Black Belt Grading Project Briefing
The influence of different kinds of Soft Martial Arts and what we can learn and apply from them
a) The influence of different kinds of Soft Martial Arts and what we can learn and apply from them
b) Identify and demonstrate some different types of Pushing Hands and how we can use them training in a ‘hard style’
c) Chin Na and its importance and relevance to training
d) The relevance of pushing hands for self-defence purposes
e) The holistic nature of Martial Arts, its health benefits and how to undertake training to promote these benefits whilst minimising risk.
So I have to admit I was kind of expecting something like this as my black belt project. I had some feedback from my last grading that sometimes I tended to use too much strength or hard karate style and since then it has been something I have been very conscious of….but it can be challenging to do something about. Sometimes it’s very easy to get lost in a sparring duel with a partner and before you know it you are both whacking bits out of each other! I’ve also experienced picking up injuries as a result of the odd close encounter here or there, so another good incentive to listen to what you’re told and try to apply it. I also play the guitar which is sometimes difficult to do without the use of a finger or two…….
To be frank, the soft Karate styles we have so far learnt in class have also proved vexing for me to say the least (e.g. forms such as tai-kii, pushing hands etc). Sometimes you feel just when you are starting to make some progress and get the ‘feeling’ of how these techniques should be practiced they can suddenly seem completely out of reach, awkward and as if you are doing everything wrong. It’s almost as if getting this style right is a much a state of mind as anything physical, and can be very frustrating.
So lots of questions too……
– Are soft martial arts really of any use in a fighting situation?
– Is hard or soft style right either way or is it just matter of using each in the right time and place?
– Is hard style really the path to the dark side? (to almost quote a famous short green Jedi Master)
When you try Googling ‘soft’ karate you’ll also end up with a lot of results….. Goju Ryu, Aikido, Wing Chun, Wadu Ryu, Kung Fu and Tai Chi to name but a few. So how do you know what is right to practice? From the sea of information, opinions and styles what is the correct thing to focus on? The answer probably is that there isn’t a ‘right answer’, just a matter of what is good fit for me, my own style, size, strength and personality. So that I think in part is the journey I need to go on for the next 8 months to find out exactly that!
For the purposes of this project I plan to investigate the core principles, techniques and forms of a number of ‘soft’ Japanese and Chinese martial arts including but not limited to those listed above. Although this will very clearly result in a lot of information being unearthed, which one could spend a decade analysing in detail, I hope to be able to synthesis this research into 4 or 5 key principles or techniques that are common across some or all disciplines.
Specifically this will also cover;
– Key forms and their applications
– Pushing hands in both offensive and defensive applications
– Chin Na (which are techniques used to control/immobilise an opponent with locks)
Ultimately I hope to show how these soft karate techniques can help to improve speed, power generation, the ability to overcome opponents and finally the long term mental and physical health benefits vs hard style karate
Key for me personally will to be able to learn not just theory from books and people but to be able to demonstrate and importantly teach relevant techniques – I think this will be the best approach in terms of proving some of the theory. As a secondary objective, I’d really like to be able to teach members of the club something new and different that they may not have seen before and so improve everyone else’s understanding and skill in this area.
In terms of undertaking the research, demonstrating and proving key conclusions therefore my approach will be as follows;
– Discussions face to face with senior practitioners from those disciplines identified (where time allows, potentially lessons)
– On-line and published literature review/reading
– Practice and proving these techniques through testing and application with fellow members of the club (where there are willing victims!)
Over the course of the next 8 months I plan to provide a regular update on my research and conclusions in written/blog form (6 updates between March and November), plus a number short demonstrations during or at end of normal lessons. This will culminate in a 60 minute class which I will run during November/December.
The approximate timetable for this project will be as follows;
– March to June – core principles & techniques review (researching 1-2 martial arts disciplines per month)
– July to September– consolidate key focus areas based on research, focus on learning & practicing pushing hands & Chin-Na techniques and applications
– October to December – consolidate learnings, preparation for final write up & class