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BITE SIZE ARTICLES - 4
Unfortunately the Japanese art of the Ninja inadvertently became the target of fun back in the 1980's due to the way it was portrayed within television programs at that time but in the same way kung fu had become more popular than karate during the 1970's so did the Japanese ninja become the latest fighting fashion trend in the 1980's.
The ninja, (Japanese covert assassin), used all types of killing weapons and empty handed fighting skills to kill their target and for a period of time they became the height of fashion within the martial art world.
During the 1970's many karate trained students had opened up clubs under the title of kung fu and called themselves high ranking qualified kung fu masters knowing that the new student would not initially know the difference until it was to late and the new beginner had wasted their money.
In the same way that those who had been trained in karate methods had opened up 'so-called' kung fu clubs to cash in on the Chinese martial art craze of the time so did those who had trained in karate and kung fu start up ninja classes in the same way claiming that they were qualified experts in the art.
When the ninja period started in the mid 1980's and yet again karate and kung fu trained students opened up ninja classes claiming to be qualified teachers, people had become more aware of this situation and began questioning the instructors qualifications and the techniques being shown. It was clear to see that some of the things they were asked to do within training sessions and required to do for a grading test was a con.
In the movies at that time ninja films showed the ninja assassin doing spectacular somersaults and back flips and this became part of the training and test requirements within these bogus clubs but the biggest question of all that was asked by the new students was, "Have you killed anyone"?
A true ninja in ancient feudal times was no more than a killer who was paid for their services and used any available weapon to complete their task, therefore, the question was asked "If you are a qualified teacher and expert in the art of ninjitsu have you killed anyone''?
It would be like someone claiming to be an expert 'Hit-Man' and qualified in going around killing people for money and therefore qualified to teach these specialist assassination methods but without ever having killed anyone. Although many of these instructors would say that they only taught the empty handed version this did not deter people from repeating the question.
Attempts over the years have been made to regulate these various martial art clubs, (not just ninja but all of the various combat styles), in an attempt to prevent unqualified instructors from teaching bogus combat arts but the difficulty in policing these fly-by-night clubs is far too big a problem.
Freestyle sparring or 'kickboxing' as it is more commonly called these days is practised within all the traditional combat arts and is often performed as a light or medium semi-contact event within training sessions. In some cases this can be done without the need to wear protective padding and can also be practised in a number of various ways such as 'hands only' sparring or 'kick only' sparring.
American and European style kickboxing is solely focused on point scoring, or boxing style, competition and although it can be adapted and used to enhance the practitioners self-defence and street combat skills the training methods for street defence purposes does vary in some ways to the sport combat area of the martial arts.
In the case of kickboxing as a sport, or some other form of competition event, the methods and techniques used seem just the same as any other form of freestyle sparring, but this is not the case.
Many would say that a Front Kick, for example, is just the same if used in competition or in a street fight and that how you fight, with all the various kicks and punches, is just the same, if in the competition ring or in the street, more so if it's a full contact event, however in a light contact competition event your kick would only have to be powerful enough to make contact, with the main focus on scoring the winning point unlike a street fight that would need to be powerful enough to knock someone out.
For this reason techniques are not that powerful and the way the technique is applied would be on a fast and simple point scoring basis. This being the situation, many in competition events will favour a fast Reverse Punch to the body or, for those with more confidence in their abilities, a Hook Kick to the head. In events of this kind, of course, there are normally set rules regarding the type of kicks or punches that are allowed and the way you can go about scoring points.
DOES IT TAKE YOU FAR ENOUGH?
No one in their right mind would attend a martial art training session if they knew that the 'full-on' contact side of their training involved the high risk of being injured every time they attended, more so, if they needed to be physically fit to attend work the following day, however, learning the 'freestyle' sparring aspect of combat is an area that must not be neglected.
Some martial art clubs will not go beyond teaching one-step pre-arranged self defence methods, which although a vital area of martial art training, still falls very short of what is truly needed when it comes to the real thing. Although basic pre-set defence training against, lets say, a person stepping forward to punch you in the head is a vital and valid part of any form of combat training - it still does not however allow the person to gain vital experience when it comes to the unpredictable and fast flowing actions of a real fight.
You could spend all your life being very well trained in various single pre-set attacks and you could be a full-on expert at defending yourself with a wide range of counter defensive and take down methods but non of this is even remotely the same when it comes to someone attacking you with a wide range of unpredictable kicks and punches or trying to slam you to the ground. It is the unpredictable actions of your attacker and learning how best to react to those random actions that all people in the martial arts need to learn, if they are going to be a good all-round fighter.
