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A point that has been made in many of our posts is that the skills of competitive fighters are task-specific. Highly skilled competitive and professional fighters are not necessarily more prepared for violence outside of matches and duel setups. As I noted in a previous post,

A competitive fighter knows when and where his or her next “fight” will occur, and by virtue of the rules of a competition, has the advantage of knowing exactly what techniques and methods an opponent may use, and which ones they will not use. The student seeking to survive a violent assault does not know any of this until it is happening.

In the video below (thanks to tgace), Dana White and several UFC fighters visit a Marine Corps training location and experience first hand how different engagements with weapons and multiple adversaries are from pre-arranged, rule bound professional fighting. MMA has it’s place but as we can see, training for one environment does not transfer to other environments.

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The practice of martial arts has come to be diverse in terms of the wide range of  arts and schools available and in terms of the population that is involved. Physical fitness and talent may only be required to a small degree, or they may be paramount to success. Students may be dedicated about conditioning, or they may be “weekend-warriors” whose primary physical activity is a class.  An instructor may be qualified in a technical realm but not be a good source of information in others, such as the nature of violence. The need for Evidence Based Practice (EBP) is just as high as in any other vigorous physical activity, yet appeals to tradition, history and authority and “experts” often lead students and practitioners to accept dubious information or ignore new information, which can have consequences on a number of levels. For this discussion, the practice of the various martial arts can be divided into two realms: recreational (i.e., oriented at self defense, fitness, cultural, etc.) and competitive (amateur or professional competition). Most of this discussion will focus on the recreational realm.

An extreme example of a lack of critical thinking and evidence-based practice can be found in  the cult of personality that has developed around Ueshiba Morihei, founder of the Japanese art of Aikido.

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When martial artists refer to “timing”, they are usually discussing anticipatory skills. Anticipation is the ability to predict outcomes of an action (largely external, for our purposes), plan an appropriate response, and initiate it with the correct timing relative to the external action. Numerous studies have shown that superior anticipation timing is indeed what sets expert practitioners apart from novice practitioners in a given activity. The person who can successfully anticipate the outcome of an opponent’s actions before they are completed, and then formulate and initiate a plan of their own response with the appropriate timing will be able to effectively counter an attack. But the important distinction in quoting this information is the context in which it is applicable. Two people facing each other for a match or duel-type fight have the following advantages:

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If you spend any time looking at ads for  gyms, fitness fads/gadgets,  or catalogs, you’ll notice a cookie-cutter image that repeats itself over and over: rippling abs, cut groins, peaked biceps, etc.  Many martial arts supply catalogs, advertisements and media persist with the stereotypes described above.   Yet fighting arts are obviously high-demand activities, and the fitness required varies for different levels of participation (hobby, competition) as well as different focuses (wrestling, boxing). The fact is that the demands of a fighter’s activities will dictate how he or she trains, and those two factors will dictate how his or her body adapts in response (along with genetic and morphological factors). So what does the appropriately fit fighting artist look like? Hint: probably not the same as fitness models or body builders.

I stumbled across a very interesting photo collage over on the excellent Stumptuous.com. The photos show various Olympic athletes alongside each other for comparison. For our purposes, notice the contrasts between wrestlers, judoka and boxers.

Athletic body diversity reference for artists

Stumptuous

Bow Down to the Yoga Teacher

Interesting little article on the pretentiousness and sanctimonious affectations of some yoga teachers. Draw what parallels you will to martial arts.

Marco, the tattooed instructor at the front of the room, is all charisma. He stalks; he pounces; he perches on my back as he corrects my Janu Sirsasana pose (otherwise known as a forward bend). “If you tell it to me from your mind, I’m not interested,” he announces, to begin the class. “That’s just drama. I’ve got my own drama.”

Read the rest here.

Readers may have noticed that our focus has evolved over the last couple of years. Initially most of our content was related to karate and other closely related topics. As time has gone by our focus has broadened to include information on a variety of fight training related topics. This has been reflective of our training and interests as an organization as well.

In order to more accurately represent our focus and practice we are changing our name from ‘The Karate Research Institute’ to the ‘Fight Sciences Research Institute’.  It will take us a while to change everything over, but we have now begun. For the time being we will keep the name of this blog the same. Wish us luck on this new chapter in our development.

It is always a good exercise to take account of our motivations as karate teachers and practitioners. Why do we continue on, year after year, teaching and practicing karate? Yes there are a lot of easy, canned answers: cultivation of character, preserving the traditions of the past, to learn to be able to defend oneself, to confront our responses to violence, force of habit. I am sure I am leaving many out.

I don’t think most people scrutinize this carefully. For a variety of reasons, answering this requires us to consider who makes up the community of people to whom we are responsible towards. When the answer is ambiguous it becomes nearly impossible to understand the extent of our responsibilities, and thus what it is we should be doing. The ‘why’ question becomes easier to address when we are clear about what we are doing, and equally important, about what we are not/ should not be doing.

There are those who regard themselves as hard-core ‘traditionalists’ for whom preserving tradition seems to be the ultimate objective. To these people the most important obligation is to ones predecessors in these arts. Of course it is useful and proper to give credit where it is due. We have an obligation to make sure our historical claims are accurate, but that seems like the extent of our obligation to the dead.

Many times in the thirty-plus years I have been involved with martial arts, I have seen abusive and insensitive behavior justified by appeals to tradition.

As a younger black-belt level instructor, I remember struggling with ethical dilemmas that should not have been complicated, however, my judgment was clouded by the imagined relevance of some mumbo jumbo associated with tradition.

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The New York Daily News brings us the account of the guy who took out a knife wielding sociopath in NYC.

First off, my hat is off to Joseph Lozito for having the awareness to notice an unstable individual and act before others were hurt, and for having will power to face him down. Training or none, he did what martial artists talk about doing but often lose sight of when  discussing how they think it ought to be done.

Some take away points:

  • ‘Thanks to his many hours of watching mixed martial arts on television, Lozito says he “took him down” with a single leg sweep.”I wouldn’t win any style points for taking him down, but it did the job,” he said.’ (emphasis mine)

 

  • “Gelman reached under his jacket, pulled out an 8-inch Wusthof chef’s knife and began slashing. “I was trying to get control of his wrist. I didn’t really feel anything...” (emphasis mine)
  • “He was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where doctors closed a 4-inch gash on the back of his head, an 8-inch wound behind his right ear, two 3-inch slashes on his left arm, a cut under his eye and two deep cuts to his thumb.’


The fact that he decided on what to do based on watching MMA on tv is fascinating. The fact that he is 6-foot-2, 270 and responded proactively definitely worked to his advantage. While I do not think that this situation is telling us that watching MMA on TV is a good substitute for actual training, it is highly useful for us to consider whether or not training is more important than the will to act as a threat is perceived.

Absolutely beautiful- accurate, fluid,  fast, changing ranges and targets and in control of the bag the whole time. This is a guy who knows what he wants to do and has invested the time into getting there. We’re not all pro boxers but that’s no reason not to approach bag work with the same intent:

 

Find a psychology text book and look up the phrase “confirmation bias.” Be on the lookout for this tendency in every aspect of your training, especially if you think it can’t possibly relate to you or some enshrined martial art.


"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin

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