the other internal arts
December 19, 2006 9:47 AM   Subscribe

pa-kua was developed during the late 18th century and disseminated heavily during the Boxer rebellion; XingYi and Bagua are known for fluidity and ferocity. Some great sites, forums and some compulsory youtube links (2nd old man does bagua form) of masters and teachers of the art.
posted by sarcasman (79 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
obligatory poetic tangent:
"She moved in circles and those circles moved."
posted by sarcasman at 9:50 AM on December 19, 2006

If those youtube links don't work try these:
posted by sarcasman at 9:53 AM on December 19, 2006

why the fuck href isnt working and adds mefi url before each link?
ok ok; should have been:

now see what link button does.. amazing ->will now hold head in shame.
posted by sarcasman at 10:04 AM on December 19, 2006

Pity about the links.

Some interesting stuff in there.

I find the Chinese arts particularly beautiful to watch. Pa-kua very much so. I find far more interesting than say Wing Chun.

There is great subtlety in there. But I have never found them particularly useful in fighting application... at least nobody I ever fought. Which admittedly is a small sample of only a couple dozen or so.

But the modality of movement is quite interesting and the methods of power generation fascinating and impressive- if a bit unpractical out of the abstract.

I once sparred a Tai Chi Push Hands instructor that could really generate a great deal of bang in short space (though he was also a Golden Gloves). The problem was the need for an idealized space and posture that once, as an opponent, you recognize where he was getting his power, was easy to disrupt with very basic boxing skills.

I have always wondered if there was a way to incorporate at least some of that stuff with the western sport fighting I do. The problem agais is the idealized posture and amount of time needed to get the fascia trained. Not practical for fighting IMHO.

I find this claim “The Chinese Internal Method for Superior Health and Devastating Self-Defense” to be typical martial arts hyperbole and it’s frustrating, no matter the style, to run across those kinds of claims. Though the “superior health” thing is undoubtedly true. I think the Asian systems would do best to concentrate on improving Health rather than making Self Defense or claims about fighting that they really do not intend to support.

Anyway. Thanks.
posted by tkchrist at 10:21 AM on December 19, 2006

All right, I give up. Why use both spellings of bagua in your post?
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 10:25 AM on December 19, 2006

UrineSoakedRube ...

One is practiced in Peking and the other in Beijing.

posted by RavinDave at 10:41 AM on December 19, 2006

go to the second row from the bottom the third (last) video in the row. It's described as "Master Liao performing Monkey Boxing. He said he was in his early 70's" If that guy is in his early 70's... then... HOLY FUCKING SHIT. Sign me up. Yeah. I still think it's not fighting. But damn. I couldn't do that shit NOW. Why I think laying claim to health benefits is better than talking about martial applicability.

Watch it.
posted by tkchrist at 10:42 AM on December 19, 2006

Some background on the Quanzhen school of Daoism, that Dong Haichuan (董海川) belonged to. he's the man usually credited with inventing bagua.

I thought the post worked fine as way of showing that the same art is referred to using different spellings, UrineSoakedRube. I could be a pedant too and ask why you omitted the tone marks from the romanisation you used ;)
posted by Abiezer at 10:57 AM on December 19, 2006

pakua and bagua are used almost interchangably.

tkchrist: I know youve studied mostly bjj or mma and have stressed "alive training" which I fully agree with. But to address your skepticism on bagua fighting, you must not have met the right people. My former teacher was a vietnam navy seal vet who did assasinations and was a bad ass street fighter (so many stories from others) and his students fought all over chicago with notorious results. His style was very technique oriented, the same with my current teacher. This art was designed and (should be) taught with heavy emphasis on actual fighting. I recommend Novel Bell in nyc or several teachers in chicago who are no joke at fighting. Tai chi has given a bad name to internal arts, whose use of yielding is only one part of a very effective system. For your own art I highly recommend finding a decent teacher. Park Bok Nam's school is also good about practical technique (his teacher killed many many japanese soldiers during wwII and had a large bounty on his head) that has many schools around the country.

And yes the old folk practicing the art can really move. Ling Ziming in the 2nd youtube vid is 90 years old in that one.
posted by sarcasman at 10:57 AM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist.. make that "good teacher" in bagua... or xingyi. From your posts I'm sure you've had some decent teachers.
posted by sarcasman at 10:59 AM on December 19, 2006

sarcasman> pakua and bagua are used almost interchangably.

Okay, I'm pretty sure that this is wrong. Pakua and Bagua are completely interchangable; they are the Wade-Giles and Pinyin transliterations of "eight trigrams" in Chinese. I have never heard anyone argue that the two are in any way different, unlike xinyi and xingyi, which are related but not exactly the same martial art.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 11:15 AM on December 19, 2006


I am aware of Wade-Giles vs Pinyin conventions. Fine. I concede. My current teacher, who studied for years in china and is somewhat fluent, never uses any chinese terminology, because such pedantic formality really obscures real knowledge. I should have simply said 8 trigrams, 8 palm diagram, or 8 palms, or circle palms. Here we can use Feynman when he said, "knowing the name of something is exactly the same as knowing nothing about it."
posted by sarcasman at 11:31 AM on December 19, 2006


I've seen that arguement from MMA/BJJ fighters on several occasions, but I've always seen those same fighters completely blown away once they challenge someone trained in a traditional martial art (Choi Li Fut in my case) who has also trained in eastern grappling, like Chin Na.

East vs. West doesn't matter. Training across styles seems to be the trick.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:37 AM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist: Though the “superior health” thing is undoubtedly true.

Actually, my biggest problem with the Chinese arts is the significant religious and cultural baggage attached to them, usually presented as a sine qua non for serious students. The cache of Taoism can include everything from numerology and unproved traditional medicines, to extreme superstitions like energy projection and divination. Like some schools of Yoga, it's ideal for a teacher who wants to exercise cult-like control over students, charge extra for "energy projection" retreats and the like, and otherwise cash in on cultural fetishism.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:37 AM on December 19, 2006

That is to say, they're quite good as fighting systems. My problem is with *everything else* they are, or profess to be.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:40 AM on December 19, 2006

I would stress not only training but the teacher as well. i've gone through many teachers but only had 3 very good ones, who knew technique, could fight, and knew how to teach without ANY energy/divination/unknown bs language. Just straight forward focus on structure, movement and application, in squalid inner city basements no less. I think tkchrist at least knows what decent martial art looks like, but hasn't seen an 'eastern' style fighter that was decent. I've been lucky enough to spar with some badassss fighters from many styles who whooped my ass, but from whom I learned a ton. In the end it is personality, training and the teacher. And these go far beyond fighting... into discipline, character and way of life. I've prevented some seriously fucked up situations (guns included) by using the discipline and patience of martial arts much more than the brutal techniques.
posted by sarcasman at 11:44 AM on December 19, 2006

Always tough separating the wheat from the chaff. Meditation has helped focus my technique and develop my chi. But say “chi” to someone and you get either the “chi is total b.s.” or “you can flip a car with your chi” perspectives as opposed to a more integrate the mind with the body and visualize performance sorta thing. And always too much talk. One nice thing about close combat in the military is the discipline you don’t get from civilian students. On the other hand, how does one score a student’s meditation? There are some valid techniques to draw from internal arts, but no real way to empirically demonstrate (and thus grade) the knowlege so you have to go on the instructors subjective - however excellent - word. So it leaves a lot of this open to abuse (e.g. the guy making students get guns for him, being investigated by the Amazing Randi, etc.). And a lot of students don’t want to just do the work - perhaps unexpectedly hard work - of meditating and following their own development. Hence the stress on all the external and physical techniques. Although gymnasts use a good deal of visualization, and someone is paying all those sport psychologists to get into the zone, so it can’t be impossible to remove the dross from the internal arts environment.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:49 AM on December 19, 2006

Smedleyman, I think much of that "work" you mention comes (in our class) from stances, which we hold for sometimes 10minutes, sometimes an hour, and also from chi-gong exercises which do cultivate "chi" or energy or circulation, whichever the word. It's not so tough separating when you see results over time. Discipline is its own reward.

As for "my martial art is better than yours," I'm sure that's as old as martial art itself. But almost every art has skilled practicioners. When I encounter new people from different arts (in our class it's maybe once a month) I always listen and try to learn what i can, since there's probably some gem worth learning and at least i can know what they're thinking in a fight.

Ironically bagua has a story along these lines, of Dong Haichuan (originator of bagua) sparring with the Xingyi originator for 3 days, finally coming out victorious. But the result was that both agreed always to teach elements of the other's art in their own.