Therefore to ensure that your martial art training is more realistic, and it also gives you the vital experience that you need to defend and counter-attack against a fast flowing situation, plus of course, the vital need to feel what it is like to have hard bone on bone contact, the need for freestyle sparring, or kickboxing as many people call it these days, with lots of difference people to gain such experience and to develop your reactions is very vital.
Some martial art groups will only focus on the freestyle combat aspect of training and not bother to look at the other, more traditional, training methods but of course to become a true all-round experienced practitioner of the fighting arts all aspects must be covered in full with a good balance of both.
With the correct supervision, proper protective padding and some vital safeguards put in place to prevent serious injury the freestyle aspect of combat can truly give the student a far more complete understanding of what they are learning, and of course very important experience, that simple one-step training alone can never do.
Even light or semi-contact sparring can give the student that vital required experience, and still be reasonably safe from physical injury, but no training in this area at all can be one hell of a shock to a person when it comes to the real thing.
Therefore in conclusion - you need to ask yourself "Am I taking my martial art training far enough or am I fooling myself into thinking that what I do is enough when it comes to the real deal"?
Does it take you far enough? - is a question that many people fail to ask themselves until it is far too late.
Not all things relating to the martial arts should be taken in a serious way all the time so the following short item is intended to be viewed on a lighter note only.
Cage Fighting, or as practitioners prefer to call it Mixed Martial Arts, - now what's that all about?
Cage fighting is something of a puzzle to me. I understand that it is very physical and even brutal and that you need to be very strong and fit to take part. I further understand that it is a form of combat that includes both punching and kicking with grapple and strangle techniques thrown in for good measure. I also understand that it is a form of combat of the highest level and that there are no rules, (more or less), involved, but the one thing that I cannot understand at all is why do they need a steel cage surrounding the fighting ring?
I would be the first to admit that I would never be up to standard to take part in such a physical form of combat but do they really need a cage in which to fight?
I did think that the cage was there to stop the chap who was losing the fight, and getting a good thrashing, from escaping out of the cage to safety but then I thought that cannot be the case because even if he was taking a bashing he would not want to escape but would try even harder to win. After all said and done he did want to be there in the first place and knew the risks.
I then thought maybe it was to stop the fighters from getting out of the cage and attacking the crowd that was watching the fight, but surely they would be too busy fighting each other to take the time to do such a naughty thing. I also thought that maybe it was to stop people throwing things at the fighters or getting into the cage to take on the fighters but I am sure that the security staff in the building would stop that happening straight away and that no normal sane person would take on such strong tough fighters and expect to win.
The only conclusion that I can come to after thinking about it until my head started to hurt was that it was a way of making this sort of competition fight more brutal and dangerous in appearance to the people watching it.
When you sometimes see the fighters covered in bruises and bleeding from various cuts after the fight you do not need a steel cage to aid the appearance of how hard it is that's for sure.
YIN AND YANG
Many people that are new to the martial arts may not be aware that traditional martial arts like karate and kung fu, for example, have also philosophical and religious aspects, based in part, on the culture and history of a particular styles origin.
In the case of the Chinese martial arts, which were developed by the Shaolin Monks of ancient China, the teaching of Zen or Tao Buddhism played an integral part of their fighting skills and training methods.
Many combat schools would identify themselves and their particular style of fighting with a simple form of logo or emblem, a basic designed picture that would act as a form of trademark, so that the students could identify themselves to outsiders in addition to each other in much the same way as any group or organisation would.
Of all the various trademarks, logos and emblems associated with the martial arts the one logo, or if you prefer emblem, that is representative of all the eastern fighting arts, (karate, kung fu etc), is the one called the Yin and Yang.
The yin-yang is a circle with two smaller circles within an interlocking pattern, often referred to as the 'two fishes' due to its appearance, with the two smaller circles representing the eyes of the fish. The story behind the logo is one of philosophy and some would say even a religious meaning.
Sometimes worn as a fashion item over the years by children and teenagers, many fail to realise that not only does it represent many of the various types of martial arts around the world but also the true meaning behind it.
The yin-yang represents the meaning of balance and harmony both in physical and spiritual terms. The Yin represents light, soft, internal, good, female, mind, passive and fluid while the Yang represents all that is opposite such as male, rigid, external, dark, evil, body and aggressive, although the dictionary version does vary with regard to some of these elements.
Representing the balance of nature with everything having its opposite and equal force for good and evil or the fact that mind and body, hard and soft cannot exist without each other, the logo further shows that within the dark or evil side there is a bit of good, (as shown by the white circle), and the part that is good is equally shown to have a little bit of bad by the small black circle, or the eyes of the black and white fishes as some would call them.
