My Style’s Too Deadly

21 11 2015

A Kung Fu guy, a Karate guy, a Jeet Kune Do guy, a Streetfighting guy, a Jiu Jitsu guy, and a Ninja guy walk into a tournament. The one who can’t fight goes, “My style’s too deadly.”  The rest of the group smacks him upside his head, and they all have a good laugh. The end.

Okay, my joke telling skills aren’t that good. 🙂

But it is a long-standing joke that martial artists who can’t fight love to throw out that “My art’s too deadly” reason to shunning competition. As if your respective style doesn’t have backfist, side kick, round kick, straight punch, etc… Or, as if you only engage in death matches.

Here’s the thing:  ALL styles are too deadly for competition. Hell, look at Paint Ball. What’s more deadlier than small arms combat, and they even have found a safe way to practice! Martial arts tournaments were not designed to simulate the battlefield. However, if you wanted a place to test the few safe techniques in your system without risking broken bones, crushed windpipes, dislocated knees–the tournament is the way to go. Either you can block a punch or kick or you can’t, and a 3 minute, hit-him-five-times-or-lose match is a great way to find out really quick if you have the timing and speed to stop a punch or kick. So what some guys are slapping–block the slap. The good old straight punch to the ribs is still legal, so take the shot!

I believe in the 1960s all martial arts on these shores were on equal ground. However, the Karate and Tae Kwon Do schools engaged in competition and honed their arts into something that was more practical than when they first arrived–and Chinese stylists sat in the bleachers ridiculing it until, six generations later, you are hard pressed to find more than three Kung Fu schools in each city willing to slug it out, regardless of the rules.

Let’s define something, by the way, as I’m sure some will object to my use of the expression “more practical”:

In saying Karate/Tae Kwon Do becoming “more practical” over the years, I am saying that as time went on, those arts moved away from prearranged practice into a type of practice that is more suitable for fighting on the street. Yes, tournament techniques are somewhat unrealistic. But today’s point fighters are faster, more athletic, have better reflexes, trickier, and have more strategies up their sleeves than their Grandmaster’s generation.

Back to my point. Kung Fu practitioners have good fighting techniques within every style. The problem is that too many schools over emphasize forms practice and do not engage enough in sparring for students to have the attributes needed to bridge what they do in forms practice with what they do in fighting practice. As a result, we see Kung Fu people studying Muay Thai and abandoning their style’s specialty. Kung Fu people putting opponents in the guard when their system calls for breaking arms and legs. Kung Fu people politely declining offers to have a friendly match, and later exclaiming to friends that their art was designed for killing, not acquiring points.

Even if your system has no punches and only eye gouges and throat smashes, you still need speed and timing to catch an eye before an opponent can turn his head. Even if your system has no hook punches or elbow techniques, you still need to know how to defend against a hook punch or elbow to the face. This is why sparring against foreign systems is absolutely necessary, because each form of fighting–from the lightest contact sparring division to the body slamming San Shou competition–delivers a different set of skills to the Kung Fu fighter who engages in it. You are not going to learn to take jabs by hitting mitts with a classmate. You are not going to learn to avoid leg kicks–or learn to manuever after eating a few Charlie-horse-inflicting thigh kicks–unless you’ve actually faced a man attacking your legs. Your Sifu teaches you techniques, but opponents teach you how to fight.

No clever conclusion here, that’s it. Understand, that every Kung Fu student needs to engage in combat with unfamiliar faces and styles if he is to take your art to the next level. Yes, we are all training to cripple, maim or kill. But we need safe places to test out the few skills we can if those skills are to be reliable when we need them.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.