My first teacher, the vet, had black belts in karate, jujitzu, and judo, and loved BJJ's grapling, but loved bagua the most (which has no belts). So he taught whatever worked within one system's principles. color your world people.
posted by sarcasman at 11:58 AM on December 19, 2006

sarcasman> Urinesoaked..:

I am aware of Wade-Giles vs Pinyin conventions. Fine. I concede.

Well, you try to give someone a chance to correct himself gracefully, and this is what happens.

Let's look at your post. You wrote: "pa-kua was developed during the late 18th century and disseminated heavily during the Boxer rebellion; XingYi and Bagua are known for fluidity and ferocity."

Now, would anyone who read this post realize that pakua and bagua are the same exact thing? No, they'd assume from your sentence structure (or the "pedantic formality" of sentence structure, if you prefer) that they are different martial arts, or if he had followed the links, closely related martial arts. And of course, stating that the two words are used "almost" interchangeably raises the question of what the functional difference is between the two, and as far as I'm aware (and as you later concede), there is none.

sarcasman> Here we can use Feynman when he said, "knowing the name of something is exactly the same as knowing nothing about it."

Of course -- that's why Feynman never used terms such as mass, force, or energy, because knowing those terms would have displayed his complete ignorance of the basics of physics. When I went to graduate school in physics, we just made up terms every time we had a discussion or lecture. Not a day went by without hearing someone say something like "What do I mean by 'floogle'? It's often used interchangeably with the word 'force'. Of course, if you want to be pedantic about it, they're the same exact thing. The fact that you're getting so hung up on it means that you know nothing about physics."
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 12:12 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

USR, I take our point and honestly meant no ill will in my response, merely to remark on a very bagua principle that words more often get in the way, whereas in this art knowing implies knowing in the movement, in the body, in the natural reaction in combat.

My intention for this thread was to discuss an art I have devoted a decade of my life to and which goes under the radar of most people interested in martial arts.

Fist to palm, bow.
posted by sarcasman at 12:29 PM on December 19, 2006

True practitioners of these arts would not be confrontational like this. What good are your fighting arts when you keep getting in fights? Aren't these lessons supposed to affect your life outside the octagon too?
posted by Dantien at 12:29 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I know youve studied mostly bjj or mma and have stressed "alive training" which I fully agree with. But to address your skepticism on bagua fighting, you must not have met the right people. My former teacher was a vietnam navy seal vet who did assasinations and was a bad ass street fighter (so many stories from others) and his students fought all over chicago with notorious results.

No knock to you or your teacher. My background is mostly boxing and old school karate, actually.

I have been dabbling in BJJ (I thought I was a competent beginner in BJJ until I went to Vale Tudo last night and got my ass KICKED) and turns out I was doing MMA before there WAS MMA. But. Yes. I like the sport methodolgy best right now.

Everybody tells me "you need to fight ____" And yeah, ok. 90% of everything is crap and maybe I do have to get the right Internal instructor.

But. Ahhh-mmmm. How do I say this without offending anybody? It's NOT what I DON'T know about traditional Chinese arts that is the problem. Though that could fill a couple of encyclopedias - my ignorance there is astounding. It's what I DO know about fighting in general that's the problem. Not that I am the end all be all by any stretch. The postures and movement in real hard free fighting just don't support the idealized CMA approach very well.

For instance in most of those clips look at the feeders strikes. They are looping, wide arch, AND straight arm strikes. Yes, I know this is merely a training modality teaching a concept. But it's odd that the defensive posture concepts taught in CMA don't align with how they seem to want to be offensively. Hard to explain.

For power they stress alignment, ground - and the contraction of fascia. And - it DOES work. I have felt those punches. But it is idealized and the it's hard to generate the same kind of power out of idealized posture. In the free movement phase of fighting between trained equals CMA starts to come apart without adaptation.

My BIG problem is defensive posture. The chin is up. The shoulders are down. The feet are flat. The legs are exposed to leg kicks and easy takedowns.

Now that is "Sport fighting" perspective, true. But taken in Self Defense - I HATE the entire notion but they brought it up - against a larger game opponent throwing windmills and haymakers defending with the CMA posture you will fight a retreating battle. From what I see there in these videos and what I have experienced there is a 70-90%, if your not the guy throwing the first hard punch, your going down with a larger game foe.

What I do like are the health benefits. No. I dont believe in Chi as is the pop idea of it anyway.

But look at those old dudes move. Ok. I have seen fighting my whole life... and those guys CAN move. Not sure they can fight. My instinct says not it my paradigm. But so what. Look at how they move and if I could do that NOW I'd be happy. so there is obviously something to the health aspects of the practice. No matter what mystic label you put on it. The shit obviously works for keeping old people fit. Where as what I do will NOT... my joints are a fucking mess from fighting. In fact I have been out for over month with injuries that are not healing. And why I got may ass kicked last night when I went back for the first time.

Alive training is great. But you only have so much ass to spend in this life. Use it carefully. I think there is happy medium between the two types of training. And I'd love to find it.

So. Being tough guy doesn't mean much if at fifty you have to use a goddamned walker. I rather prance around like giddy idiot doing Monkey Boxing at seventy than hobble around talking about how tough I was at thirty. Tai Chi is starting to look really good to me now.

Funny coming from me, huh?

Like I have said for a long time. The BEST Self defense is protecting your self from the most common type of enemy you are likely to face: Heart disease, old age, boredom. Ninja's rate maybe like forty on the list.
posted by tkchrist at 12:32 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

“I think much of that "work" you mention comes (in our class) from stances”

What I mean is it’s hard to see the results of meditation and so many students don’t take it seriously. Or fall into the trap of taking metaphors too seriously.
But the whole “my martial art is better than yours” thing exists only among folks who don’t really practice. I’m not one of those instructors who sits on a pad and makes grave pronouncements. Technique is in action, not theory. It requires constant refinement to maintain an edge. (F’rinstance I floogled the zorch out of this smert the other day). So it’s dependent on the student, not the art. And some prodigy could floogle the stuffing out of me with, say, Tae Kwan Do, it doesn’t mean it’s the form for me (good for flexibility though).
posted by Smedleyman at 12:34 PM on December 19, 2006

kalessin: Definitely a buyer-beware type of pursuit, and I hate to see people get taken advantage of, but there's also not cause to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are some truths in there that I think are valuable, despite the inherent risk.

In general I'm all for people making their own informed decisions, but one point where I'd strongly disagree is when a school starts making medical claims. If, for example, I claimed that Ba Gua or Tai Chi or acupuncture could in any way treat cancer, I'd better have empirical evidence well beyond studies published by the Chinese government. Otherwise, I'm courting fraud, and taking advantage of the desperately ill. FYI, I've heard such claims made many times, couched in weasel language, of course, and about more diseases than just cancer.

And when I hear these sorts of claims, it's often on the heels of a misleading distinction between "Western Medicine" and "Eastern Medicine," a distinction that boils down to claiming that, when proving a medical treatment, true alternatives exist to the scientific method. But there is no second science, no special law of cause-and-effect that exists in the Occidental world but not in the Oriental. If a treatment has been vetted by the scientific method, it's medicine. If not, it is not medicine. This has nothing to do with some East vs. West dialectic.

Please understand that I'm not talking about you or your school - it sounds like you've come to a healthy understanding of the arts, and in a healthy environment This goes for others in the thread as well.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:34 PM on December 19, 2006

I think also that (and this is mostly from observation - I never got skilled enough or interested enough in sparring to learn it through experience) an individual's skill/talent at martial arts can vastly outweigh any specific system's advantages/disadvantages.

yeah. There are guys that could study Flower Arranging and STILL kick your ass.

There are finite ways to bring the average guy up to workable/performable fighting shape. Depending on the attributes of the person.

My upstairs neighbor got bashed a ways back. He asked me to show him some stuff. I said sure. If you commit to two days a week for three months with me and at least one or two practicing the basics on your own. And you need to do some kind of cardio on top of that.

First you need to get into some kind of physical condition so you can then simply learn and not be distracted by your body. Also you need to be in shape so you learn balance, posture, and relaxation while under stress. Then after all that you learn the various phases of fighting a couple of techniques for each phase that you hone over and over under progressive levels of speed, pressure, and stress. From here there are maybe four simple gross motor concepts to learn in each phases of fighting. That and targeting. And then it's up to the individual to develop the will and ability to trigger aggression. The HARDEST thing to teach. Indeed if it can be taught at all.

