Wednesday, February 4, 2015


I've been thinking on that last post. Then the one on the quality of Japanese kata. Then the one on modern bunkai instructors.

When people do more than a martial art, they may hear often that quote about emptying one's cup before refilling. Like many other Eastern proverbs, it gets taken out of context. If you do, say, ZNKR Seitei iai and a koryu (an old school; in this context, a swordwork one), those two are similar enough that skills will want to cross the barrier, sometimes for the worse. Always? NO! If you get used to the handling of a sword, you can use that sword. And koryu and Seitei use the same design, share some of the moves. You do have to separate the practice of each, understand what each one is trying to tell you. Check.

However, you can get into a practice with some bad habits. Those should be discarded, but I can tell you from personal experience that some are hard to forego. What can you do, then? Do you discard the pot? You can't, not really. The pot is you, and you can't discard yourself. If you could, you wouldn't have trouble to start with (and some people can, true). But you try to break the pot, and join it again with a better filling. Then do it again. And again... until the result is better than the beginning. Until, sometimes, the result is better than a gold vase or a pure porcelain one.

This goes for MA as well. I'm trying to understand some things of the Kajukenbo variant of Naihanchi. See what has been lost in transmission, what was added back then, why. I wouldn't even dream of trying this with Kuk Sool forms. I might, some day, just for the fun. But even if the forms had some core, once upon, the way that art teaches them has polluted them way beyond any reasonable cost-benefit ratio. Note that I'm comparing them with Kaju, a MA that doesn't really value its forms.

Can you retrain someone coming from massive college karate classes? Probably. If he comes, he's already making an effort. If he stays, he's probably worth yours (and you have to try anyhow, that's why you're a teacher). Can you retrain someone coming from a strength or an old wise men cult? Yes. Can you train someone who's actually good in another martial art and wants a different POV? Yes.

It's not going to be easy, though. And pretending you start from zero is only going to frustrate both of you. But starting anywhere else means you have to check where he comes from, understand his strengths and weaknesses. In a way, understand at BB level an art you haven't practised yourself.

What? You thought MA were easy?

Take care.

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