Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mixing It Up


Bruce Lee predicted that the day would come when practitioners everywhere would have to resign themselves to an irrefutable truth: Knowing only one style is limiting; that cross-training in the martial arts is the best way to develop a formidable repertoire of fighting techniques. Lee himself borrowed from a variety of systems, including Western arts such as fencing and boxing. He felt that the single study of any style, while they all contain deep wells of material, could cause the aspirant to become dogmatic and exclusive. A martial fundamentalist if you will. Interestingly, Lee's thinking mirrored what was happening in the US on a much broader scale at the time; the 60s was a decade of radical change and upheaval - a breaking away from dated ways and ideas. Needless to say, Lee's concept of cross-training did not go over big with the old school strict adherents of martial tradition. Visionaries tend to say the right things at the wrong time.

No single style has an answer for every imaginable encounter. Brazilian jiu-jitsu's ground strategies are highly effective - but against multiple opponents? Would those who train in a predominantly kicking art - such as tae kwon do - be able to execute their familiar techniques standing on a patch of ice? These are just a couple of scenarios to consider. I'm not suggesting that people should run out and start training in a hodgepodge of every style they can get their hands on. I'm still a firm believer in having a foundational art to work from. Being a jack of all trades will never measure up to being a master of one.

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24 Comments:

Blogger Charles James said...

That is why they all seem to return to their roots, Isshinryu! This style in its traditional form provides everything you need for every environment and situation.

10:21 AM  
Blogger FrogMan said...

sigh... sometimes we have to go with what we can and not what we want. I already have enough of a hard time learning my one style, I'm not so sure I'd be able to tack on another one. I guess I didn't help myself by starting at 32, huh? ;)

Good post though. I could see somebody like my son, who started when he was 5, take on another style later on in life...

Take care, Steve.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous dave shevitz said...

Perhaps another way of looking at it is the difference between strategy and tactics.

If I recall, strategy focuses on how to use one's resources at all times, regardless of the present situation. In a martial arts setting, let's consider this the "using the art in daily life" facet of the art. Tactics, on the other hand, focuses on how to deploy resources in actual combat/conflict. In a martial arts setting, this would be the "how do I defend myself?" facet of the art.

A solid martial artist will use the first art he or she studies to learn much about strategy, and at least a significant portion of tactics. It would then be up to the martial artist to decide if studying additional art would add value to these studies or not. I've met many people who have internalized an art to such a degree that they can make it work for them in nearly any situation. I've met others who need to see things from different perspectives to get the same result.

12:32 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Mr. James:
Isshinryu (like many styles in my opinion) does provide the combative essentials necessary for just about anything. But I do think when we consider the elements of different arts however, we can become re-acquanted with aspects of our base style that we may have missed or overlooked.
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Steve:
You don't have to rack up a collection of black belts to benefit from cross-training. And I got news for you - at 32, you're still a kid!
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Dave:
I agree that the first art is usually central to the practitioner. Ueshiba's core art was daito ryu jiu-jitsu, but aikido draws influences from kenjutsu as well (in the footwork, I believe). I don't think that taking on more than one style is wise if the original style hasn't been thoroughly examined. Seeing things from different perspectives usually does help, though.

4:48 PM  
Blogger FrogMan said...

LOL! Thanks for the pep talk John :)

I was 32 when I started, going on 36 ;)

Still, yeah, I get the essence of what your saying. I was more saying that I don't see myself take on another style in parallel to the one I currently train in. I'm already fighting with myself enough as it is.

Take care, Steve

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Dave Shevitz said...

Another challenge to training in multiple styles is ensuring that you keep them straight in your head!

For example, if I were to participate in a Kokikai Aikido belt exam, and respond to an attacker with a punch or a kick, I would fail immediately. Not because it was an invalid response! Instead, because it was not what the instructors wanted to see on the exam. Conversely, I've seen Karate and Tae Kwon Do tournaments in which the rules stated: "No throwing." Darn, that leaves me out! :)

Developing muscle memory is challenging enough; mixing multiple styles (especially without becoming proficient in one) can make things challenging on an exponential level.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Windsornot said...

