Firstly a comment on Friday's Legacies of the Sword. I originally picked up a copy in a book store in Rotterdam when travelling with Jan de Jong one year teaching seminars throughout Western Europe. It was mostly text and seemed academic so I wasn't initially interested in purchasing it. De Jong's daughter convinced me to buy it as we hadn't seen it available in Australia, and she was used to her father buying martial arts books when ever possible. It wasn't until many years later I read it, and I was amazed. The theories I'd developed concerning the development of jujutsu - here was a professional academic providing support for my theories. Here was a professional academic who is also versed in the martial arts writing seriously about the martial arts. The analysis of various aspects of Kashima-Shinryu which is used as a case study to understand and study the Japanese martial arts can also be used to study and understand all martial arts. It is truly an amazing book and one which should be part of the foundation of any serious martial artists library.
Friday summarises the arguments associated with both sides of the 300-year old debate:
This is a pretty good summary of the respective arguments and I cannot disagree with either side. One point though, Friday's comment regarding the pulling of blows is equally applicable to competition as the detractors of the non-contact or semi-contact karate and taekwondo competitions often raise.
Proponents of sparring and competitions that developed concomitantly argued that pattern practice [(kata)] alone cannot develop the seriousness of purpose, the courage, decisiveness, aggressiveness, and forbearance vital to true mastery of combat. Such skills, they said, can be fostered only by contesting with an equally serious opponent, not by dancing through kata. Pattern practice, moreover, forces students to pull their blows and slow them down, so they neverdevelop their speed and striking power. Competition, it was argued, is also needed to teach students how to read and respond to an opponent who is actually trying to strike them.
Kata purists, on the other hand, retorted that competitive sparring does not produce the same state of mind as real combat and is not, therefore, any more realistic a method of training than pattern practice. Sparring also inevitably requires rules and modifications of equipment that move trainees even further away from the conditions of duels and/or the battlefield. Moreover, sparring distracts students from the mastery of kata and encourages them to develop their own moves and techniques before they have fully absorbed those of the ryuha [(marital arts discipline or school)].
Hunter B. Armstrong, Director of the International Hoplology Society, argues strongly in favour of kata as the better means of preparing a person for combat in 'The Koryu Bujutsu Experience' in Koryu Bujutsu: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan (edited by Diane Skoss). He makes a couple of additional points which can be added to Friday's arguments. Firstly, while arguing in favour of kata he also argues against the solo katas of modern budo:
The aim of classical training was and is not simply the learning of movement techniques, but the development of combative behaviours that prepare one for implementing simple-but-learned-movement techniques in the face of the overwhelmingly traumatic stress of combat. No amount of solo training or single movement training will do that.He also raises the issue of the effect of protective gear in training:
Again, all valid points . The comment regarding armour is particularly relevant today with improved technology resulting in increased usage of protective armour in training. Many train with full body armour today in order to engage in 'full power' training.
Training armour itself is a limiting factor and imposes changes upon the patterns of movement (angles and targeting), and more importantly, the psychological components of combat - the feeling of safety while training cannot prepare the individual for the psychological stress from the danger/threat inherent in mortal combat.
Gracie and Gracie's arguments in favour of sparring discussed in the previous blog is a 21st century extension of the 300-year old argument which Friday suggests has no resolution in sight for the foreseeable future. Gracie and Gracie's arguments concerning the reduction in combat effectiveness of Kano's judo due to the prohibition of 'too many' techniques in his randori is an argument from the kata advocates. My pointing out the Gracie and Gracie's argument concerning the combat effectiveness of Kano's judo is equally applicable to their Brazilian jiu-jitsu as they also prohibit certain 'dangerous' techniques in their randori is using the arguments of the kata side.
Even though it may have appeared I was advocating one method over another in the previous blog, or maybe even in this one, that is not the case. My issue is the explicit understanding and recognition of both the strengths and weaknesses of the training methods adopted. By understanding the issues of both sides of the arguments, the appropriate questions can be asked. There are different answers but the important thing is that the questions are asked. If only the strengths are focused on and the weaknesses ignored, Armstrong's reference to changes upon the patterns of movement, that is upon the tactics and techniques of a martial art, are at high risk of materialising. A couple of common instances of this will be presented in the next blog.