Martial Arts Fantasy
So you want to be able to protect yourself. Where are you going to go to get the best training possible? Let’s indulge our wildest dreams, and imagine that we have absolutely unlimited funds for our pursuit of combative excellence. Now what would you do? Since this is your passion, you are willing to bring in the very best trainers and fighters from around the world to guide you. Your interest is realistic, workable, self-defense. You don’t just want to learn a bunch of moves, you want to actually be able to do them against someone who is trying their best to use their moves on you. With this in mind, you decide to train with those people who actually put their arts to the test. You realize that some of these arts are practiced as sports and are therefore limited by the rules, but you are wise enough to see that this is actually a benefit. You know that you want to be proficient in all areas of fighting, so you will bring in experts in various portions of the arts so that you can put together a puzzle that results in a beautiful, broad, brilliant picture brimming with detail. Who do we start with?
There are many choices, but you reason that most fights involve people punching at each other. You hire a top boxing coach. He works you on your punching skills, both offensive and defensive. A large part of your training is sparring. You didn’t realize how important the legs are, but you get the point when your masseuse works on your lower body. You progress well, and figure it is time to add another element: kicking.
Your kicking specialist is a Tae Kwon Do champ. She is expert at whipping that foot out with power, speed, and accuracy. You spar each workout. You didn’t realize how sore your upper body would be from kicking. Thank goodness for that masseuse!
More elements are needed. You opt for a Thai boxer to add in the low kicks, elbows, and knees. More surprises. Every inch of your body is sore. You swear that your hair is sore from those workouts, but you are loving every minute of it. You see that your boxing and kicking skills are very helpful, but things are different when the knees, elbows, and low kicks are included. The cardiovascular demands are greater than you are used to, but your body adapts as you train and spar. You are feeling comfortable now, so you search out another trainer.
You realize that your striking skills aren’t going to do you too much good if you end up on the ground, so you find someone who can teach you how to defend takedowns. Who are the best at defending takedowns? Wrestlers. You bring in a top free-style wrestling coach, along with some of his wrestlers. Soreness again! Changing elevation, penetration steps, finishing the takedowns, sprawling, cross-faces, and getting slammed to the mat take their toll. You don’t care, because you are improving rapidly, and you have a personal masseuse. Proficiency creeps up. You love the training, but want to work more in the clinch. Your free-style coach gives you a referral.
In come the Greco Roman wrestling crew. Your neck wrestling in Thai boxing is very useful, but the Greco positioning and throws bring in a whole new series of elements. You get into the different tie-up positions, and you learn transitions and takedowns from each. You learn how to set up your moves in sparring, and you are getting better at defending the attacks. They also show you how to incorporate the freestyle takedowns into your sparring that are illegal in Greco Roman wrestling. You make great progress, but a question burns in the back of your mind.
What if I am proficient in all these areas, but I still get taken to the ground? Time to bring in a Brazilian jiu jitsu team. A whole new world opens up. Armbars, triangles, chokes, knee bars, sweeps, positioning, transitioning. This is going to take awhile, but this is what you do. You are loving it, even though you get spanked every day in sparring. You still work on your other areas too, as you pay your other coaches to be on call. You know feel complete, but another question pops up.
How would punching change the clinch and ground game? You decide to start with the clinch. You know about the knees, but what about pure punching from a wrestler type? Your research assistant, has good news for you: Senegalese wrestling. You fly a team from Senegal to learn their sport. You find that traditional Senegalese wrestling is a combination of hand strikes (no gloves) and wrestling. The winner is determined by knockout or solid takedown. They wear wrap around shorts that have a cord “belt”. They grab the belt to aid in takedowns and avoiding takedowns. They start standing, with a stylized probing. As the punches fly hard and fast, and entry is made. You find that while you try to avoid the takedown, you partner is punching you hard with uppercuts and hooks to the face. (You don’t care. You have the greatest plastic surgeon on the planet.) The coach teaches you well, and you are able to adapt quickly. Another element added into your game.
How about the ground? As a matter of fact, what happens if I can punch, kick, elbow, knee, and headbutt standing, in the clinch, and on the ground? Then what? Here come the “vale tudo” fighters. No holds barred fighting (including headbutts) puts everything in perspective for you. You must be able to strike, wrestle, submit, and defend against submissions and strikes in every position. All of your previous training is melded into a contiguous whole. Time passes, and you are feeling very good about your game. One day your eight year old nephew visits. He is feisty. You playfully put up your hands and take a fighting stance. He promptly kicks you in the groin, sending you down for the count.
You regain your composure, and realize that you left out a few elements. What to do? You know that without sparring there is no measurable progress. Techniques are just techniques until you can actually put them into use through sparring. You call NASA. If they can put a man on the moon, they can design a comfortable groin protector that absorbs every milligram of impact. You ask for eye and throat protection too. A few months later your pocket is a million dollars lighter, but your groin is protected. You are happy. You spar like a vale tudo fighter with all the targets in play. You learned about scenario training, and environmental influences, so you add these in. You hired a couple guys who sole job is to sneak up on you and attack you a few times per month. Your family thinks you are crazy, but you are content. Why? Because you are a functional martial artist.
© Burton Richardson. Originally published in Inside Kung Fu Magazine September 2002
Founder of Jeet Kune Do Unlimited.
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