I can certainly agree with that. That is a mentality that applies to a lot of sports, not just the martial arts, these days. You often hear about how it's not just the cardio/aerobic exercise that you need to do, but also the anaerobic as well, like weight training. And as you pointed out, you have to have a foundation to build upon before you expand on anything. Oddly enough, my foundation for martial arts is 20 years (give or take) of dance, mostly ballet. A lot of the balance, hip rotation, and kicking that I do in tae kwon do comes much more easily because of that. I have certain flexibilities that I know 3rd degree black belts don't have, and I'm just a color belt. Expanding skills is definitely helpful, and Bruce Lee, as always, was ahead of his time. I agree that it's hard to be a jack of all trades and master of none! (Seems to be the story of my life!)

And yes, frogman, you are still young. Imagine starting out when you are 37 (which was me a year ago...I'm still a color belt too at 38, and I'm guessing I still have a year perhaps until I earn my black belt.)

I do know that my main instructors have either originally come or have studied another form of martial arts to get a more rounded approach when they teach songahm tae kwon do (which is what I learn). In fact, one of them actively takes aikido classes too.

6:57 PM  
Blogger [Mat] said...

Who cares when you start. Be glad you found it. Some wait until they're 70 to do so. That makes 69 years going "sleepily" through life. That's long. But it leaves a few years with great potential. Past is done. So be it. Change today and tomorrow will follow.

Core art?
Multi art?
Whatever art?

Depends on your goals. It's already hard enough to find a Style that suits you, let alone a Sensei you like! UGH! just that can be a life long quest.

It all depends on your goals. It always comes down to that.

"Why am I doing martial arts?"

8:51 AM  
Blogger Miss Chris said...

I agree that it would be beneficial to learn more than 1 style of martial arts. I'm still considering the whole Tai Chi thing if this physical therapy doesn't work out.

9:54 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Windsornot:
I think that something like dance or ballet would give anyone a terrific foundation for the martial arts, especially TKD. I don't know if it's done anymore, but some football players and bodybuilders have been schooled in some of the mechanics of ballet (including Arnold Schwarzenegger!).
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Mat:
Bruce Lee felt that the goal of any consummate martial artist is the realization of certain tactics that work best for her/him. The only way this can be accomplished is by investigating.

Lets say you take a natural liking to chito-ryu. One day, you find yourself at a ryukyu kempo seminar. In this style of kempo, tuite is a central technique. You see this demonstrated and say to yourself, "Wait a minute - this looks familiar. We do something just like this in Seisan kata in chito-ryu." So while you're not looking to become an adept in another style, seeing one aspect of it may shed some new light on the one style you're already in (your core art).
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Miss Chris:
Tai chi is likely the world's oldest health practice next to yoga. It's been around for thousands of years - there must be something to it to stand that test of time!

12:22 PM  
Blogger Charles James said...

Hi, Miss Chris

You didn't have an email on your blog site so I hope you get this.

I had some serious physical issues a few years past and my accupuncturist started to teach me dragon's gate taoism coupled with Tai Chi and Chi Gong programs.

It is the best thing you could do for yourself regardless of your current health.

It also has improved my Isshinryu karate practice immensly.

Regardless, if there were only one style to augment you base style it would be these. Even with out a good solid base structure for you base style.

Go for it.

3:19 PM  
Blogger [Mat] said...

John,

Yeah, I get that.

:-)

9:01 AM  
Anonymous blackbeltmama said...

If I picked up another style, I think my husband would kill me. Karate takes up a ton of my time as it is. The good thing about my style is that when we get black belts we have them in both open hand karate and kobudo. Does that count as a second style? ;-)

9:04 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Black Belt Mama:
Absolutely. Especially in your style/organization. Realize that kobudo was not always taught alongside of karate. The real question is this: What practical lessons could possibly be learned from training in kobudo that can enhance our karate skills? I know that sounds a bit contentious, but I really wonder if there's an answer to that besides "it's traditional".

10:27 AM  
Blogger supergroup7 said...

Cross training is quite difficult for the artist because you use similar movements but with different emphasis. Since our goal is to bring learned movement into the level and speed of reflexive movement, the more applications you put to a certain movement, the more muscle memory you have to create. One can learn to separate the demands of each art from the movement but it take more time, and effort. You will find yourself "moving with an accent" as you train.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I don't think a style is meant to be applied as is. The style is a method of teaching certain principles, along with exercises (techniques, etc) to practice these principles. If you fully understand the philosphy and principles of your art, YOU become able to adapt to any situation, without limit.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Really good post and so much to say with so little time!