The most important part are the first two things. Getting in shape and learning relaxation, posture, balance, while under stress. Some people are BORN with those first abilities. And thus they can learn faster. And then they may have unusual levels of aggression. And you have a fighter.
posted by tkchrist at 12:46 PM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist. i guess from one of your posts that talked heavy about bjj I assumed that was one of your arts. I take many many of your points about hard style fighting's effectiveness in self defense. No offense taken at all, since I've seen a lot of tai chi players who cant fight at all, and because i've seen bagua and xingyi students who could absolutely fight, in real situations. This is the south side. but to address your mentioning the health benefits, this should also not be understated.

I pulled my knee out of socket and -having american style NO health insurance- recuperated it using bagua and tai chi training to the point where it is much stronger than before the injury (this was 6 years ago).

The flexibility, stealth and relaxation in movement saves the joints and adds to fighting ability. There is also a matter of connection in internal arts that adds power and helps keep the body from damage. The key is in strengthening larger muscles and utilizing proper alignment which allows even very old men to move fluidly.

As for fighting effectiveness, I can't make you see what I've seen and I hold greater respect for your opinion based on experience rather than belief in what some guy says on the internets. Still, I encourage you to explore this art.
posted by sarcasman at 12:59 PM on December 19, 2006

Fist to palm, bow.

There's no emoticon for this?!
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:03 PM on December 19, 2006

sarcasman> USR, I take our point and honestly meant no ill will in my response, merely to remark on a very bagua principle that words more often get in the way, whereas in this art knowing implies knowing in the movement, in the body, in the natural reaction in combat.

My intention for this thread was to discuss an art I have devoted a decade of my life to and which goes under the radar of most people interested in martial arts.

Fist to palm, bow.

Okay, it's pretty clear to me that I misread the point of the Feynman quote in your post. I'm sorry about my snarky remark -- but then again, if your handle is "sarcasman", you've got to expect to be on the receiving end of some snark now and again.

I will say that although these distinctions aren't important to you, given your obvious familiarity and skill with the art, we're having this discussion on Metafilter, not rec.arts.martial, and we should make terminology clear for the uninitiated. If someone wants to follow up by reading books or watching videos or seeking a teacher, he or she should be made aware that bagua and pakua are the same thing.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 1:06 PM on December 19, 2006

I don't want to get into this arguement, but anyone who takes forms too seriously is making the first mistake of a student.

The most skilled martial artists have one fighting stance. Which is whatever stance they are in when the fight starts.
posted by daq at 1:09 PM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist. i guess from one of your posts that talked heavy about bjj I assumed that was one of your arts.

I was enthusuastic about it because I thought, after four years training, I was getting good.

But now I know I SUCK SUCK SUCK.

I used to trade Boxing lessons for BJJ lessons. My BJJ coach, and friend, (Machado/Will/Meyers BJJ Black Belt) Brian Johnson is 5' 8" and maybe 150lbs soaking wet. I was tipping the scales (when I lifted like a mad man) at an in shape 200lbs and I'm 6ft. So yeah. I was impressed when this little cat owned me like I was bratty six year old late for school. And one of his 110lb girls choked me unconscious. You just dont see that kind of clear dominance in stand up or striking arts. As a result I was talking BJJ up after all that.

PS. BJJ is MUCH more gentle on the body that boxing. If you do it smart. I. Uh. Never did it smart.
posted by tkchrist at 1:12 PM on December 19, 2006

Purely anecdotal, but I recall hearing that a lot of the discovery process for meridians and acupuncture points developed out of battlefield injuries. People being hacked limb from limb, but certain wounds not causing debilitating pain. Then experimentation to discover precisely where those points were on an individual healthy body. Does anyone else have an idea where some of the acupuncture and chi meridian ideas may have arisen?
posted by bastionofsanity at 1:13 PM on December 19, 2006

i guess i included both pakua and bagua because the lit is fairly evenly divided using either of the two, but yes, a little line reading "also called" would have been clearer.

anyone who takes forms too seriously is making the first mistake of a student.
Very true, but an often necessary mistake as well. I met one capoeira teacher who has his students practice a style 8 years before they improvise and make it their own.

a great line on maps applies to forms and fighting: if the map doesn't agree with the territory, the map is wrong.
posted by sarcasman at 1:15 PM on December 19, 2006

I don't want to get into this arguement, but anyone who takes forms too seriously is making the first mistake of a student.

Oh. C'mon. Yes you DO want to get into this argument or you wouldn’t have posted.

And. You fight like you train. Period.
posted by tkchrist at 1:16 PM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist. I'm actually about to start learning BJJ in bloomington IN. any other pointers for the beginner to this art? what to look for in teachers? students? style?
posted by sarcasman at 1:20 PM on December 19, 2006

“recuperated it using bagua and tai chi training to the point where it is much stronger than before the injury”

That’s always been a great advantage of the internal arts, puts you in touch with your body. And it’s less new-age or leaf-eater than say Yoga so it’s more acceptable to macho types of students.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:25 PM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist, I'm assuming BJJ you are referring to is the mixed form "Ultimate Fighter" style Boxing/Judo/Jujitsu fighting style. Which is very aggresive and has a heavy reliance on rushing. The failure comes from it's reliance on going to ground in many instances where you are not well versed in what your opponent may or may not be able to do, plus are decisively closed in the focus of the attacker. The linear nature of the attacks are often described as "like a charging bull." To which the obvious analogy of matadors comes up.

posted by daq at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist. I'm actually about to start learning BJJ in bloomington IN. any other pointers for the beginner to this art? what to look for in teachers? students? style?

A good BJJ instructor will start you in a Gi. Everybody wants to go No Gi. CAGE FIGHTER! YEAH! Don't fall for that. A good instructor won't either. Most sessions should be in the Gi to start. That is how you will learn to move. If the school professes to be BJJ but MOST of the classes are no Gi. Don't go. Unless you want to do the smaller MMA ground game.

If anybody calls themselves a CAGE FIGHTER! YEAH! Personally, in my experience, they are poser dickheads. Avoid those guys. Most MMA guys are humble about it and see MMA as art unto itself. If you want to go that route to learn ground fighting you can. But it's harder to judge if your being ripped off or not unless you actually KNOW the coach has competed.

Make sure your instructor is at LEAST a purple in BJJ. Either a Machado or Gracie lineage. Black Belts are still rare. You can learn the basics from a competent Blue. But avoid Blue's teaching BJJ at a Karate School (or another art) unless you’re enrolled in the Whatever Style who just wants an introduction to ground fighting. BJJ is a complex system. It's worth going for it all the way if you can.

First. How is your ego? If you got one the size of mine I'd shave it down before going on the mat. Your going to be man handled like Orlando Bloom would be in a Maximum Security Prison. Learn to tap often. And don't worry about it. Just tap if you get stuck. Don't sit there and spaz out. Relax and be willing lose. Winning comes from experience. Experience comes from losing. Tap. Snap. Or nap. So tap early. Tap often.

Second. Relax. When you're on bottom learn lots of to take short, relaxed, shallow breaths. You wont be able to do the deep belly breaths your used to in CMA standing. If you try on the bottom you can panic - you abdomen may feel crushed. The good news for Traditional Arts people is they tend to learn to relax better.

Third. People can smell a newbie a mile away. Be cautious of the other white belts who have been around for more than four months but les than a year. They will tend to want to "win" rather than facilitate your learning. This is beacuse they have spent the last six months on the bottom. And at LAST they will be able to practice a top game with YOU. So find a blue-belt to roll with... but ALWAYS for at least the first six months tell them to roll "Light and Technical" with you. Tell them what you want to work on every time. Maybe the only thing you know... the thing you just drilled in class that day. But something specific. Don't completely "free" roll until you get a feel for the basic positions.

Fourth. Position. Position. Position. This is the first thing a GOOD instructor should tell you. Forget submitting when you start. Just drill positions. Then JUST free roll for position. Do not get caught up trying (or even learning) a submission for at least six months.

Fifth. Practice Shrimping drills now.Practice Shrimping drills as your warm up. Practice them for a few minutes AFTER class. Why? You are going to spend a great deal of time on the bottom when you start. It's going to frustrate you. You are going to ask "How do I escape from _____" FORGET IT. You have spend X amount of time learning how your held down in order to figure out HOW to escape. In the mean time Shrimping drills will help acquire the attributes you need to escape from bottom. Then after a few months your instructor will show you a basic escape. And WALLAH it will work and you be on top. For about thirty seconds and then you'll be arm bared.

Give it time for you body to get "callused"... having a sweaty dude tea-bag you for half an hour can tweak you here and there. That's why you want to tap and go light and technical for along time at first. Not just to facilitate learning but to let body grow accustomed to pressure.