With the tails of the 'two fishes' merging into the opposite sides of the logo this is further descriptive of how the dividing line between good and evil, hard or soft, light and dark does blend into each other.
Although the yin-yang is more associated with the Chinese and Japanese martial arts the logo, it is believed, originated in Korea.
COMBAT OF THE MIND
The aim of any martial art style is to make the student become proficient in the art of empty handed, unarmed, combat but the story does not end there however. Even the most skilled fighter in the combat arts must also master one more vital item - the mind.
To strengthen the mind, in any fighting situation, is the most difficult discipline to master within the martial arts. No matter how good a fighters physical skill are, or how physically strong they are in the body, they must also have strength of character, and to a degree, mastery over their own fear. Unlike fighting in the sport competition ring which does have certain safe guards in place any street fight or combat situation can result in severe injury or even death. Faced with such a situation fear of being hurt, or worse, can often be more of a problem than the potential fight itself.
If a person lacks confidence in their ability or by their very nature has a soft or non aggressive persona then they will be disadvantaged from the start and all the fighting skills and training that they have gained will be lost. The one thing that martial art training, (no matter how good the teaching standards), cannot do is teach someone to be aggressive or not to be afraid of getting hurt.
No matter how good a persons fighting skills are, the chances are that they will take at least a few hits during any fight situation and although the body can be conditioned and strengthened to take various hits and strikes without any major damage there are certain parts of the body, and especially the head, that cannot be developed against strong attacks.
Knowing this will make even the most senior combat fighter aware of their safety therefore being able to put this fear to one side in a fight situation is vital if they are to defend themselves effectively.
TEACHING THE ARTS
Teaching the martial arts is something that a new student would of course never think about during their early years of training but it is inevitable, for many, that they will start thinking about such things when reaching the more advanced stages of their training, and hoping, to become an instructor themselves one day. However something that a lot of people will fail to realise is that a lot does depend on how a new instructor will conduct classes, based in part, on the way they have been trained themselves.
If they have been taught under a set rigid routine then they could very well end up teaching in this same fashion, and if they have, then there is a great danger that they will end up teaching like a robot, without flair or flexibility, which could very easily end up with students leaving after only a short period of time.
Some of the most successful martial art clubs are often run by teachers who have a great deal of flair and personality and will add not only a strong sense of discipline to the class but also a sense of fun and humour, which often motivates the new beginners during times of intense or difficult training, but these 'individualistic' combat teachers are not trained to be that way but are born with such teaching skills, based upon a number factors, including having a outward going personality for example.
Many students will become black belts in the martial arts over the years but very few have a natural ability, or the required skill, to teach others and although they may know all the moves and can fight like any true expert this does not mean that they can teach or motivate others up to a good standard.
For a new student to fully benefit from the instructors teachings they need a person who can not only demonstrate all the physical skills but also someone who can pass on their knowledge in a constructive way, or the true nature of what they are being taught will be lost.
Therefore when someone is thinking of taking up the study and practice of the martial arts, or any sporting activity for that matter, it is always wise to look beyond a persons qualifications and claims of greatness and see, not what they teach, but how they teach it.
COME ON - HOW SOFT DO YOU WANT IT?
The dangers involved in learning the martial arts are always a key factor and very uppermost in peoples minds when initially thinking of starting up for the first time. Training in the martial arts at beginner level is very safe indeed assuming of course that you have joined a school where the instructors and the students are not allowed to bully the new beginner. However, when all said and done, it is all about fighting and there will be times when you will get hurt.
If a new beginner or a low graded student complained that you have blocked their punch too hard, for example, and they end up standing there rubbing their arm and pulling a face in disapproval then you may not be that surprised, especially if the person in question was noted for being idle, and a moaner. You would also think, most likely, that this person needs to get tougher in their fighting skills and needs to be more aware that true combat training does involve physical contact that can sometimes result in being hurt or bruised.
You would also think that this person needs to be a bit tougher minded and not complain so much when things get a little bit on the rough side, although, it would be fair to say that in some cases the student could be well within their rights to complain when their opponent is not practising proper consideration and restraint within a practice session.
In some cases they, or you, could be dealing with the 'class bully' and therefore making a complaint would be more than justified but you would not expect this situation when it comes to the so-called black belt expert.
I have known both men and women to complain that their punch was blocked too hard, or some other form of contact of this nature, by their opponent in just the same way even though they were wearing a black belt and should be hardened to this form of physical activity.
This raises the question of how good their standard in the combat arts truly is and it also raises the question of how they got their black belt in the first place.
The biggest question of all however in a situation of this nature is what was the grading examiner thinking off when he or she passed them to this level?