What a challenge it has been to figure out how to say what I want to. I have stayed out of a number of threads this week because I did not feel they were being productive. Rather than throwing stones I was trying to figure out how things got off track. I think it is clear that people thought their approaches were valid and that they had information they desperately wanted to share.
If we take a positive approach to these forums. If we look at it as if everyone who posts anything on these forums has something that they wish to offer. If we look at it that most people who post are also looking to learn. Then the exchanges on these forums should be respectful, productive debate. Anyone who does not offer something, or is not seeking to learn, is just a flamer and should be ignored.
So, if I am looking to learn, I ask questions, I probe, and I strongly doubt that I would accept anything on face value, or just because somebody says that it is so. It should be that easy.
If I am looking to share something then I must figure out how to get people to listen and understand what I am saying. This is not easy. First of all I am constrained by the fact that I can only use words. I often read into the words of people the feelings that "if I could just get these guys on the dojo floor, they would know in an instant what I am trying to say." A real problem but a fact of the media we are dealing in.
I would try to figure out what convinces me of something new. I cannot recall any time when someone calling me stupid and ignorant, and I should just accept what they say as gospel, convinced me they had anything of value to offer. So, I personally would not take that approach because I do not believe it would convince anyone that I am actually right.
So what would I do? I would try to present a logical explanation and description of my point. I would try to not get frustrated by the limitations of WORDS. I would try to not get frustrated with people asking questions, because asking questions means they are trying to learn, and at least listening. I would try to not get frustrated if I fail, after all, it is the words that are failing not my ideas (or at least I hope it isn't my ideas).
Let me try to present an example of this approach. I am going to use sport sparring. First of all the only sport sparring I have been exposed to is the crap tag sparring everyone complains about. So, it may surprise some that the example I am going to try is to show is how I would build an argument for why we SHOULD sport spar. If I can make this work, then just think of what someone who really knows the topic could do with this approach?
The first thing I would do is explain what I believe sport sparring to be. (When Gary described sparring in Japan where it was full contact body shots. Only good solid hits scored, and you had five seconds to get your ass back up and into the fight, well he didn't read any comments from me about crap tag matches.) Many times on this forum debates got off topic because the people involved were not really talking about the same thing. So defining what I am talking about is the first step.
The next step is to deal with the IT IS NOT REAL issue. I wouldn't dodge it because we all know it will come up. Nor would I try to blow it off. My response: Yeah I know it isn't real. I mean think about it. We all know kata is not REAL. We all know bunkai is not REAL. We all know yakosto kumites are not REAL. But many practice them, so why would the fact that sport sparring is not REAL immediately mean we should not do it? That conclusion does not follow the established and accepted logic applied to the rest of what is often trained.
I must look at it from the viewpoint of how can it help me be REAL. (Unless I'm just in it for competition.)
So the approach I would take would be to explain what benefits carry over from sport sparring to REAL fighting.
1) Real fighting depends greatly on your ability to predict what your opponent is about to do. Look at any "technique and you will find that it works only when you have figured out what your opponent is doing. " (Personally I believe in principles more than techniques. The reason I look into what moves in kata can be used for is to discover the principles behind the moves. But that is for another thread.) If you have doubts try this:
Pick any technique to defend a lead hand that has you slipping to your right. Pick any technique to defend a rear leg front kick that has you slipping to your left. Work on them individually and all is well. Now have your partner throw either technique. All of a sudden you may find yourself in difficulty. And don't forget that both of the attacks I picked come straight in, attacks also come in from any angle or hook or etc.
Any form of free sparring means that NO attacks are prearranged and therefore you must learn to predict your opponent's next move. Therefore sport sparring can improve the prediction and reaction skills required in a REAL situation. (Because you won't have time to think.)
2) Real fighting depends greatly on your ability commit to an attack. When it is time to GO you must be able to turn it on 100%. And you must be able to do so the moment opportunity shows itself.
In sport sparring you will never score a point with a half ass attempt unless your opponent has somehow drifted off to sleep. You must attack with authority. The very skill you require in a REAL situation.
3) It is often said that we cannot recreate the nerves and threat of a REAL fight. It is also often said that test boards can subject a student to a type of nerves and that learning how to handle "that fear" hopefully carries over to help in a REAL situation.
Well, anyone who has taken part in any type of a tournament knows that there are "nerves" involved there as well. So, again following an established and accepted logic, if test boards nerves help us deal with REAL, then so will sport sparring "nerves."
4) Movement. As much as I love conditioning, I would really rather get out of the way of an attack. Learning movement is an important part of what we should be doing. Learning to do movement as a reaction is yet another skill. Lateral movement does not come easily to many of us. We can do pretty good when we practice against a set attack, but the moment it is not a set attack we now are required to blend that movement with a reaction skill. Sport Sparring requires this skill, and therefore when you work on sport sparring, you are working on a skill required for REAL.
So sport sparring works on:
1) The ability to predict your opponent.
2) The ability to fully commit to your attack.
3) The ability to deal with "nerves".
4) The ability to blend lateral movement with reaction skills.
We must remember that even if we try to make every drill as "real" as possible, there will still be training tools that work specific skills and abilities that we require when things get real. So while anyone can come along and tear apart a training tool for not being REAL, in the end we must ask ourselves if we are getting enough useful training for the time put into it. This is the only true question.
As shown sport sparring can provide AT LEAST the skills noted. Do we have something else that provides these? If not, maybe we should be looking into sport sparring.
Now, from the other side, readers should be able to come back with questions. They should be able to express any doubts as to traits trained in sport sparring that may not be desirable. Those questions will all have to be dealt with in a good debate. In the end the pros and cons must be weighed out.
In the end you must leave it up to those reading to make up their own minds. People will always disagree on how to approach martial arts. That is what should make these forums fun to be involved in. Just because someone disagrees with you is no reason to dislike that person or take offence. AS LONG AS THEY HAVE EXPRESSED THAT DISAGREEMENT WITH RESPECT.
I had a great discussion on another forum with Joe Bellone. Heck, we disagreed completely. I went away, not only thinking, but with great respect for the man.
The same is true for JD and I on … well ... gee just about anything. But I take no offence to the fact he is unenlightened (for those new people I'm just kidding).
Gary and I approach kata from completely divergent viewpoints. He and I did go "toe to toe" on this forum awhile ago, but we did so with respect and I certainly hold no animosity towards Gary for the fact he is also unenlightened (also just kidding).
If we are going to choose to enter into the open forums then we should be prepared to meet those who do not share our viewpoint. Maybe someday they will sit back and realize that guy was right all along, or maybe we will.
It is the learning that counts, when you stop questioning, and seeking, and learning, THEN you are in trouble.