Give it time and you will LOVE it. After six months you will go back to your CMA Pa-Kua school and be worshiped as the vengful god you have become. They will demand you show them your new secret powers. You will say this:

"In bjj you don't have to strong. You don't have be fast. You don't even have to be particularly smart. What you have to do is be willing lose for great while."

Then arm bar the shit out of them.

PS. Don't be a douch-bag and try to eye-poke or trachea crush or any other "deadly" ninja shit when BJJ rolling. Don't ever even MENTION that stuff even if you see a glaring opening.
posted by tkchrist at 1:59 PM on December 19, 2006

Tim Cartmell, whose website, is linked above, also trains and I think competes in BJJ.

On his forum I have seen Jack Dempsey's out of print book on boxing described as the best English account of power generation according to internal art principles.

Another guy who has spent a long time training in the internal arts and who competed in a free fighting format is Peter Ralston, His approach though seems rather unconventional and very time demanding.
posted by BigSky at 2:12 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


"In bjj you don't have to strong. You don't have be fast. You don't even have to be particularly smart. What you have to do is be willing lose for great while."
Ironically, that is the exact thing we tell new students of bagua.

great info. Luckily, or unluckily, I have sparred enough to know the value of losing, and how pain feels in submission holds, breaks, locks etc. (bagua has lots of grappling.) I also know to downplay all experience because I am there to learn. I think IU has Gracie lineage fighters.

Could you go a bit more into shrimping?

Again, I hope somehow I have impressed upon you some merits of bagua. It was THE fighting style used during the boxer rebellion. Sure the Chinese lost against superior fire power, but it obviously has combat effectiveness.
posted by sarcasman at 2:17 PM on December 19, 2006

and. I really appreciate the from-experience comments you bring, tkchrist. thanks for all the advice, which will really help.
posted by sarcasman at 2:22 PM on December 19, 2006

The video of the two guys freestyling/practicing on the rooftop is beautiful. I've been training in tetsudo for several years, and it's great to see such relaxed and empathic sparring.
posted by algreer at 2:35 PM on December 19, 2006

Could you go a bit more into shrimping?

Certainly. Place the backs of both hands against your cheeks - one on either side of your face so your fingers are extended out ward and your elbow are pointed out. No go to a mirror. Wiggle your fingers as if your sifting plankton out of silt. And squeel "SHREEEEEEMP"

Ok. Excellent.

That has nothing to do with shrimping drills. These drills are to aid in escaping Mount and Side Control.

Now that you are humiliated we can begin. Make sure you have at least 10 feet of floor space.

Step one. Posture.
Lay on the floor on your back. Head off the floor. Knees bent. Feet on the floor as close to your butt as you can get them. Your elbows in and are tight against your sides, arms bent up with your hands in the "Prayer position" under your chin or on either side of your jaw/neck.

Step Two. Bridge.
Now bridge —arch— your hips up off the floor as high as you can. Come up to the balls of your feet for extra hieght. Also. Keep your elbows in. The only thing touching the floor shold be your toes and your shoulders. Your bucking the top person up to create room or to get them to post thier hands over your head.

Step Three. Pivot
Choose which side you want to pivot to. Left or right. Let's say left. While you are still bridged pivot your body to the side of your left shoulder and the side of your left foot. Shoot your hips and butt out TO THE RIGHT and squeeze your self into kind of fetal position, legs bent, on your left side. You are now balling up under the top person, coiling up to push away from him across the floor.

Step Four. Push and Roll back.
Remember the Prayer Position of your hands? You are on your side, pretend you are pushing with your hands against the top person. Push. Simultaneously scoot your butt back. You do this explosively with your arms and legs to scoot your self accross the floor away from the Top person. Like how a shrimp coils and uncoils it body when it swims. Hence "shrimping." Then roll back to your starting position on your back and do the same to your other side. Back and forth across the floor like twenty or thirty times. Then rest for a minute. and do it again. Do this every day. You will be ready.
posted by tkchrist at 2:46 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

tkchrist: I am leaving work now to practice that.

Do this every day.
I think R.A.Wilson said it a while ago, but this is the key to any and every discipline. Thanks all.
posted by sarcasman at 2:52 PM on December 19, 2006

I'm assuming BJJ you are referring to is the mixed form "Ultimate Fighter" style Boxing/Judo/Jujitsu fighting style.

Sigh. No the BJJ I am refering to is BJJ. MMA is MMA. MMA uses a select derivative of BJJ techniques and training in the ground phase of fighting.

All I can say that if you think MMA is like bull fighting... then, like a matadore, you better have more than a cape and a funny hat. Like maybe a sword. And those four other guys on the horses with the lances that rush out and get your ass when the bull turns and stomps your face in.
posted by tkchrist at 3:05 PM on December 19, 2006

sarcasman if you're on the south side why not go to Gracie Carlson Jiu Jitsu on La Salle? I know Keith Hackney has a place in Itasca (or did).(630)351-1209.Bob Schermer's place in Cicero might be closer to you. He's an excellent instructor in freestyle. Or was, I haven't been out in civilian circles in a bit.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:12 PM on December 19, 2006

Yeah, he still does:
posted by Smedleyman at 3:13 PM on December 19, 2006

Ah, I now see, through use of my excessive Wikipedia browsing, that BJJ refers to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) which makes sense since you would probably prefer not to refer to the simple shortened BJ (Brazilian Jujitsu, with the more common romanization of Jujitsu) since many would wonder why studying blowjobs is considered a martial art.

Newazado (ground fighting art) is a distict study in bujitsu, but with more emphasis on breaking tackles and using sacrifice throws to gain leverage. There is also a much higher emphasis on not getting locked up in single opponent combat, especially in a "real" fight, as there may be more than one attacker, and being caught up grappling with one opponent leaves one open to attack from your opponents compatriots. But that's more a strategy and awareness thing than a direct evaluation of the form.

Of course, the ultimate use of the ground is as a weapon against your opponent, which is always fun when using techniques such as these. But I'm biased, as almost every technique studied in BJJ comes from almost direct lineage to the jujitsu schools I study.
posted by daq at 3:32 PM on December 19, 2006

I've been practicing Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan for more than four years here in Hong Kong, as well as two forms of Yang sword and two forms of Yang sabre.

My si fu has always taught me the exercise for the sake of good health, but never for fighting. I'd be rubbish in a fight with what I know.

That's not why I wanted to learn anyway; I've never been much of a fighter.

But looking at what great shape* si fu is in (the guy is 70 but looks 50 and is still well-muscled), I felt that learning and practicing Tai Chi would help me to grow older gracefully.

If I can retain mobility and flexibility into my 70's and beyond (provided I live that long), then the effort will have been worth it.

*Apologies for the self-link to the photo gallery; it's for those who want to see what he looks like.
posted by bwg at 4:13 PM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist: Shrimping?
posted by papakwanz at 7:29 PM on December 19, 2006

You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sautee it. There's shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich...shrimp is the fruit of the sea.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:57 PM on December 19, 2006

daq. I get the distinct impression you have studied JJJ for what maybe... what.... five, maybe six years, at the most? And yet your telling people what marks a student from a master? I could be wrong.... but I bet I'm not.

You better research the history of your art a little more before commenting. Not just what Sensei Jo Bob, or God forbid Wikipedia, TELLS you.

Read particularly about Jigaro Kano and the establishment of the "Do" systems and why they kicked traditionalist Jujitsu's ASS. Then you may want to study Mitsuyo Maeda and what led to BJJ and why. Why Jujitsu failed against Judo. And, later, why Judo failed against BJJ. Once you understand it wasn't the techniques but how they were TRAINED... you will understand what I was commenting on about your uninformed matador comment.

Hint. Yes. There is a trail that lead back to JJJ. But the methods of training are very differnt. While techniques may appear similar they are only inso much as the human body can only be immobilized and locked and thrown a given number of ways do to human anatomy. It's not really the technique so much as HOW the technique is trained and where it is delivered.

Judo beat Jujitsu... because jujitsu relied on forms over alive practice. BJJ beat Judo because Judo over specialized in one phase of fighting.... the clinch phase. And these are related to today how?

Because history repeats itself. Vale Tudo, UFC and NHB are doing today what Kano did a hundred years ago. Nothing new. People then said things similar to what you said… “looks like they just rush out there like bulls! I would do tawara gaeshi” or what ever. Riiiiight. Notice those NHB guys DON’T do JJJ. With 100K on the line? And where are all the JJJ fighters? Why is that? I’m sure some JJJ instructors would say “because they are too dangerous” but that’s not the whole story. Not even close. I’ll leave it to you to figure out.

