nothing else to do. Maybe I’m stood at a bus stop, sat in the car at traffic lights or waiting for the kettle to boil. Anytime, anywhere you are able to do a rep or two.
Boost the effectiveness of the drill by turning it into the Vacuum. Now this isn’t for the faint of heart.
After you’ve exhaled all your air, stick out the chest as far as possible WITHOUT breathing in, the abdomen will be pulled up in towards the ribcage by the vacuum. It may take a while to get the hang of this but persevere a little at a time. The results are well worth it.
As and when you have the hang of the vacuum, and can hold it for a few seconds. Lean slight forwards and flex the rectus abdominis (6 pack) for all you’ve got, the contraction here has to be felt to be believed.
The muscle control experts will flex the rectus one side at a time (the rectus abdominis is actually two strips of muscle running vertically from the sternum to pubic bone). Takes practice, so build into it slowly, little by little.
Just please ensure you clench the butt and attempt to “suck up” the anal sphincter, imagine you are desperately holding in the turtles head. If you don’t you could end up giving yourself piles, and I don’t want to read about it in your complaint letters.
So there you have it, a convenient way to train your core anywhere, anytime. Add it to your workouts or just do it through the day. Either way, enjoy.
All Proceeds go to the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society
This CD contains articles from the leading fitness specialists of our day including:
Adam Campbell; Alan Aragon; Bill Hartman; Bob Youngs; Brian Grasso; Chad Waterbury; Charles Staley; Chris Mohr; Chris Shugart; Craig Ballantyne; Dan John; Dave Tate; Dax Moy; The Doorman; Eric Cressey; Gray Cook; Brett Jones; Harry Selkow; Jack Reape; James Smith; Jason C Brown; Jim "Smitty" Smith; Jason Ferruggia; Jimmy Smith; Joe DeFranco; Joe Dowdell; Joe Stankowski; John Alvino; John Berardi; Julia Ladewski; Keith Scott; Lee Taft; Lori Incledon; Lou Schuler; Lyle McDonald; Mark Philippi; Michael Stare; Mike Boyle; Mike Mahler; Mike Mejia; Mike Robertson; Mike Rousell; Nick Grantham; Pat Beith; Pavel Tsatsouline; Rachel Cosgrove; Robert Dos Remedios; Ryan Lee; Steve Shafley; Susan Hill; TC Luoma; Todd Hamer; Tony Gentilcore; Tony Reynolds and Zach Even-Esh
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All the best
The Wild Geese
Doce Pares Ireland / Kenpo Karate / Self Protection / Security Training
+353 87 672 6090