domingo, 16 de outubro de 2016

Traditional martial arts & Effectiveness - Parts 1-3

Characterizing  (empirically) traditional martial arts as to their effectiveness could be, in theory, very easy. Doing so would merely require gathering a large sample of fights, and ascertain which events impacted the outcome (and how). 

Such process is present in every single sportive activity, consisting of: 
  1. Playing the game
  2. Conducting a post game analysis
  3. Implementing adjustments to training 

Starting by the end, what's training & what's it for?

Well, training is nothing more than the organization of practice so as to generate the best possible state of readiness (to handle a given performance setting).

Considering that traditional martial arts original context is that of self-defence, such practice is not child's play and, secondly, practicing with 100% realism is borderline impossible. With the exception of military personnel training with live ammunition, no matter how hard one's approach is to sparring, death is never on the table.

This generates a great incoherence within traditional martial arts: 

The only group of physical activities that cannot fully simulate 
their "game setting" in training, are the only ones that 
have levels meant to mark performance readiness. 
(How can one attest for something that isn't tested?)    

Consequently, in the context of traditional martial arts, one's task is to find the next best thing, so as to get as close as possible to 100% training specificity.

Doing so has generated many different controlled sparring formats, based on the selection of varying types of protective gear and rule sets. Such sparring formats are mainly characterized according to the following traits:

  • Degree of psychological stress (gear)
  • Specific skill set promoted by rules / scoring system 

Now, in handling these variables so as to preserve the identity of each traditional martial art (system), my question is:

What establishes the identity of a martial system? 

a) The specific set of motor skills 


b) The degree of psychological stress performance is subjected to

In short: 

Its coordinative skill-set or the psychological stress of live combat?

To answer this question, I'd like to invite you to think of the following performers: a knife thrower, a trapeze artist and a fighter. 

In doing so, you'll quickly realize that the element psychological stress is a constant present in all scenarios. Consequently, it is the specific coordinative skill-set of each activity that makes up the identity of each activity ... and which warrants preservation. 

For a more detailed analysis of this, take the following case:

Trapeze artists used to perform their skill under maximum psychological stress, given the absence of safety nets. More recently, though, the introduction of safety nets lowered the degree of psychological stress performers are capable of performing under.

Purists will criticize such action and will call for the removal of safety nets. 
Nevertheless, removing safety nets while still looking to indulge society's pressure to have some sort of safety system usually leads to adjustments of performance conditions, such as the gear used

Case in point, such adjustment to the gear in use could lead to the replacement of the wire with a wide wooden board. However, though this would preserve the original psychological stress levels, the actual skill-set would be altered.

Furthermore, training meant to produce adaptation to psychological stress is, conceptually, pretty easy. Doing so only warrants the progressive increase of risk (progressive elimination of safety gear), together with being willing to put up with a tough path of injuries and rehab (and, eventually, death)

Hence, though the ideal set of training conditions (in order to achieve optimum combat readiness) consist of:

Developing the art's full skill set 
(no limitations as to the techniques allowed), 
while practicing with the original gear 
(risk & proprioceptive feeling)
and performing strikes at maximum speed
(real time frames for reacting & maximum risk)

When looking to, UNDERSTANDABLY, compromise by reducing the risk of serious injury (or even death), training conditions ought to be managed around prioritizing the preservation of the skill set (over psychological adaptation to stress).

A blueprint of Combat Tactics
I might be getting ahead of myself. These issues pertain to HOW TO TRAIN (methodology), and such issues are second to the starting need of knowing WHAT TO TRAIN (content). In case that is so, information on the latter can be found on our COMBAT TACTICS DVD.

However, concerning HOW TO TRAIN and the need to preserve the original martial skill-set of a traditional martial art, what does this boil down to in terms of training conditions? 

Dissecting sparring

Here's a brief presentation of the main intricacies of sparring practice.


As a result, here are a few thoughts you may find useful:
  • Choose the gear that allows you to practice at max speed
    • Should such gear be lighter, it may alter technique.

      In such cases, use the original weapons in (sub-maximum speed) drills, and adapted weapons in sparring and maximum speed drills

  • Respect the hits you receive 
    • Refrain from hitting your opponent in the immediate aftermath of getting hit (scoring wise, such strikes should not be validated).

      Focus, instead, on finding a different reaction that allows you to strike while avoiding getting hit.

      Within a real all-out-fight, stars may align so as to strike after getting hit (adrenalin, bad targeting from foe, etc). When that is so, the heat of the moment will naturally make it happen.

      In training, however, don't set such potentially suicidal approach as your default system (much like the trapeze artist replacing the wire with a board, in the sense that the skill-set is altered ... only in this case, in a potentially harmful way - negative carryover)

For those looking at martial practice as more than just a leisure-centred (competitive) sparring game, the search for the least crappy simulator of all-out-combat is a never ending one. 

However, this analysis and its resulting guidelines will hopefully provide a good starting point to those looking to keep their sparring pratice in-line with their art's martial foundations. 

Upon doing so, then it is up to each individual to choose how much of a safety net he or she wants to use in drills and sparring and, thus, to which degree of psychological stress each individual is capable of performing the art's skill-set with due proficiency.

Wish you a most enjoyable weekend, cheers!

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