And that leads me to: Those first eight clips in that link (excepting maybe parts of the knife disarm and rolling the guy out of turtle into an Jujigatame)... were IMHO total hokum against a trained person. Seriously. You couldn't pull most of that off on me… ever. Not with out punching me silly first anyway. Likely why the grappling tournament footage was included at the bottom – which was good stuff.
posted by tkchrist at 8:21 PM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist: Shrimping?

HAHAHA... [reads father down the list] ha... oooooh. Yuk.
posted by tkchrist at 8:22 PM on December 19, 2006

I think it's hilarious that 八卦 also means "to gossip".
posted by jiawen at 9:35 PM on December 19, 2006

tkchrist says HAHAHA... [reads father down the list] ha... oooooh. Yuk.

You had to read FARTHER down the list to get to something that made you say "yuk"? Try the first entry!
posted by papakwanz at 11:21 PM on December 19, 2006

Er, I don't mean "try" it as in, you know, actually go out and do it. (Although, if you're into that, whatever man, live and let live...) I meant that the first entry has the yuk factor already built in.
posted by papakwanz at 11:24 PM on December 19, 2006

I see that your crane style is very strong, but is it any match for my tiger style, ha ha!?!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:27 PM on December 19, 2006

You tiger style will not protect you from monkey steals the peach!
posted by homunculus at 11:41 PM on December 19, 2006

Wow homunculus, I found that very same book at a used book store during college! One year, a friend who was an RA used it during orientation as to teach his hall of incoming Freshmen the monkey steals the peach move as a group "getting to know you" activity. I played the role of the unsuspecting blackbelt in white for the demonstration.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:29 AM on December 20, 2006

smedleyman: thanks for the info on BJJ in chi. But alas, I am moving to flatter pastures in IN and so will study BJJ there (reason:girl). They do Gracie lineage stuff and do have a blackbelt instructor as Tkchrist recommended finding. I'll still study bagua (which I hesitate to include under the moniker CMA) under my teacher in chi once a month, but augment it with BJJ in IN, thus making myself into the vengeful super-deity I've always sought out to be.

Seriously though, the fighting of bagua is brutally cruel and effective, and has the tai chi health benefits as well. Best of both worlds I tells ya. Anyone looking for a teacher in chi let me know.
posted by sarcasman at 7:40 AM on December 20, 2006

chi = chicago... not 'chi' of tai chi.. sorry. live here long enough and..
posted by sarcasman at 7:41 AM on December 20, 2006

Hey sarcasm. One other thing. Traditional Artists tend to do one other thing, other than staying relaxed, very very well. They learn HOW to learn. Most don't even KNOW they have this crucial skill.

I thinks it is the methodical Asian "Art" approach to physical study and technique. Like how dancers train to learn choreography. Unlike dance, if you had a good martial instructor, you will have learned movement with intent as well.

So many Sport instructors enjoy good attentive TMA guys because they really soak it up and they learn with alacrity - a cheerful willingness to DO. They also know to shut up and just listen.

The only thing a coach may be wary of are TMA guys that maybe got to invested in the TMA belt and have a hard time starting over.

And BJJ, like Judo before it, is kind of good hybrid between traditional and sport. They have the Gi, a belt hierarchy, a formal structure to the play. But it has a relaxed intimate sport attitude when it comes to abilities and the reationship of coach to student.

Have fun.
posted by tkchrist at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2006

Intent is certainly part and parcel of my teacher's "alive" style training. You mentioned ego above and i will hold onto that when i begin BJJ. Starting over is great, there is only up, only learning, no proving. I contacted the BJJ club and need only to get a gi and I'm set. thanks again for all the advice. Practiced shrimping, but need work is I'm goig to get someone off me. That's shrimping the BJJ move and not the BJ move. Papakwanz owes me lunch.
posted by sarcasman at 11:46 AM on December 20, 2006

tkchrist - "I get the distinct impression you have studied JJJ for what maybe... what.... five, maybe six years, at the most? And yet your telling people what marks a student from a master? I could be wrong..."

Unfortunately, you would be. And I have studied more than just JJJ (gotta love them abreviations). There's also straight Shotokan Karate, Wing Chun Gong Fu, Muay Thai, and Savat/Vale Tudo. Suprisingly, the Vale Tudo training was less physically demanding than the JJJ, but then again, my Jutaijitsu sensei was 'special' in the sense that he was adamant about teaching the hidden techniques of the art that many of the American style teachers failed to deliver on, like the intensive study of striking techniques and strategies, with "live training" demonstration of how the technique is delivered and what it feels like to get hit by it. I still have the scars. It was/is fun (I have to do self training now, as I am on the other side of the country from my former sensei).

And yes, traditional JJJ is defeated by Judo, which in turn is defeated by BJJ, and yes, it is how the training is performed that details why each form is surpassed.

"Those first eight clips in that link (excepting maybe parts of the knife disarm and rolling the guy out of turtle into an Jujigatame)... were IMHO total hokum against a trained person. Seriously. You couldn't pull most of that off on me… ever."

Yes, those technique demonstrations in those videos leave out several key elements of the actual use and proper training for real combat. Specifically the 3 to 4 punches, knifehands, kicks, foot stomps, groin attacks, and having the person being thrown actually resist versus being worried about making sure they fall correctly. But, you know, they are demonstration videos, so you get a good show of the technique, and not the real life application.

I'm not arguing that what you learn in BJJ or Judo or MMA is "useless" but I am saying that touting it as superior when it is so focused on specific situational combat is kind of silly and shows that you or your teachers are definitely missing out on several key aspects to traditional martial arts training. As you referred way earlier in this thread, you do sport fighting. That's great, and competive fighting is a useful tool in measuring your progress in study, but it is a rather empty reason to learn martial arts, and, in many circles, a wasted effort, since it lacks several of the key personal benefits of the training.

And this is where my "matador" and "bull" analogy comes to fruition. Yes, in a fight, I will not be simply wearing a hat and carrying a red cape. I have more sense than that. As a point of fact, I have no reason to get into a fight, and nothing to prove by fighting, and if it comes to that, well, then everything else I've trained for has failed.

And here's why.
I will not simpy resort to an armbar. In fact, since most people are distinctly larger and stronger than me, I will not hesitate to pop someone in the throat if I am attacked. But you would have to be a real dastardly son of a bitch to get that close. More than likely I'll just shoot you from a distance, because I don't care how well trained you are, even the best grandmasters of every martial arts school will tell you, a fist versus a gun, the fist will most likely lose, hands down. Distance = time. Very simple principal, happens to work out really well.

"Don't be a douch-bag and try to eye-poke or trachea crush or any other "deadly" ninja shit when BJJ rolling."

Sorry, it's not about being a douche, it's about winning, and if someone is obviously bigger and stronger than you, you take them down with whatever works. That's the practical fighting. There is no fair, there is no tap out. If you wish to physically harm me, and I can't talk you out of it or get away, fine, we both lose.

So what's the point of training yourself into peak physical condition if, and being the best martial artist on the planet if all it takes is one bullet to take you down? The philosophical and mental discipline, understanding of physiology, excellent flexibility and exercise, and sense of personal growth is a complete package. And this is shown very well in the threads original video links. A lifestyle of physical activity, in the form of martial arts, which allows the practitioners to enjoy long life with excellent activity and, if I'm not mistaken by the smiles on their faces, an enjoyable and happy existence.
If you feel I'm dilluded or just wrong because I embrace the complete ideals of the study of martial arts versus simply learning techniques on how to pummel someone into submission, then I guess we'll just have to disagree.

Oh, yeah, I probably should have prefaced this whole thing with "I hate sport fighting." Mostly because it generally devolves into the same impulse most guys have in junior high school, around the time when their nuts drop, domination by physical aggressiveness. A rather silly pursuit, since it allows a rather simple view of all transactions to dominate any decision, and thus, leads to altercations based on pride and arrogance versus reason and consideration. But I learned that by watching Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, not from martial arts.
posted by daq at 12:23 PM on December 20, 2006


The first old man in the 2nd youtube link, who is doing taichi with the long beard, represents a level of life my own discipline strives for. An engaged smile, fluid free movement, joy at doing. tkchrist has studied martial arts that are probably effective in fighting to varying degrees, but perhaps hasn't studied martial arts that allow you to move freely (and fight if need be) deep into old age. The thread was aimed at just such a student.

