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Similar Differences

I was just reading a post on the Applied Strength Blog entitled “Contradictions and Situational Correctness”. In it Brett Jones discusses how bogged down people get when discussing training methods.

Now while Brett is discussing strength and conditioning, his comments ring true in the world of Martial Arts.

I constantly hear students talking about the differences between one style and another, but very rarely will I hear a discussion on the similarities. Take Karate for example, you’re either a Shotokan or WadoRyu man. Are you? They both developed from the same source, have mostly the same kata, same techniques and if you look at the kanji, before it is transliterated into English, the same names. But yet the two camps will not see eye to eye.

In the kenpo studio, Ed Parker’s syllabus is lengthy, but if you look at it, most of the techniques are merely variations on earlier ones. Except the counter strike is low instead of high, or you step with the left foot not the right or add this bit off that one to the end of this one. In other words, you explore the possibilities in a structured manner preparing you for the chaos of a real fight.

And yet I constantly hear students and some black belt “instructors” saying how each technique is unique and different to all the others.

I personally have attended lessons in Wing Chun, Wado Ryu, Shotokan, Tai Chi, Doce Pares Eskrima, Rapid Arnis, Balintawak Eskrima, Shaolin Kempo, Goshin Jitsu, Aikido and a few others. And you know what, it’s all the same stuff done differently. Body mechanics are body mechanics, it’s just one mans preference of how to apply them. Be it the upright Wing Chun or the sweeping circles of Aikido, the hips generate power to either strike or snap an opponent.

Take heed of an old mantra “methods are many, principles are few”, look for the underlying principles and forget about whether your fist is held vertically or horizontally, it doesn’t matter if there’s no hip, no focus or your face is being smashed up while you try figure it out.

Wild Geese Martial Arts encourage students to think for themselves, whatever they are learning from us. If they are learning eskrima, we’ll show them differing styles of doing the same thing, if it’s kenpo we’ll encourage students to explore outside of the strict syllabus. Sure if you watch Paul and I, we even do things different to each other on an aesthetic front. The end result is the same though.

Stop getting lost in the details, as Bruce Lee said (and I hate quoting Bruce): Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just a punch, a kick was just a kick. After I’d studied the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch, a kick is just a kick.

Wild Geese any cause but our own

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