Why Karate Training is Not Good Training

A number of years ago, I joined a local Wing Chun class as a beginner. These were the days before IAOMAS, when I wanted to mix it up a little ... and try to understand where other systems were coming from. So saw a flyer advertising classes in a shopping centre close to my house, and thought to rock up to this class. If you know me, I'm really chilled, and I don't want to draw attention to myself. But just with the knuckles thing ... the guy immediately knew I had trained in either a Karate or Taekwondo system.

So it was that every time he'd work with me - he'd end up saying demeaning stuff about hard style training to the entire class. Be it Taekwondo or Karate, he'd be opining how bad that training was, and of course how good his Wing Chun really is.

The main theme of his rants was about how scenario-based Karate is -- now when I say Karate, this was a term said toward my general vicinity because I didn't really tell him what I trained in. According to him, Karate needs you to face a certain kind of situation, and then your prescriptive training would allow you to then deal it. It was tiresome and annoying listening to this guy's tirade - what a loser. What's worse is ... he was correct about some things: to be allocated a scenario and then to be offered an application in response to it is a very limiting way of training.

It's not that I don't use this method of training myself, but I don't limit myself to using this as my one defacto method of teaching or training. There comes a time when that student needs to move on from basic prescriptive type training, to learn to play and vary technique, to look for options, to modify based on the nature of the attack, and when that time comes, you need that student to be able to plug and play with his skills in order to do what needs to be done.

Read the preamble I wrote for FaceBook video I uploaded. The above sequence started with a leap into a backfist similar to what you have in Yulgok. The difference in Bassai is that there's a flat open palm guarding block placed vertically on the attacking forearm. We were playing with this move to deflect and brush the oncoming weapon both inside and outside the striking tool.

The sequence proceeds to draw from another part of the form, and we then do a leg takedown both from the front and from the side. This means we can throw the opponent from approaching him face on, or reach out and throw him if he turns even up to 180 degrees to face the other way. The crux of the video is my student asking what to do if the throw fails.

This is an unscripted part of the class. I did not 'figure out' what I wanted to do before class. I was putting the technique through its paces, and I was doing what came natural to counter the counter. Much of what I am doing is not innovating anything. We are drawing skill from our library of techniques, and the subsequent moves show how far away from the initial application I've gone YET how well I am honouring our practice of Traditional Taekwondo.

Last word from the person who was roundly criticized ... I am very open to criticism. To a fault, actually. I hardly take offence because criticism is an opportunity to look at what we do and to improve. But for the love of all things sacred ... take time to understand what exactly we do before criticising, why don't you? At least get me for what I truly am, rather than for what you think our white belt program is all about.

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