I personally have a distaste for sport fighting, but I have studied with sport fighters and have learned much. Basically, many trees produce fruits. My first teacher accepted all martial art forms into our class. but after allowing them to present their ideas, would soundly use bagua (cigarette in one hand) to bring them down. What I've learned however, is that training, intent and the teacher/student relationship open up endless possibilities for development, no matter the art. Bagua just happens to be effective and, as you saw in the videos, beautiful.
posted by sarcasman at 12:39 PM on December 20, 2006

Yeah! I love esoteric martial arts video/film clips. I hadn't seen some of these.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 1:09 PM on December 20, 2006

daq says More than likely I'll just shoot you from a distance

So, you carry a gun around waiting for someone to attack you from a distance?
posted by papakwanz at 1:09 PM on December 20, 2006

papakwanz - well, concealed carry laws are there for a reason.

But seriously, in most street fight situations, the first rule is evasion, as in, avoid getting in one. The second rule is get clear, meaning put distance between you and your attacker(s). Then you have time to think, and hopefully either diffuse the situation through talking, or, optionally, hoofing it to a place of safety. Most people looking for a fight will not follow you into a crowded area, into a place where there might be police, or into a bar with big mean bouncers who will call the police. The last option, of course is to incorporate force to extricate yourself from the situation. If you are too far from a place to hide/seek safety, then a gun is a very effective way to end a fight. But, as I said, this is my personal way of dealing with things. For many people, it is not their cup of oolong, but I am also well aware of situations where gunplay is not optimal and have trained to defend myself at any range. You never know, your weapon may fail and you will have to close the distance and engage in direct physical blows, and at that point I'd rather end it quickly than worry about a fight going as far as submission. Submission is, again, something that does not interest me. I'd rather drink a beer.
posted by daq at 2:57 PM on December 20, 2006

daq, this is the first time on Metafilter I am about to say what I am going to say: I think you are … um… not representing the truth accurately.

IOW: I don't believe you. I don't believe you have the length of study you claim. Nor the breadth of arts you claim.

I don't believe you have trained in "vale tudo."


It is a means of sparring and the descriptor of a “anything goes” type of game. Not an art unto itself.

And IF you had practiced all that you say WHY on earth would you need to look up BJJ on Wikipedia? Plus you misspelled Savate.

My guess? You may have briefly done some JKD derivative that claimed to have principles of Savate, Wing Chun and Muay Thai in them. That would be my guess. And I say briefly because it’s obvious you did not understand any of them very well.
Besides. I never touted BJJ, or any other style, as strictly or totally “superior.” If you had read any of my posts on this matter you would understand that.

Your words, other than remarking that a gun is better than empty hands (um… duh), are to any experienced practitioner the earmarks of rank intermediate if not beginner.

You are trolling. And doing so poorly.

There is fighting and there is… oh never fucking mind.

Look. You are welcome to come look me up in Seattle ANY time. We can have a friendly little session. You show me yours. I’ll show you mine. Nothing heavy. I will give you an opportunity to straighten me and out prove me wrong. I will sincerely apologize for doubting you. Otherwise you’re losing credibility by the word.
posted by tkchrist at 3:34 PM on December 20, 2006

tkchrist has studied martial arts that are probably effective in fighting to varying degrees, but perhaps hasn't studied martial arts that allow you to move freely (and fight if need be) deep into old age. The thread was aimed at just such a student.

And why I admire and appreciate the post. Thanks.
posted by tkchrist at 3:37 PM on December 20, 2006

tkchrist - yeah words are not my strong suite, but I am not intending this a a troll, simply an argument against your classifying most of the techniques demonstrated in the videos as useless against a trained fighter. That is my arguement.

But to retort, because, well, it's the internet, and I can't let that gauntlet just sit there on the ground.

And Vale Tudo is a fighting style in itself, meaning anything goes. Some people like to term it as Brawler style fighing, and it is termed as a simple, effective manner in which to inflict pain upon an opponent. My study was short, but mostly due to my lack of willingness to continue in it in any competative nature.

And the spelling of savate? My french sucks. And I've been editting that post extensively to not sound like a troll while trying to explain that my view on this is from years of study, but whatever. I'll hire a proofreader next time.

If I had studied Jeet Koon Do I would have said so. I'm not much of a fan of Bruce Lee, mostly for the watering down of technique to understand form, but I also appreciate his thoughts about using kicks in fights (kick as fast as you can, and try to stay below the belt, because a failed kick puts you off balance and extremely open to attack) versus in practice (go ahead an kick as high as you want, because it build strengh and flexibility). Mind you, he was a very effective fighter, but mostly for his application of strategy in delivering attacks over being overly commited to form, though he is not the first to say this, only the most widely known to have said it.

And for the record, I began studying martial arts at the age of 10, which was in 1986. So, yeah, I'm lying about everything, because this is the internet and everyone lies or exagerates about everything because it's anonymous. Not everyone studies martial arts to be a bad ass fighter. And yes, I've had this arguement with many former teachers. Think David Caradine's Kung Fu versus Chuck Norris' Walker Texas Ranger. Mr. Miyagi versus Cobra Kai.

I'd be happy to discuss a fighting styles and philosophy over a beer, but as I have said, I have no interest in demostrations. It is not my way, nor it is how I have trained. Plus I prefer to savor adrenaline rushes for roller coasters and bungie jumping. Having to force that response in order to 'spar' is not as enjoyable as those activities in my opinion.
posted by daq at 4:29 PM on December 20, 2006

"So, you carry a gun around waiting for someone to attack you from a distance?"
papakwanz, why would someone NOT carry a gun?
*modulates realityfilter*
Oh yeah, fighting not combat, right, sorry.

"Vale tudo"

I remember being in a hospital south of the border watching a "Vale Tudo" t.v. show and thinking my brain had some serious errors because I couldn't understand the language (portugese - but the chick would say stuff like "I will have been talking to him." She wants to be rich (which somehow was itself a virtue) and abandons her mom or something. It's been a while. (Ahh, I should put it on askmetafilter, someone will probably know)
Freaked me out when I heard it a few years later 'cause I thought I imagined the whole thing on painkillers. And I'm thinking we're getting dressed out to watch some SA soap opera? And one of the gym/dojo rats said "No man, it's freestyle." Meh, someone codified "jailhouse rock" as it's own style. I don't know that the guys in the penitentiary call it that tho.

Odd tho how students always seem to take on the mannerisms/language, attitudes and accents of their teachers. And it's even weirder in the U.S. where you have mixes like "Sgt. Rodriguez Sensei" in the traditional Japanese style and it's a Portugese speaking Filipino guy teaching escrima mixed with BJJ and using a European belt system. Although even the South African recon guys use that for their system...which has elements of Zulu spear, stick and blade techniques I understand (I gotta remember to tell quin about that some time). And up until he got clipped Arkadiy Stepankovskiy (rip- nice enough kid) had white bread students (training in systema) suddenly using Russian terms for basic armbars and such.

Meh. Crossovers are good for your technique. Helps develop your own style and what works for your body type and such. In nature your hybrids are usually stronger. Like the Liger. It's like a lion and a tiger mixed... bred for its skills in magic. It's pretty much my favorite animal.

Peach stealing monkeys may overcome Rex Kwan Do,but toad style is immensely strong and immune to nearly any weapon. When it's properly used it's almost invincible.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:23 PM on December 20, 2006

And Vale Tudo is a fighting style in itself, meaning anything goes.

No. It is not in the larger community of Martial Arts. It's only considered a "style" by the ignorant or the disingenuous hoping to fleece the public over a particular trend. Please tell me where this Vale Tudo "styles " school is. I would love to talk to the instructor and find out when this perception changed.

The style could be MMA or any mixture of arts that cares to compete in what WERE called, in Brazil, Vale Tudo. People at various schools NOW may call a particular class "Vale Tudo" as in a conglomeration of the phases and ranges of fighting to prepare for MMA or NHB. But there is no special technique or philosophy that woiuld distinguish Vale Tudo as a style in and of itself. That would be like calling "Cage Fighting" a style. It is more of the venue for any number of potential styles. And it morphed into the NHB and UFC we have today.

You outlined all the styles you have trained in. Muay Thai. Savate. Shotokan. "Vale Tudo."

Then you say you "Hate Sport fighting."

Yet. Almost all of those ARE forms of sport fighting. Even Shotokan is much more tournament oriented than many other Karate Ryu.

Then you talk of JJJ. The JJJ clips you first listed had many sport grappling clips.

So I am confused.

You started when you were ten, in 1986. What, in Shotokan? So you are thirty years old. Thirteen years my junior. I started karate at about ten. But I would never include THAT in my Martial Resume. Childhood Karate is essentially daycare. It would be like me claiming coloring crayons when I was in fourth grade as part of my Graphic Arts CV.

