Monday, April 2, 2012

Is the Devil in the Details?


Any martial artist that visits online forums or discussion groups about martial arts, especially the internal arts, has run into the Internet Master.  This person knows every detail about how the art should be practiced, and is very quick to point out how other people aren't real or traditional.  They say that if any of the details are missing, that its not pure.  Which may be the case, I'm not here to judge, but instead I would like to pose questions that might make people think.  Are the details important?  And how important are they?
For example, I was participating on a discussion on hip movement, and there were lots of great replies and comments on hip usage during striking, which is an important point to focus on and develop.  But I started to think when I re-read the posts, that maybe we are getting too involved with minute details and use the tiniest point to judge others, when instead we should understand that each person comes from a perspective that they have chosen a solid martial art and trained it hard, so we should try to understand why they focus on those points.  Often times its too easy to dismiss people based on differences that have no real bearing on fighting, and that is what the martial arts are purely about........fighting.  The health benefits are merely a happy coincedence or byproduct of this training, and should never be the focus of learning.  There are plenty of health only arts like yoga or pilates if that is what a student wishes to learn.
Another good example is when the discussion turns internal in nature, that is when the insults start to fly and judgements come quick and heavy.  Students will use ethereal ideas like Dan Tian rotation, something that can't be explained over the internet, only felt in practice, and they claim that they can see the lack of internal movement in forms.  How much more insane can it get?  The people that speak the most about internal ideas are usually the people who spend the least amount of time fighting, sparring or applying their art.  And their explaination is that they are too busy perfecting their chi power or some excuse like that.  Modern masters like Sifu Novell Bell or Sifu Tim Cartmell are often insulted online from behind the protection of a computer monitor because they stress the usage of the arts, rather than the ideas and history.  But none of these Internet Masters actually have the courage to challenge these fighters in real life, why is that?
  I know several martial artists that I like to call lineage snobs, they think that the sole measure of a fighter is who their grandmaster was, and they can provide many differnt reasons for why that is, but they can't answer a simple question...........Who was Randy Couture's Sigung?  Who taught the Navy Seal's secret breathing techniques to enhance their life energy?  These people are some of the best fighters in the world, but you will never hear them stressing tiny details, they focus on the concepts and blunt techniques because they understand that in a fight, perfection is impossible.    Discipline and hard work is worth more to them than all the little details in the world.
We need to get away from the idea that unless every ideal is followed, then its not a pure art, that is a very exclusionist way of thinking, and does nothing but drive wedges between an already fragmented community.  And really ask yourself, why do the proven fighters not speak this way?  Why do the people that constantly pressure test their arts NEVER whine and complain about internal power or the lack of internal mechanics?  Its because they are too busy applying their arts in combat to worry about the opponents lineage, or if they know all the forms in a given system.  The fact is that an average boxer or MMA fighter can easily beat most black belts in a fight, and that is because the focus of the martial artist is wrong.  They are worried about earning the next belt or learning the next style, not fighting perfection of one thing at a time.    The boxer or MMA fighter will spend their time practicing drills and hitting punching bags, not talking about how Chi flow through the body creates the ultimate fighter.  The professional fighter worries more about conditioning and stamina rather than if the Kua is sunken properly during movement.
Now I am not saying that these aren't important points, but I don't like how they are used to cut other martial artists down.  They are intended to help us train better, not be used as judging points.  And again I would like to stress the idea that the real fighters in the CMA community don't speak like this, they simply laugh and focus on their next match.  We need to spend more time discussing how to use our arts in full contact matches, not how to perfect no-touch forms that can't be applied exactly they way they are demonstrated, which accounts for most of the forms and drills in CMA.  They are exxagerated for practice, so what sense does it make to worry about details, when we all know the application done at full speed won't look like the drill done in training?  When you are dodging a knife, do you really have time to think about your Dan Tian? Or will fast footwork and quick hands be more valuable then?  I challenge the lineage snobs and the Internet Masters to go to tournaments like MUSU, held in New York and prove me wrong.  Don't just whine and complain online, if you feel like I am so wrong, then go and prove it, and I will apologize and retract this article.
I also would like to apologize up front for any times that I have shown this behavior, it's rude and low class, and not in line with the Wude that I was taught.   I am sure I have done that at some point to win an argument, and I sincerely regret if I have offended or insulted anyone due to my lack of understanding of what's really important.

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This is a blog devoted to the Chinese Internal martial arts. Our school is located in Vancouver, WA and currently accepting students for group classes, and limited private sessions.