The main element to my research project, as part of my 2nd dan grading, is to compare and contrast 5 “hard” and 5 “soft” styles of martial arts – looking at their key underlying principles and methods of power generation and also looking at how these different styles encourage and develop effective techniques.
(Admin’s Note:- As part of the Black Belt grading requirements in 2013, candidates will have to complete and publish a given research project where they have to justify and prove all conclusions that they arrive at.
The aim of this is to challenge the individual on a personal basis to broaden and deepen their knowledge base over a longer period of time and ultimately with the goal to significantly improve their physical and non-physical skills.)
At first glance this looked fairly simple and easy to organise but after a quick scout round the web I realised it was more of a Tardis-like question, or one of those children’s joke snake- in-a-jar – it looks small and simple outside but somehow there is a HUGE amount contained within! Even the question of what counts as a hard or soft martial art is open to interpretation and there does not seem to be a handy black and white list of what fits what category. It is sometimes down to personal interpretation; how the particular Martial Art is carried out by each practitioner; or if, over time, the style has adopted a variety of techniques rather than being a “pure” single style.
My plan is to research these martial arts in a couple of different ways. Obviously the great god google will provide an easy way to look at the different styles – I’d look at personal, dedicated sites rather than something generic like Wikipedia. There are a lot of blog style sites where senseis and teachers have written ideas so they will be a useful resource. If possible I would love to visit a lesson of each style although for dull practical reasons – training 2 or 3 nights a week, doing 4 gym runs with my children other nights, a travelling husband etc I will not guarantee I can do this for each of the 10. It would also be lovely to “interview” senseis from these different styles to get a personal view on how they interpret their particular martial art.
It is quite hard to “prove” this research as it is such a subjective issue – how one person carries out their martial art, their reasons for choosing a particular style and how they apply any principles taught will vary for everyone. At this stage I am open to see how any “results” prove or disprove anything – I suspect it will be on the majority thinking and also looking at the historic principles of the style – rather than from one person way down the food chain who trains in it.
My plan is to look at these disciplines one at a time – and in doing so will discover their underlying principles and also find out any areas where there is common ground and also where they differ. It would be a huge undertaking to report on all 10 in one go – I think it will be more of a “build up the collection” type project – where each report adds on a new style to look at but will also refer back to previous styles and will compare and contrast. As the project moves forwards more styles will be added and by reading them as a whole it will be able to see where they overlap and where they differ.
My chosen disciplines are –
Soft: (from) judo, ju jitsu, aikido ,tai chi, hapkido, wing chun
Hard: TKD, kendo, boxing, muay thai, bajiquan (though these may change this is my intention now!)
I felt “kung fu” and “karate” were too woolly titles and were often umbrella terms encompassing many styles or branches and also it was interesting to explore unknown styles. Judo is the exception – I have taken part in this for a couple of years now!
Extra topics to also research are to look at the validity of Tai Chi as a fighting martial art and this is an area I admit I know very little about and, for personal, preconceived ideas, have tended to write it off as “floaty” relaxation techniques rather than practical. As I have progressed in my own training I have started to see how it can be used as part of a martial art – but have yet to understand it as a stand alone martial art so watch this space…
Another area to look at is what martial artists can learn from yoga and meditation. This is the area I will struggle with most – on two levels. The first is that I know very little about either, and have never practised or felt the need to practise either. I see Yoga as a stand-alone exercise programme – good for flexibility and core stability but this is not the only way to achieve these ends. Due to my background growing up in a Christian family I have an embedded belief not to practice meditation or yoga in the sense of “emptying the mind” as this is not a practise endorsed by the Christian faith and also because it has its roots in Buddhism and Hinduism and other non-Christian beliefs. As such, I am happy to research the benefits etc but will not be actively taking part. Again, I am open to learning new ideas and will see where this path takes me. I am not against focus, concentration or visualisation which are elements of meditation but not completely emptying, or focussing on other gods for example.
The final area is about what we can learn from modern sports training methods for speed and relaxation. From this I am defining “modern” as utilising new technology or new ideas – obviously getting speed out of runners’ blocks for examples is a practise that has been around for years. This will probably involve a bit of stumbling round in the dark as I am not even sure of a starting point so will hope to find a way in. The focus will probably be on technological advances and better understanding of the make-up of the body – from blood types and even genetics.
Between now and December I will endeavour to write up a report on each of my 10 styles (2 at a time)– hopefully each will build on the previous one and ultimately there will be links throughout the threads as well as elements discrete to each.
The Tai Chi; Yoga and meditation; and Modern sports will all be separate articles, presenting my findings and how they can be applied.
The class at the end…will absolutely depend on what happens between now and then.