For going on 15 years now I've dabbled in four different styles: TKO, boxing, Wing Chun, and Pressure Point Control Tactics (PPCT). (the name is a misnomer because it also taught basic strikes, knife defense, baton, simple throws/takedowns, and locks) The last (PPCT) I used in real use of force situation for 4 years while working in prison. Half of PPCT did not work on inmates. Based on seeing dozens of inmate fights I can tell you that no one style has all the answers.

e.g., I saw a very muscular boxer/wrestler officer get knocked off his his feet by three 160 lb hispanic inmates. Every time he tried to "wrestle" the other two would put the boots to him and he was never able to get back on his feet. By the time he pushed his "tac alert" on his radio and we found him he had a seperated shoulder and a ruptered testicle.

Also I think it's a myth that "all fights end on the ground." First, they all start standing. Second, from what I saw of inmate street fights it was about half and half. Finally, sometimes I think the martial arts has too much of a UFC effect at work (no offense to UFC folks). A lot of their early fights DID end on the ground but can you say those are truly "fights" when there are still rules and a ring?

I do think UFC gave all martial arts a wake-up call from a self-defense perspective. However, what if you practice a martial art for exercise, stress-relief, sport, or honoring a tradition?

On being old: You are NEVER too old! I finally got tired of being a hodge-podge of techniques and decided to get serious about starting to master ONE style. I started my current style of taekwondo at 38 and come hell or high water I should have a black belt in my early fourties.

On a second style: *If* I get to black belt and *if* I continue on to second dan I had thought about that two year period between tests. Here I may work on a second art. My weakest link is ground so I may look into Brazilian Jujitsu (there is a school really close to my home). I've also toyed with the idea of trying Aikido.

6:12 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Mireille:
There is a different emphasis or focus to each style, as you say. I suppose a karate-ka attempting jiu-jitsu as a novice would do so in a karate-esque (accented) way, if I'm reading your comment correctly. Ultimately, the idea is to integrate cross-training so it all becomes "your style".
----------
Rick:
There are certain principles that are common to any number of styles. I believe that the resources and creativeness of the individual, can at times, transcend the inherent limitations of any single art.
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Bob:
I agree that no one style has all the answers.

Like you, I'm a stand-up fighter, so the ground is not exactly my forte either.

Aikido is not always presented with combat effectiveness in mind, although its founder had a rich background in a number of combative arts, so the idea of cross-training is hardly new. Thanks for your input.

7:35 AM  
Blogger MrX said...

This is why I like these kinds of posts. It gets people writing!

Been doing soft styles for 3 years (Jeet Kune Do and Sendo Kung-Fu) and now started learning a hard style (Kenpo). So the cross-training is something I am feeling right now. I can tell you this much, it gives a more open-minded approach on a specific style. You have a bigger repertoire to choose what is best suited for you. And this gives you the ability to better create/adapt your techniques to make them your own.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Eddie 哥哥 said...

An excellent concept you have raised... being able to cross train and be proficient in all aspects takes years and a lifetime to perfect and master

9:38 PM  
Anonymous blackbeltmama said...

I think there can be a lot learned from kobudo that is practical for the here and now (especially if you keep your weapons handy in the house and car like I do.) If you know how to swing a bo, it's easily translatable to a broomstick or 2x4. The other weapons may not have a practical translation but learning kata's with them helps you to focus on punches down the center and control. There's something about using the weapons that gets you in the zone.
You've got quite a comments section on this one!

9:22 AM  
Blogger sji said...

Understand the principles and you don't need style....

The underlying principles are universal for all arts. Techniques are just the way of expressing them.

We can learn much from different systems and people with different experiences, but as Charles said, it is our roots that count.

We grow from our roots, not the branches!

4:41 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

There is a martial arts school within which my BJJ school is run, some kind of Karate. Most of the instructors of the Karate school crosstrain with us and hold rank in BJJ as well. While their progress is a bit slower due to their other obligations in the school, they all seem to benefit from the cross training. And we enjoy having them. Their work ethic and the range of their expertise is interesting and welcome to the class.

Regarding UFC, I agree that it was important. It put to rest the idea that a pure striker could keep a fight on the feet against a pure grappler who is determined to have it otherwise.

As for age, I started at 34, and started BJJ at 36. I'm happier than ever, and my only regret is in not having had a school around 10 years ago.

3:27 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Welcome to my site, Steve.

It is amazing the impact the UFC and the Gracies had on the martial arts world. Nobody could give a hoot about jiu-jitsu or grappling before those guys came along. I don't believe any one style is superior; but as the Gracies proved, there are superior martial artists.

6:43 PM  

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