- The place claims links to a dozen systems, yet actually teaches one fairly traditional martial art with maybe two moves changed. I have been in what turned out to be karate classes with five minutes of bad weapons work at the end before, and which have therefore claimed to be multi style. This week's attempt featured something that was supposedly influenced by both a traditional kung fu style and JKD. I went because I had practised the traditional style and hoped that the influence of the philosophies of the second art might break down a few of the bigger problems with it. Let's be clear: this was just a Feng Shou class in every detail.
- The class is concerned primarily with historical or cultural re-creation, but does not say so. It is entirely legitimate to practise a dead art in exactly the way it would have been done years ago, provided that you are clear about what you are doing. You are doing essentially the same thing that people who dress up as vikings and belt each other with swords are doing. The difference is that they don't claim to be teaching something to keep their students safe in a real fight. Claiming to be teaching effective self defence while doing no more than sticking to the traditional syllabus is dangerous and self-deluding.
- Connected to this is the issue of dressing up. I can see the usefulness in some situations of the Japanese style gi, mostly after having destroyed quite a few t-shirts whilst grappling. However, there seems to be little reason to wear the 'traditional dress' of a country while training. For the most part, these traditional costumes turn out to be just what people of a particular time and place would happen to have worn for exercise or outdoor work. They are, in short, the equivalent of sweatpants.
- Forms. Endless, endless forms. To use them for fighting, you then have to learn the applications of the movements. So couldn't they just teach you the application of the movement in the first place? I'm probably a bit bitter about this one at the moment, since Feng Shou features an unusually large number of the things. Forms for strikes, forms for kicks, forms for evasions of all things. Contrast that to my stint in aikido (which is a bit fiddly and formal, but at least seems to be trying) where evasion practise consisted of actually moving out of the way of things.
- There really should be some meaningful interactive practices. I'm not necessarily asking for full on, heavy contact sparring at all times, because I know not everyone would want to be on the receiving end of it, but can we at least try for something that teaches us about paying attention to the other person, about distance and timing and so forth? And no, something where the merest flick of the fingers counts as a hit doesn't count.
- People do not attack the way you have taught them to. It should be obvious that, as useful as Feng Shou's lunging palm strike to the jaw can be no one else attacks like that. Training to defend against it teaches you to stop an attack no one uses. You would be amazed at how many supposed experts on fighting don't know that the most common attack in the UK (and these things do vary by place) consists of a grab with one hand and then repeated hooking punches with the dominant hand. It also happens to be a common approach for amateur knife users. So shouldn't you be training to stop it?
- Talking of which, I get really angry with the way some people approach weapons work. Get this wrong, and you don't just get your students bruised. Yet we still see stilted and unrealistic attacks, fiddly defences, and an approach that will get people hurt. I have had to take blades off people (thankfully idiots who didn't know what they were doing) twice, so I take this stuff seriously. I'd just like others to, occasionally. The HEMAS (that's historical european martial arts societies) lads locally don't claim to be teaching super efficient modern techniques, so it's depressing that they still teach more effective stuff than a lot of the people who do.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
My occassional martial arts journeys.
This week featured something that I occasionally do when I get sufficiently bored, in the form of a quick wander over to one of the many, many martial arts classes that infest East Yorkshire. It may be that one or more of you is considering taking up some form of martial art (well, you might), and so my thoughts here might be of some use. In any case, I'm inclined to get some of this off my chest before I really lose my temper. So, some things that wind me up when I go to a martial arts class: