Monday, October 25, 2010


My first exposure to martial arts training was in an American hybrid style called Tai Zen which was billed as a cross between karate and jiu-jitsu. I was thirteen and was way into Bruce Lee flicks and the Kung Fu TV series. I had no concept of what style meant and really couldn't care less, but the Tai Zen place was down the block from my house so that's where I began. The 'karate' portion of the class was spent practicing kicks and strikes with plenty of free-style sparring, while the 'jiu-jitsu' techniques encompassed standup self-defense drills utilizing joint locks and some throws, but no ground stuff. We trained on mats, used no protective gear for fighting and paid as we went. At that time it was $4/class - no contracts. We didn't learn anything that resembled kata, nor were there any Japanese terms used. In fact nothing in the way of Japanese etiquette existed such as bowing or kneeling in seiza. The school advocated progressive resistance training and even had a small gym in the back with lots of free weights, benches and machines. It wasn't a traditional martial arts school, but that hardly mattered.

Like new religions, martial arts styles come and go. An Isshinryu karate instructor from my area that I briefly trained with (a 6th dan) actually created his own style (with his own name in the style's title), devised forms named after local towns (e.g., "Smithtown no kun" or something similar, no kidding) and promoted himself to 10th degree black belt. Due to lack of interest he eventually called it a day and returned to Isshinryu. Another guy opened an "American" Isshinryu dojo which, among other things, featured his modified version of the style's trademark vertical punch and a set of basic exercises that differed from the founder's.

In his book Okinawan Karate, Mark Bishop catalogues twenty-one recognized karate styles, a bit superfluous considering Okinawa is an island barely larger than Brooklyn. To say nothing of the karate that has been developed on mainland Japan and elsewhere. Even Aikido, which became codified after the Second World War per the teachings of but one man, now has about thirty distinct sects. Curiously, the art of Judo - the most senior of the gendai budo (modern Japanese martial arts) - never really branched off into the myriad of substyles that exists in other arts. Judo, for the most part, remains a single style unto itself, indeed a rare distinction.

Some of the newer, American systems are downright wacky. A while back I saw a clip on something called Combat Ki, a style purported to develop imperviousness to vital area strikes.

Haven't seen any of these guys in the UFC yet. I won't hold my breath waiting.

Labels: ,


Blogger Budd said...

I have something similar in the works about Tae Kwon Do. In the 60's, 9 schools/systems were unified for official TKD. But none of the none of the schools actually changed what they did to the unified practice and kept doing there own thing. The result being a myriad of different things all being called TKD. Confusing for students.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Charles James said...

Great post but in the KI Masters ...

One word for the "Ki Masters" ... "IDIOTS!"

All this proves is if someone is able to have time to prepare for a blow they can take it.

I cannot count the times I got it in the groin by visiting karate-ka when I would NOT wear a cup and it did not take me down.

What this proves to me is folks with ego's the size of those swollen gonads, hehehehehe

Also, what would happen if they were NOT SET/PREPARED and what would happen if they didn't have control over the demo?

A surprise attack of a violent person on the street would be a totally different matter.

Oh, I guess they would use the "Ki" to stop them from attacking by surprise...


12:15 PM  
Blogger BSM said...

Bingo on the Kombat Ki folks and lets add the no-touch knock-out masters to the mix.

If this nonsense truly works why aren't these guys climbing the UFC ladder?

Oh wait, I know! They probably have to take a sacred Zen oath of non-competition!

1:12 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...


Like Judo, it seems TKD didn't really splinter into sects the way other styles did, maybe because of its inclusion in the Olympics. TKD seems to be divided more by federations and such (WTF, ITF, ATA, etc.) than styles.

But I do see where you're coming from. In my style - depending on what dojo you're in - everybody seems to have varying interpretations of things. Not trivial differences, either.


Nahh, they're not idiots. I do think they know how to put on an exhibition. Not surprisingly their "founder" has credentials that are dubious. I might post on these types in the near future.

A surprise attack of a violent person on the street would be a totally different matter.

Totally agree. Of course, this is really the crux of martial arts training: preparing for the unexpected.


...lets add the no-touch knock-out masters to the mix.

Hey, here's an idea: Let's bring in the no-touch KO crew and see what they can do against Club Combat Ki.

This should once and for all verify the existence of chi/ki/the ether/the force/prana forever!

6:23 PM  
Anonymous SenseiMattKlein said...

Wow, this is bizarre, can't help but think if Randy White applied a full-power elbow smash to one of these guys' jaws, something would be broken. Got to admit, the groin kicks and strikes were impressive.

3:20 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...


...the groin kicks and strikes were impressive.

That they are, though it might be staged somehow, who knows.

A few years ago I posted an article on body toughening routines, but at the time I had never heard of Iron Crotch Qigong or whatever. Talk about bizarre.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Charles James said...

You said: "Haven't seen any of these guys in the UFC yet. I won't hold my breath waiting."

I agree, it comes down to "setting the stage" or like setting a stance for a break.

If they cannot control the demo, i.e. in a free fight, I believe the strikes would kill them.

Just my viewpoint...hehehehe

11:55 AM  
Blogger Mathieu said...


I'm not gonna try it

11:17 AM  

<< Home