You know, when I first started learning self-defense how to protect myself through the martial arts, I quickly noticed that the training was almost entirely focused on the memorization and performance of preset technique. What I mean is…
…the lessons revolved around the step-by-step mindset. Even testing was centered around the correct “performance” of the technique in question that I learned in class. But, that performance was tied more to duplicating a string of “moves” than it was on…
…the successful resolution of the situation based on what was going on!
I remember a friend of mine during those days. He was very good at the art that we were studying and much further along than I was at the time.
He was testing for his black belt and everything was going well. His “performance” was flawless -at least as far as I could tell.
Then, during the last part of the final kata (‘preset fight scenario’), he changed the move from a strike to a shoulder throw. The throw was awesome and his partner never saw it coming. It was great!
He told me later that, everything was going along as it should be and he knew what was to come next but…
…something was “off” with what his partner was doing with that last punch.
He literally “found himself” executing the throw, and remembered thinking, “this isn’t right.” But, he adapted to the situation and, without breaking the flow or trying to do something “tricky,” finished the technique in a way that definately controlled his opponent.
We talked about this for days. About how, with the learning of so many techniques that, it felt very natural for him to just slip into the new ending for the technique that he was performing for the test. We were sure that his “variation” would really impress the senior black belts on the judging panel.
Well, long story short…
…he failed that test.
I couldn’t believe it. According to the black belt judges – the panel of “experts” who were supposedly teaching him to be able to “go with the flow” and defend himself… He failed!
I didn’t get it. Even from my position as a new student to the martial arts, and from my experience on the streets watching fights and people being attacked, I was baffled.
I mean, my friend took a surprise situation, adapted to it, and still maintained control of the flow of things in a way that ended with him being the victor.
“Yes”, said the judges, many of whom were our instructors, “that’s true. But he didn’t do the technique correctly.”
This was one of the most significant moments of my life. When I realized that, the reason I was there for training – to not die in a situation – was not the focus of the training…
…at least NOT at that school.
It seemed that, what was most important to this group of experts was…
…preserving a historically-based and stylized movement pattern that was used to help identify their tradition.
What was apparent to me was that, long ago, the importance shifted from “not dying in a violent confrontation,” to “preserving a piece of history,” as the main focus of training.
And, I thought, that’s fine. IF, that’s what you’re looking for from martial arts training.
Since, for me, it was not, I had no choice but to seek out those who had the kind of knowledge and abilities that I needed. Not for historical preservation, but…
…for the preservation of Life!
Jeffrey Miller is the founder and master instructor of Warrior Concepts International. He is the author of “The Karate-Myth” and the Danger Prevention Tactics video, among others. For more info, subscribe to his ezine here.