What belt are you? Does it really matter? No. Ranking systems do have a purpose. It's like moving through grades in schools. Based on your level in the curriculum of your style, you receive a rank. Karate borrowed it's uniforms and belt colors from Judo. When Funakoshi brought Shotokan from Okinawa to Japan, he was sponsored by Kano (founder of Judo). Combat sports like boxing and kickboxing don't have belts systems. You are a novice in boxing when you start. After 10 bouts, you start competing in the open division where for your 15th fight you might fight an opponent who has 30 fights. So, you go through the learning curve and hone your skills. I'm not saying that belts are stupid and should be done away with. I want people to train for the sake of training and not focus on belts and focus on developing skills. I've taken kids to tournaments who were green and under and they've competed against kids who had black belt ranking (I mentioned in an earlier post that kids can't be black belts for real until 18 years old!). The difference in rank did not show when they fought. It might show in kata (forms) where the higher ranking student has learned more kata for their rank. But fighting comes down to mastering fundamentals and being willing to duke it out. That has nothing to do with rank. My idea of a black belt is being able to apply techniques under pressure. What I like about the knockdown style of karate (shidokan, kyokushin, etc.) is that they emphasize fighting whereas a lot of martial arts dwell in theory. So, we need to change the perception of belts. The black belt factories came about because of commercialism. Most can't defend themselves or fight their way out of a wet paper bag.
In todays martial arts world, students are drawn to fancy techniques over the basics. In many sports, young athletes emulate theirs sports idols. The try to box like Ali, they try to play basketball like Jordan, etc. But they don't have their basics down. In martial arts, we want to do the flying armbars, the 360 degree round kick, etc. All those are cool moves, but you have to be able to apply the basics because you can always count on them over the flashy stuff. At seminars, I have seen instructors give novelty techniques to attendees. If they would go and see those instructors fight clips, they will see that many of them never do what they teach. The use the basics and when they're done the become like theorists and entertain their audience because they know people get bored. So, master your basics first before you show off.
I was talking to a guy the other day and he told me about one of his instructors who created his own style and had the ability to breaking boards with the vibrating palm technique. He also say that no one could hit this guy as his defense was impenetrable. Now, if someone had the ability to touch something and do damage, don't you think that every pro fighter in the world would be paying top dollar to learn from this guy. Would the Military and all government agencies be hiring these instructors? Now for the disciples of these guys to say that they would keep it secret and not share, for the simple fact that they showed you, it's not secret. If one had that type of ability, they would keep it secret (like a superhero). Or if some instructor had that ability they would be making tons of money training boxers. I'm sure Floyd Mayweather could afford him. In looking at the Kata Bunkai experts, showing all of these hidden meanings and techniques that you can't practice on people without injury. A lot of the bunkai (explanation) we see today were mysteriously found as MMA became popular. There are grappling applications of the Kata and what not. There are some many theories as to what the originators intended when the created them. It's OK to theorize what this and that means, but it doesn't matter if you don't spar or fight. Most of the techniques I personally use when I fight, aren't in any of the katas anyway (feints, footwork, timing, spin back kick, etc.). Techniques that are valid in Kata are open hand strikes (knife hand, spear hand thrusts, knee stomps). There are straight forward and obvious. But using the double knifehand block as a throw, not likely. A lot of what we do in martial arts is part of the culture (counting in Japanese or Korean, wear uniforms, lining up by rank, bowing, etc.). Yes, we practice and appreciate these cultural traditions, but some of us take it to the extreme. Having been a competitor for most of my life, it's funny to me (especially in the Traditional Korean styles), when instructors are referred to as Master and Grandmaster. They have high ranks and lots of stripes on their belt, but their skills can't be verified. In styles that emphasize competition (judo, BJJ, full contact karate, etc.), rank is not as big a deal because most of the instructors have gotten in the ring, cage or mat. So, they've earned respect.
Martial Arts, The Perfect WorkoutSo, you want to develop strength, explosive power, flexibility, agility, focus, reflex, reaction, and focus. Some people will go to different classes during the week to get these. Weight room for strength, crossfit for explosive power, yoga and pilates for flexibility, spin for cardio and a slew of others. For me, I have the martial arts to get all of those areas. I hit things for explosivness, cardio, and power. I grapple for strength. Boxing and kickboxing develops agility, reflex, reaction, focus. So, when people ask me what I do for exercise, mine allow me to use my body and others in a way other types of training cannot. It's been working for 40 years.
The fear of losing is prevalent in most things the require people to compete. In sport some just won't play because they are afraid to lose. Well it's a 50/50 chance of winning and losing and somebody has to do one or the other. If you can win, why can't you lose? Or better yet, can't you lose even when you win or win when you lose? Believe it or not, a win can feel like a lose and vice versa. How about you train and prepare as best you can, go out and lay it on the line, and whatever happens, happens. We must rethink this thing called "losing" and understand that it's a label those who don't ever try and do anything like to call you if you don't win. Remember you compete in something because you enjoy it. Always go for the win of course and do your best and always believe that you are a winner. If you lose, dust yourself off and try it again.
I have a few throws that I like to use in fights. Kosoto Gari (minor outer reap), Osoto Gari (major inner reap), Ouchi Gari (major inner reap), Kouchi Gari (minor inner reap. They require little effort, they are effective and you lose nothing if you don't get them. You can go right back to striking (i.e. knees). I if I miss a double leg shot, I'm in bad position. With these trhows I will ususally end up on top. Here's a clip with me using Kouchi, Ouchi and Osoto in one bout. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31UwXmNf1LE
How does one become proficient at doing something? Should you drill or perform the activity real time. For me personally, I prefer to just do it. When I played soccer as a youth, we would scrimmage to prepare for the game. When I boxed,sparring was the main method of preparation (same for kickboxing, judo, etc.). I never really did a lot of drills because I felt that after a certain point they created a pattern to how one moves and reacts. I always wanted to be adaptable, so I would just do. This may not work for all, but it is my believe. I want to be like water and be adaptable.
One of the key components to fighting is being able to take it as well as dish it out. In looking at martial arts, there is always a lot of theory and discussion about what works and what doesn't. All you need to do is spar and compete and you will find out. You can find footage of real fights (street and ring) and see techniques applied (legal and illegal in sport). If you fight you will feel pain and see who you respond to it. This is inevitable and necessary. I see guys talk about what they think will stop an opponent but they've never used their theoritical techniques in reality.
In listening to different fighters talk, I see many turning down fight opportunities because they don't think they're ready. They want to avoid the top fighters in their weight class because the time is not right. A trainer once said, "If a new fighter walks into his gym and doesn't believe he will be champion from day one, then he never will". Of course everyone can't attain the top spot, but I think that if you want to be a fighter you have develop that mindset of taking on all comers. Test yourself against top opposition. If you lose, you know where you stand. You can evaluate what you are capable of and go from their. You can possibly win against your perception of another. We see upsets in all sports. No matter what, be a winner in your mind.
Jumping rope is something I do almost everyday. After injuries to both knees, I skip instead of run (occassionally I will run some hills or find a grassy area to jog). I will skip in rounds or keep moving for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. I mix it in, double unders, squat jumps, high knees, etc. and move around the gym (adding some footwork in). Here's a great clip of JT Van getting down with the rope showing how boxers use them.
World Champion Richard Trammell shares his experiences, views and thoughts on fitness, martial arts and fighting.