I'm am not trying to be dick or tear you down. Just be honest. It's no big deal. How long have you consistently trained, as an adult, in any one style? I'm still betting it was LESS than six years. (And now your "training solo." Hmmmm).

Ok. So. Here is what I'm trying get you to see. You're awareness of sport-fighting and what fighting even is - is plainly ignorant. I’m trying to help you.

I myself was about there where you are at thirty. There is no shame in it. If you can admit it.

Your confusing fighting and self-defense. While closely related, they are not the same. They are sub-sets of combat. Combat. Also, entirely different though related.

You seem to appreciate some this but are approaching it backwards.

JJJ WAS a combat art. An empty-hand battle field art. Right? And much of how and WHY they trained the way they did is vastly misunderstood today. Since the advent of firearms most empty hand combat martial arts are largely anachronistic. As is the cultural aesthetic that dominated HOW they trained. Aesthetic dominated practicality in many cultures as hard as that is to believe… it’s true.

But what remains is for COMBAT - for the battlefield. Not fighting. And the pre-"do" systems are only marginally relevant to self defense in the modern world.

Self defense, in modern context, does not necessarily align with combat.

If you're training for combat then fire arms are your first consideration. But more basic is you know there is an enemy out there. There are rules of engagement. You understand that there exists a battlefield. And once you are unleashed nearly anybody you define as an enemy IS an enemy. There fore the training is entirely different.

If you try to translate a Combat Art to civilian self-defense you will likely fail. Self defense you can make no assumptions of who is an enemy. Nor are the rules of engagement so clear. Combat arts are far more highly perishable as skills - 10 hours a week wont cut it. And. You have live with an itchy trigger. That is not a desirable lifestyle for the average civilian.

So you are left with Sport Fighting and TMA Self Defense Training – which we have already noted is anachronistic and tied to a particular culture and time that may be very removed from our own.

THIS is WHY I maintain that a Sport Fighter will dominate a SD trained person - all things being otherwise equal. A SD person has had almost no practice doing what he has trained for real. A sport fighter has nothing BUT practice. It is why, if you faced a Sport Fighter with JJJ and you have not received true combat training and KNOW what you do works from experience, you will lose.

You are drawing self defense conclusions for the observation of a sporting application. Your observations of the event are also grossly un-informed. What you see is counter-intuitive. What you think of as thugary, rushing, etc and the conclusions you draw on how you would handle those fighters are naive in the extreme.

If you had done "Vale Tudo" you would KNOW this. You would know that in the early days of Vale Tudo matches in Brazil there WERE JJJ players. There were no rules. They COULD eye gouge and do "douche-bag" techniques.

And they fucking lost anyway. And. They lost badly.

And that is because against a trained fighter who has honed his skills to maybe a couple dozen techniques that he can practice full-force all the time - AKA Sport fighting - JJJ's deadly techniques you CAN'T practice full-force all the time (without adaptation to Sport training methods) don't stand a chance.

And when you adapt JJJ to sport fighting? You end up with MMA.

The good news is you can train just bout anyway you like and be perfectly adequate to defend yourself against the most common dangers out there. Like heart attacks. Drunks. Muggers. And ninjas. Don’t forget about ninjas.

Like history itself I am doomed to repeat myself. Sorry everybody else. I know this is a broken record thing. But I'm getting better at explaining it. Right?
posted by tkchrist at 5:24 PM on December 20, 2006

One year, a friend who was an RA used it during orientation as to teach his hall of incoming Freshmen the monkey steals the peach move as a group "getting to know you" activity. I played the role of the unsuspecting blackbelt in white for the demonstration.

Pollomacho, that's hilarious. But did your friend also teach any Iron Crotch techniques?
posted by homunculus at 5:46 PM on December 20, 2006

“That is not a desirable lifestyle for the average civilian.”

You’re young and you’ve got your health, what do you want with a job? (heh heh) Many people are not on the “enjoy pain” wavelength. Still, I’ve preached carrying a weapon of some sort for years (those collapsable batons you see police carry are nice) in addition to any training at all. It only needs to pay off once to save your life. Of course there’s no substitute for wits and caution and knowing when to split. Nothing that could stop a drunk ninja during a heart attack tho.

“And when you adapt JJJ to sport fighting? You end up with MMA.”

I think the Army just realized this recently. I will say though there are variations for different modes of lethal or potentially lethal engagement. A battlefield scenario is one thing, infiltration, CQB, is another. Which is why you don’t get a lot of cross training from HRT guys f’rinstance. What El Al security might do in a combat situation on a plane is radically different than what a SEAL team might do for a shipboard assault requiring zero casualties is different from what a hostage rescue team might do in an embassy, they all involve a great deal of skill in hand to hand combat and are in close quarters, but the environments are very different. And indeed, are sometimes as unpredictable as a streetfight in terms of rules of engagement, the only real difference is the addition of firearms and other weapons to the equation. Which could be considered more “real world” but we’ve had the ‘environment as a component of hand to hand’ and aggression vs. lethality discussion before. And I think all things being equal that’s why (an experianced) combat oriented fighter would overcome a sport fighter, they don’t train for finality. But of course, again, that’s subject to the conditions you outlined, so bit of a moot point. And indeed, perhaps you are getting better at pointing it out. But other than that slight difference in perspective, I think you’re dead on tkchrist, and I respect your opinion and I very much enjoy your contribution (I learn a lot).
posted by Smedleyman at 10:03 AM on December 21, 2006

That's been my issue with sport fighting vs combat. The best sport fighter i worked with could kick some serious ass, but there was a measure of brutality that is left out. In bagua we learn not only breaks, but nasty nasty shit.. like tearing, using anything as a weapon, gouging, grabbing, awful cruel shit, that is of no use in sport fighting. Not that i'd ever want to apply them, but their knowledge allows an intent that has saved my ass numerous times. My teacher stressed being able to find and let out that beast inside, a complete willingness to commit. But also controlling it. Like Gurdjieff said once: one must keep both the sheep and wolf of oneself intact. That has allowed me anyway to avoid serious confrontations, sometimes miraculously. Or maybe.. it's luck.
posted by sarcasman at 12:37 PM on December 21, 2006

It’s probably confidence and good decision making on your part sarcasman. There are very few situations where people MUST engage. In addition your opponent would have to know your intention or reputation. Obviously some folks are spurred by what they see as weakness, but I think tkchrist’s comments on ego are excellently applied to other areas as well, such as not allowing humiliation or some other factors to force you to fight under someone else’s rules. Guy hits on my wife, we get up and leave. Nothing to it.
I will say tkchrist has pointed out previously (and rightly) there are close similarities in technique between the two, but in sport fighting one does not fully apply the technique. And he’s right about a broader range of applicability in a fighter’s (vs. a combatant or self-defense practicioner’s) technique because the fighter’s practiced more.
Unlike tkchrist, I know one can train certain types of aggression (one can) but I don’t know about it’s applicability in the sport world. I don’t know that a lethal mindset would be conducive to a non-lethal ritualized setting. Mohammed Ali comes to mind on that.
So I’d say knowing the level of damage you’re prepared to deliver and the level you’re willing to commit to and engage in gives you the psychological edge, but outside that... The reason an operator would have an edge over a fighter in any “real world” scenario is because there isn’t that bit of hesitation and/or holding back that someone who isn’t trained to be lethal would (typically) have. A trained fighter who is also a sociopath might be a bit of a problem f’rinstance (a psychopath might hesitate in savoring the kill).
And that all comes down to the subject in the engagement and how fast he’s willing to escalate to that level and how aggressive he’s willing to get.
It’s important to note - Stepankovskiy was in good shape and trained in a very hard aggressive form by an ex-Spetz Colonel - and he was killed in close combat. Guns were present, but he himself wasn’t shot.
So choosing where and how to fight (and even defining the engagement) is crucial. Hell, round up 5 guys with pistols, ball bats and knives and ambush Tony Torres or Royce Gracie in the dark after they’ve been drinking or have had a heavy meal - same diff.
So strike hard and fade or fade and come back and strike hard. Choose where to engage in violence and you monopolize it. But that’s not fighting, that’s mindset. And tkchrist (again, rightly) points out not a lot of people are willing to live like that.
Hell, it’s tough to get people to get their blood up while they’re being punched in the face and then control their actions once it is up (not swing wildly).
And a lot of the street stuff is performance. If you’re on the south side, you’ve definately seen that among the black guys, but the Irish too. And the latinos. Hell, WASPy kids pound their chests too before throwning down.
So you’ve obviously made the right choices as to ego, perfomance, all the things that go into confrontation, which, to me, is a component of that kind of violence. And which, I agree, your success was probably due to your training and resulting confidence and willingness to escalate. And you can psyche out someone who might be harder than you are (or maybe not), but less sure of themselves. (Age, interestingly, is one of these factors. I’ve had some young guys who would otherwise be able to take me apart, but they’re intimidated by the “dad” factor, just have the ingrained inhibition against disrespecting their elders - tigers have this too, they don’t know they could just rip their trainers apart - you have to drill that out of them of course...I just wish I wasn’t on the receiving end)

And tkchrist seems to be a bit more of a purist when it comes to dichotomizing/categorizing the forms of violence, but everything he’s said is valid. Once you get past the performance, all other intangibles, at the meat of it the fighters have the advantage (with the limited exception I noted).
posted by Smedleyman at 2:13 PM on December 21, 2006

tkchrist seems to be a bit more of a purist when it comes to dichotomizing/categorizing

Here is why:
I am a spaz and not naturally talented. I realized early I wanted to train things I KNEW I could perform. Not HOPE I could perform. Things I could train safely with my partners. For me that was the gross motor and sport way of training.

