Monday: Hijiate & Self Defence
Tuesday: Tenshinage & Sword
Wednesday: Nikkajo & Ukemi
Thursday: Kotegaeshi & Dynamic
Friday: Shihonage & Jo
Saturday Shomen Iriminage & Tanto
Style Vs Style Pt. 1
Martial arts has always had a very broad meaning. Martial arts may refer to karate, aikido, judo, ju jitsu, kung fu, tai chi, tae kwon do, hapkido, kendo — in fact, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of styles of martial arts. Some are well-developed, well known styles taught in schools internationally, while many styles are indigenous to a specific rural village, taught and practiced only there for centuries and unknown to the rest of the world. Some arts specialize in kicking, while other focus on hand strikes and trapping. Some are throwing arts and others grapple — concentrating primarily on ground fighting. Although these styles and systems vary in origin — coming from China, Okinawa, Japan, Korea, as well as from other countries throughout Asia and elsewhere — they all teach martial technique, either empty handed or with a weapon.
Only a small number of these styles have successfully migrated to America, and only a fraction of those have come to the general public’s awareness. A particular style gains popularity almost exclusively through the media — specifically movies and TV — quickly gains a small following and grows in popularity only when it is successfully marketed or championed by a Hollywood star or professional athlete.
The popularity of martial arts in the West over the past 50 years has its roots in the experiences of military servicemen returning to the U.S. at the end of the Korean War in the early 1950’s. Exposed for the first time to traditional Asian forms of empty-handed fighting and self-defence, these combat-trained soldiers were as fascinated by its efficiency and effectiveness as they were by its grace. Returning servicemen were among the first westerners in the U.S. to open martial arts schools.
The relative popularity of various martial arts styles has risen and fallen with the times. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the Judo craze mesmerized audiences with throws and locks. By the late 1960s and 70s, we saw the rise of Karate, a powerful striking art, and Kung Fu, popularized by Bruce Lee and, later, by the American TV series of the same name. Hundreds of thousands of students throughout the U.S. flocked to dojos to learn these mysterious new fighting arts. Words like ninja and sensei entered the general English vocabulary.
In the 1980s, a Korean art – Tae Kwon Do — burst upon the scene. One master was asked, “How did Tae Kwon Do become so popular?” His reply? “If I break a brick with my hand, it looks good, but if I throw a brick in the air and break it with a kick – that looks more impressive. Americans want to be able to defend themselves, but they also want to look good doing it.” Martial arts-inspired fight scenes became more and more prevalent in mainstream Hollywood movies. A whole generation of kids grew up watching the animated TV show, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In the 1990s, the popularity of Brazilian Ju Jitsu coincided with the introduction of Ultimate Fighting, a contest that claimed to settle the age-old question, “Which martial art is the best?” Ultimate Fighting promised to end speculation, conjecture and arguments; it would all be settled in a cage. And, after winning match after match, Brazilian Ju Jitsu, as practiced by the Gracie family, consistently came out on top, appearing to be the style to beat. Ten years later, Ultimate Fighting has become an international sport, watched by millions around the world. Top competitors train hard, and Brazilian Ju Jitsu is just one successful style among many. Today, there are as many knock-outs as tap-outs. Grapplers are punching and strikers are grappling. It can be said that the lasting legacy of the Gracie family was to make the martial arts world address the issue of what to do when you are taken to the ground. Ultimate Fighting has become much less a contest of style vs. style, and much more a test of one particular fighter’s ability vs. another’s.
Given this history, it is easy to understand that people who have never studied martial arts see the entire practice as fighting. It’s only natural. Martial arts were introduced to the West in general and to the U.S. in particular by former soldiers who viewed the art as an effective mean of self-defence. And, if you view these as fighting arts, then it’s no surprise that the question arises, “If one style fought another, which would win?”
If you think about it, you’ll see that the question itself is beside the point. All authentic styles and systems teach self-defence skills necessary to take a confrontational situation under control or allow you to defend yourself if attacked. But people are rarely attacked in everyday life by professional fighters, or by trained martial artists. Most attacks are perpetrated by a punk or thug with a quick temper, often under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. So, which style is the most effective? From a self-defence perspective, virtually all authentic styles will work.
Part 2 next week.
“Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.“
Sensei Matt Thurman – Aikido Nottingham