Sunday, August 24, 2014

I'm Alive, I swear! Here's my thoughts on training

Well, turns out I'm terrible at self motivation when it comes to writing, though some of you probably knew that about me. I intended to continue to discuss the Tenets of Tang Soo Do, but given how much time it's taken me, I'm going to take this opportunity to change gears a little. Besides, assuming I ever get myself to write regularly, I can always return to the topic.

Today I'm going to talk a little bit about training. This will be the first of my more concrete discussions regarding martial arts.

 The crux of a martial artist's ability is how, and what, they practice. For me, from the ages of 5 to 19, I went to karate classes two to three times a week. These were an hour long, and we would focus on something different every day.

In my opinion, there are three kinds of martial arts training categories: technique training, forms (often called kata), and sparring.While none of these can be said to be better or more important than the others, they each intertwined with the others.

The simplest and easiest category of training is technique training. Put in the bluntest of terms, you do a thing over and over again. 50 punches, kicks up and down the floor, these drills are meant to focus on a specific block, kick, punch, stance or habit that you want to improve.

I love me some technique training. Unlike forms, that require more space and more time, drills are short and in general don't require much more than 6 feet of free space. Recently at work, for example, I would have a free 50 seconds before having to take a set of pictures. For 20 minutes I used those 50 seconds to do simple drills, specifically back fist + center punch in a front (or forward) stance, switching after I took the pictures.

The next type of training, forms, is a middle ground between the free-flow of sparring and the rigid repetition of technique drills. A form is a series of techniques put together in a certain order. They are usually about 25-50 moves long, and different style often have different forms. Similar styles, like Shotokon Karate and Tango Soo Do, will have forms that are almost exactly the same but taught with different interpretations. Forms are exceptionally useful in establishing proper technique while moving and teaching you how to tie certain moves together in sequence. Additionally, some forms are built around a certain concept or technique such that they prepare you specific situation, like fighting with your back to a wall.

Forms are one of the most heavily emphasize aspects of traditional martial arts. They are passed down from teacher to student and carry a significant amount of history to them. In my lessons, for example, we were required to learn the origins of the Pyung-Ahn forms. They were created by Master Udos in 1870 in the Hanan providence of China. He was Okinawan. The interesting part of this history is that these are the same forms that make up the bulk of Shotokon Karate. A friend of mine studies this style, and by comparing these forms as they are taught to each of us, we learned about they strengths, weaknesses, and mindsets of our individual styles.

The third type of training is sparring, practice fights between martial artists. In all honesty, sparring is my favorite training method. Unlike technique drills and forms, this sparring is inherently unique to the individuals participating. There is no preset order, to proper way to do things. It is the most restrictive training practice, however, as it is the only one you cannot do alone. Additionally, it is arguably the most dangerous, though in my personal experience more people get hurt in technique drills. The fact that you bring another person into the equation means that some amount of the content will be beyond your control. A lack of control on the part of either one of the participants (assuming you're only sparring one on one) could have serious repercussions for both people.

In my opinion, you cannot properly train as a martial artist without using at least two of the three methods. I refrain from saying all three because depending upon the point in your martial arts career, you may find yourself no longer needing to emphasize a certain aspect of your training, or be unable to find a partner to spar with. I, for example, can't spar more than once every few months at the moment, having no one conveniently located to spar regularly. I do, however, have ample space to practice forms and, as I mentioned earlier, the ability to practice drills more or less wherever I feel.

There is also a fourth component to training as a martial artist, and one which many people fail to partake in: physical conditioning. Martial arts is, at it's core, mastering the use of your body for combat. If your body is in poor condition, your martial art is in poor condition. Without strength, your strikes are ineffective. Without endurance, you may find yourself unable to defend yourself long enough to be victorious. All of the technical skill in the world can only get you so far, and if you wish to be the best martial artist you can be, you need to be fit. I (hopefully) will post pictures of myself from May, when I began this blog. I'll also try to post current pictures to show how far I have come, and hopefully I won't be embarrassed.

That's all for today. I look forward to hopefully posting more content more frequently. We'll have to wait and see.

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