People see J-Lo in a movie study Krav Maga for three weeks and go out and kick the ass of some guy 175lbs heavier than her - and they think that is real. I wanted it to be real too.

There are lots of instructors who nurse that illusion. These instructors think by showing somebody the Eye Poke, giving students "permission" to eye poke, maybe practicing eye poking with goggles on during light sparring, it will be enough.

“Deadly” techniques are for life threatening situations. When your options are narrow. Do what ever you can. Most of those "techniques" are somewhat instinctual. Groin strikes. Hair pulls. Throat punches. Head butts. I heartily endorse all of these for self defense. But groom your other attributes. Groom your delivery systems. And then KNOW what you are capable of. There are limited ways of achieving this.

I ,as a sport fighter, have trained most deadly techniques to same level, in the same manner, as the average Karate guy has. IE: to the point we both simply HOPE they work as at this point we have not killed anybody. Thus we are equal. This is the level nearly ALL TMA systems can train these things. Unless they got a pile of bodies out back or have performed in a war zone.

I, as a sport fighter, ALSO have a repertoire of stuff I've done full force against skilled resisting opponents on TOP of all the "deadly" stuff.

The fact is training to kill empty hand... training the skills required for deadly empty hand Combat Arts are THE most intensive, most difficult, most fine motor reflex, least intuitive, and most perishable skills you can train.

This WHY we invented swords. And then guns. We are hard to kill.

Only the military is in a position to train real Combat Arts properly. Unless the Combat Art training is to persons with exceptional attributes and extreme levels of accessible aggression. Not me, IOW. And not most of us.

Ask the average Karate instructor or Kung Fu instructor if they have ever killed anybody. Of course the answer will be no. But they INSIST what they are teaching is deadly. (I would not ask a Silat or FMA guy this though. He may ask you to help him move bodies.)

I have broken guys bones. I have knocked guys out. I have choked guys unconscious. With sporting practice. And I suck.

I remember in Karate learning the supposed neck breaks in forms. I asked the instructor, like every dumb-ass newbie does, "does this actually work?" My instincts told me it wouldn't against a trained person. He said "Of course."

I asked him how he knew that? Had he ever broken somebody’s neck? He said no. I told him to try it on me as hard as he wanted. He hedged. I said REALLY. Go. Try it. He got into the position... and I punched him in the face.


"Well, you didn't think I was gonna just stand here and let you break my neck?"

I do not recommend this sort of Beavis and Butthead skepticism for everybody. But you get the point.

When I saw those JJJ one-step clips that was my first thought. Rarely will a trained person will get into the positions where the stylized techniques will work – I don’t CARE what kind of set-up they say is prefaced. Untrained persons? Sure. But not trained – with good balance, posture, and resisting. Therefore training the techniques like those JJJ guys were will NOT yield fruit against somebody who can fight. If you want them to work against a trained fighter you better go work on them in Iraq for a few months first. That’s what I was trying to show daq.
posted by tkchrist at 7:04 PM on December 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

“That’s what I was trying to show daq.”

Yeah, I thought that was well-clarified.
(I notice you left off the “but everything he’s said is valid” part of that quote)
People have different foci. Different things they like or dislike. Yours is on self-defense and bullshido. Seems a bit like a scientist’s dislike of the charismatic tent preacher set. Nothing wrong with being a purist, in fact I admire the dedication.
But we disagree that the use of lethal force has to be used in life threatening situations. And on the integration of weapon use in a hand to hand system. And I think I’ve been very clear about the regard I have for your contribution and I believe I’ve shown nothing but respect for your obvious knowlege. However what you think of as “deadly” techniques and what I know about them are two very different things. You aren’t, for example, thinking of optics, wind, range, elevation, temperature, changes in ground temperature over terrain, barrel temperature, any of the thousand meticulous things that have to be done consistently to be deadly not “deadly.” And I see this as a single form integrated into martial training. You train for whatever reasons you train. Self-defense, sport, etc. There is a vast difference in training to fight and training to kill.
Deadly techniques mostly involve positioning and advantage aquisition (weapon, and not reliance on unarmed techniques or what some Rex Kwan Do guy calls “deadly.” Empty hand as a means to set up that end as efficiently as possible. Killing only with the empty hand is a concession (hell, you could use a piece of rope) and your perspective on it, how you think about this narrow topic, illustrates my point. You are, in fact, nowhere near as deadly no matter how well trained you are in sport fighting because you have not been trained to your will to kill. Pulling someone’s hair or head butting them will not kill them. Coherently focusing on killing someone and making consistent choices to set up their death is not instinctual any more than any effective self-defense technique is in a fight. If you’re not thinking ahead, you’re going to lose. We both agree on this - you fight how you train.
I’ve fought with a grandmaster who had trained the korean marines (he was a ghost catcher in vietnam) and the fascinating thing about him was his edge. He had engaged me the moment we met. He was thinking how he would set me up long before we hit the mat. And that’s the edge one has to have.
There is no difference between fighting with hands or fighting with weapons - once one has accepted that the goal is to kill your opponent, everything serves that cause. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to learn defensive techniques and a less lethal mindset (I’m taking Aikido, good for both, and I’m more marketable).
But as I’ve said, more than a few times, other than that niche, we basically agree. You’re more altruistic perhaps. And that’s a position that needs no defense, it’s inherently moral and typically more practical. And I concede to your experiance (and indeed, your dedication, because again, it’s not an area of focus for me). I myself was highly unpopular when I tried to teach self-defense. Officer’s wives don’t want to hear that they should carry blades or pistols, and they certainly don’t want to integrate them into what they think of as a fighting form - I agree, they do want to be J-Lo - and these are people living in a not so friendly foreign land. The ones that stayed I did not teach to pull hair. And eventually I had to get out of that.

But my point, if it’s not clear, is that your goal determines the nature of the violence you engage in and the components you’d need for your success.
This might transcend the duality you present, but it doesn’t dispute it. And I’d add, there are plenty of places to learn combat techniques (Blauer, Blackwater, etc.) - it’s not an art. Art is for theorists, not practitioners.
But again variations in perspective don’t equal disagreement or criticism. I thought your points were quite clear and I didn’t think mine had anything to do with them.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:55 PM on December 22, 2006

smedleyman, in a perhaps poor attempt to add to your point about goal relating to training and thence application, I would add there is a difference between training to fight in a ring and training to fight in life, in the sense that the application of one to the other varies in a crucial manner: in a ring you are largely obliged to fight but not kill, and are relatively safe from being killed (but not injured). In street confrontations, this is not the case. Discpline and developing vicious intent has provided me with what I consider the best outcome of a dangerous street confrontation, in several instances involving a group of thug teens, a boxer frat boy, a few muggers, drunks, and crazies: which is to walk away without incident. This is how I know my art works (outside of witnessing fellow students, as well as myself only once, using it effectively): because in situations where I was easily outnumbered, of lesser mass and strength, and out-weaponed, I was willing to engage but not attached to engaging and so walked away without a problem, even a few times ending with a hand shake and acknowledgment of mutual respect. And honestly, I rather go home in one piece to drink my wine and train the next morning than garner some super-fighter award for wrecking others. My first lesson in bagua was a pithy line from my teacher: "never enter a fight having anything to prove. because if you do, even when you win you lose."
posted by sarcasman at 10:55 AM on December 23, 2006

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