Monday, October 12, 2015

Keep it Simple, Keep it Practical.

Most people equate practical with complicated and, as a result, come to believe that the most complicated things are the most effective/practical.
We see time and again that it is often the most basic of things, coupled with the fiercest and focused of mentalities, that gets the job done.

Kata in Karate tend to contain some pretty complex and, often, archaic movements that many people the world over claim to have the answers to and, more often than not, those answers tend to be among the most complicated because, in their minds, complicated equals practical.
It is the same with just about every other Style or System, other than those that tend to be straight forward, and there are a few of those within the various systems that have, historically, not been very straight forward whom have had some insight and found more straightforward expressions of what it is they have come to know.

Boxing is pretty straightforward, but it also does not pretend to be something it is not; it is a sport, but it is also a devastatingly brutal form of Combat and was not always just about punching.
Boxing in its' truest form was nothing more than doing whatever it took to get the other guy down and out, and that meant anything, now it is primarily Punching, but the goal remains the same.
In truth it is this sort of simplicity that makes it so effective, it is effective because it is straight forward and straight forward in its' very application, meaning there is nothing really hidden... No questions about what 'this' means or what that 'could mean.'
Muay Thai is another straight forward Combative similar to boxing, extremely brutal in its' simplicity, but far from simple, then we have Judo, at least in its' Kihon, followed by Japanese and Brazilian Jujitsu, but these are also subject to the infection of complexity.

The other night I found myself thinking about all this in relation to real street encounters... Really you only need one or two movements and solid intent to harm in order to take an attacker down.
If they come at you with a barrage of strikes you can cover and force your way in to turn the tables with a barrage of your own, turning the cover itself into an attack.
If they pull a knife their movements are going to be the exact same as if punching, no, an Attacker is not going to change to a 'knife style' mid-step because they have one mindset and one goal, this does not change, but it definitely ups the ante in regards to your life.
Simple movements are the practical movements and this goes against what passes for common sense these days, including when it comes to knife attacks.

So what is the point of training Kata with various complex motions? Each person tends to zero in on each individual movement as though it were its' own technique rather than the component piece of mechanics in a larger movement.
When training throws in Judo or Aikido the movement is often broken down into each of its' component parts in order to learn it and get it right by drilling each piece over and over, only then can things be learned and mastered and the final product become so smooth and effortless.
Karate is no different, it just happens to be a striking Art, but not in the same way that Boxing or Kickboxing are Striking Arts and what appears to be complex is nothing more than one fluid thing that has a beginning and an end in a series of component parts or processes.

These are meant to be trained in a certain way so that they can be applied with little lost in the carry over between floor and street.
Forget simply punching and kicking, but look to the movement as a whole, things begin to seem less complex, a lot more simple, and the art itself is understood in a whole new light that sets it up right beside Judo and Aikido and possibly bridges to Boxing, although I do not see much of what would qualify as an actual 'Punch' in any system of Karate, other than those Modern Systems that have incorporated Boxing... Nothing wrong with that, other than it seems as though the founders did not maintain sufficient understanding of their art and, as a result, tended to branch off.
Strong statement? Sure. Accurate? Pretty sure they would be forthcoming with that if it is possible to ask them, no harm, no foul.

Kata itself is something that people practice again and again and, whether people know it or not, even if they claim otherwise, whenever they are working their basics, working on mechanics in solo form, or even with a partner (Judo Kata are partnered) then they are practicing Kata.
True Kata provides depth, and it comes in many different variations, the solo version allows you to go full force, or even slow things down and look at things individually in your spare time without a partner.
Think of it along the lines of a Soldier who breaks his gun down in order to clean it and make sure it is in working order.

This is also a way to train for the mentality that may be missing from the Dojo, that grittiness, that dirt that is required for a technique to have any lasting effect on anyone who tries to club you upside the head in the real world.
There is, certainly, a difference between reality and training and it definitely helps to be aware of this, but leaving out aspects completely, without explanation, is simply a cop-out and does more harm than good when a Student has to defend themselves and simply does not have the proper 'go switch' for their Spirit to get in the fight and do some damage.
Heavy bags work too, mainly so you get the feel for striking something, but you need to integrate ALL of these in your mind with full awareness that training itself is one big Kata meant to break everything down into its' component parts so that each can be practiced safely.

My Sensei's Sensei, John Roseberry Shihan, was always fond of saying 'Keep it simple, keep it practical,' a big proponent of the K.I.S.S. Philosophy and since it isn't broken there is no need to fix it.
Keep it simple, keep it practical, and keep training.

Beyond Distinctions.

Some people say the world is getting to be a very dangerous place, other people say the world is actually getting safer, but has it ever really mattered what other people say to begin with?
If you get lost in the woods on a hike tomorrow do you know what to do in order to survive? Do you know which plants you can eat, which you can use for medicine, and which can kill you?

There is a plant called a Water Hemlock, which is related to the Poison Hemlock that was used as the method of carrying out the execution of Socrates (also a Martial Artist), and it is among the deadliest plants in the world.
Do you know how to identify it? If not you may want to take a few moments and find out, just to be safe when drawing water from any old drinking hole into a cantine.

What is my point in all this? Awareness. Being fully aware of what you do know, and what you don't know. What your limits are, and training to eliminate those.
Many people, when they think of 'Martial Arts' or 'Budo' only think about certain things, some sort of preconception they have been conditioned to picture in their mind's eye, white Gi (or some sort of Kung Fu outfit), little old Mysterious Asian Guy who can kill you with his pinkey finger.

The image of picking plants in the wilderness, hunting, Shotguns, Rifles, Handguns, Fatigues, proper cleaning and butchering of an animal, knowing the difference between good plants and bad plants, making a shelter, awareness in a crowd, or even the image of Socrates... These do NOT come to mind for most... At least not all of them, some maybe, but not all.
Most like to think their 'system' or 'school' or 'Teacher' has all the answers and they feel they can rest easy knowing this, and there are quite a few Teachers out there that would encourage this sort of thinking, this sort of Blind, Cult-Like Faith.

The fact of the matter is that if a Teachers says you do not need to know how to Grapple then they do not know how to Grapple, if a Teacher says you do not need to know how to fight standing up, then they do not know how to fight standing up... A great Teacher can admit their limitations and, if they have not worked those out, they can point you in the right direction to help you out in those areas.
Karate CAN be used in Ne Waza, or Ground Work, and Brazilian Jujitsu CAN be used in Stand-up, however, it is the focus of the individual that determines the use (and just how effective their application of either will be).
Can either of these tell you which plants are okay to eat in the wild? No. They can't teach you about Gun Safety either, nor can they teach you to shoot.
So within a certain context, sure, they are flexible, but only within a certain context.

Kris Wilder Sensei once told me that the best thing about being Independent of any Organizational Heirarchy was that YOU determine what is permissible in your School.
If you want to invite someone to come in and teach a Knot-tying Seminar or a Binding and Securing Seminar then you can, you can also partner with people who can take your Students into the woods and teach them something about tracking, learning which plant is good, which is bad, whatever is available, and whatever they wish to pursue.

My Sensei once told me that a Budoka's aim was to achieve the formless form, free from all forms, an expression of the essence of principle beyond it all, yet through it all, bound by nothing and using former bonds to help others reach beyond them.
Not his exact words, but the point was clear, or at least the point is clear now.