Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Don't Do "Just Karate;" A Few Stray Thoughts about MMA/TMA

I really did want to write a neat post about martial arts. For the record, as much as I am involved in the "community," if that's a term that applies---and that's arguable in of itself, I consider myself a fighter, a sparing partner, more than anything else. Like an upcoming post that will compliment this better, I'm not going to resort to foreign terminology or pretend to have groundbreaking insights; rather, I'm going to share some things with the MGTOW-minded if they're curious.

I've benefited from my experiences. Even right now, as I sit here and type this, I'm bruised up, sore, and even nursing a couple of minor sprains. The swelling isn't bad at all. I don't injure that easily, but contact fighting of any sort---especially when you jump into the fire again and again, you'll get roughed up a bit. In BJJ and Judo I submitted others more than I got submitted (I tend to be a stubborn bastard and rarely tap, unless I'm dead tired/gassed out), and went further than I originally planned, but going further always reaps rewards.

It's the nature of the game; regardless if reality defense instructors decry, "that's just sports combat," let's face it: it is the closest you can get to the real thing, and sometimes it's at a level that your armchair hack will never experience. It surprises some when I say that ring, mat, and cage fighting is more difficult than your typical bar brawl with a liquid-courage emboldened asshole. That's until they decide to check out how intense Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, boxing, and even contact Karate (yes, I wrote that) really are in a good school/dojo, with solid fighters in their ranks. I'm not surprised at the amount of would-be students and tough guys that quickly drop out.

I claim no marital art greatness at all, but I pretty much enjoy giving nearly everyone a hard time, improving my skills and trying to strengthen my weaknesses. To say I've reached a level of mastery in anything would not only be hubris, but prevent me from learning more and evolving. It's probably one of the reasons it doesn't bother me I don't have a black belt in any art---I seriously desire to discover that next level and bust up any plateaus.

I've rolled my eyes at the bullshit spewed by co-workers and lounge lizards that could not understand what I do, or why I do it. Even then, it's just "Karate," and giving them a curt and informative "basics" of what I'm engaged in is often futile. Even with the UFC's popularity, I rarely talk about it unless people are more receptive. And on another angle, don't even get me started on the mysticism and armchair theorists that refuse to test their subjective arguments. And I'll bet most of the mockery and dismissal comes from fear and misunderstanding; no doubt about it, if I pummeled them in stand up/striking or choked out/arm barred them out in BJJ within a moment, it would pretty much shut them up.

Okay, my two cents worth of advice post is coming up eventually---I'm almost itching to write it now, even with time being of the essence. I will leave with this, however, which is so common now that it's practically a given---if you have the time, money and the means, cross train. The benefits outweigh any cons, and you'll get a taste of what you like and what you don't. No one style has everything (regardless of what any instructor claims) . . . constantly learn, research, practice. Yeah, I know that's pretty obvious for the most part, but I'm amazed at how many people---even serious practitioners,don't even break out of their self-imposed circles to broaden their horizons.


Hawaiian Libertarian said...

A lot of the mockery you get comes from the "belt factory" schools. The ones that are in business, charging belt test fees and pumping out "black belts" in a year or two, charging huge sums of money without imparting practical martial art knowledge or experience.

These goofballs, coupled with the popularity of cheesy martial art movies, gives most people who don't know any better the idea of Martial Arts as a caricature within their mind.

However, for those of us that do train, and train hard, we know what we know. :)

While I don't train in grappling (although I'd like to find the time to), I do train in Kali-Escrima stick fighting in addition to teaching a class in Hawaiian I guess you could say I cross-train to some extent, as the two art forms are pretty much completely different from each other.

Nevertheless, regardless whatever style one trains, there is a lot of benefits to be gained - especially when you learn just how far -- mentally and physically -- you can push yourself.

MarkyMark said...


Though I studied martial arts in the past, I never reached that high a level in it. I pulled my hammy pretty good, and it took months to heal; by the time it healed up, I'd gone on to other things. Secondly, my goal wasn't to be a great fighter (God didn't give gifts in that area); it was to take care of my self well enough to deter would-be aggressors. That was enough for me.

That said, I can totally relate to what you said, though I experienced the thrill of reaching a new level in different activities-mainly skating (ice, roller, and inline) and motorcycling. These activities don't have anything comparable to belts found in many styles of martial arts; there is no EXTERNAL SYMBOL denoting one's purported greatness; there is no 'gold star', as it were.

No, all you have is knowledge that you've achieved a new level of excellence. To steal a line from Yoda, when you reach your new level, you will KNOW; at least that's been my experience anyway. Usually, this dawned on me when I was finally able to do a technique, deal with a situation, etc., that had given me trouble in the past. Eventually, I reached a point where I was able to do the technique or deal with a particular scenario with ease; once this happened, then I KNEW that I'd reached a new level in my chosen activities. That's what I got out of your post anyway...

Did I have ANY delusions about being a great skater? Hell no! I was never THAT good; I was never national or world class good; I was never on ESPN. However, I was good enough to lace 'em up, mix it up with NYC traffic, and live to tell about it. Though I admire & respect figure skaters, I was never a graceful skater; God didn't give me much grace! My style was more elemental, more basic, and more functional; my style was more like that of hockey players' skating; I played 100 years ago, so that should be no surprise. I'd describe my skating style as no-nonsense, no BULLSHIT. Could I skate a big city's streets, and remain unscathed? Could I go for hours without falling? In skating, falling is THE CARDINAL SIN, because you've surrendered all control. If the answers to those questions was yes, then I was good enough for me; I'd achieved the level of excellence that I was both capable of reaching, and the level I was happy with. Sounds to me that you've reached a similar point in MMA; good for you!

I could also tell you a motorcycling story. As you may know, I have two bikes: a 1999 Kawi ZRX1100, and a 2000 Kawi W650. The ZRX is what they call a muscle bike; though it's not a crotch rocket (they're wonderful pieces of engineering & technology, but not my taste), it has many of the same components; it has enough sportbike components that I had to learn about suspension setup, high performance riding, et al. Indeed, because of that bike, I learned how to really RIDE a bike, not just operate one like I had previously.

The W650 is a Triumph T120 Bonneville clone; it looks just like the classic Brit bikes of the 1960s. In addition to its retro looks, it has retro performance too! It's a fun, spirited bike, but performance wasn't what it was built or designed for; it's more at home @ a cruise/bike night, stylin' on the boulevard, or cruising the local back roads while in no big hurry.

During the winter, we had a nice day, so I took the 650 out. I saw a guy on a Beemer (bike, not car) turn on to 661 in front of me. Initially, I was going to let him go, but that competitive fire got the better of me and I decided to see if I could keep up with Mr. Beemer. His bike had an engine twice the size of mine, not to mention all TOP SHELF components (Brembo brakes, sportbike rubber, etc.). When he saw I was trying to catch him, he gave it the gas; having the bigger, better bike, he KILLED ME on the straights! I had to FLOG my 650 like a race horse just to keep him in sight-barely in sight, mind you.

However, I knew some nice curves were coming up, since I'd ridden 661 recently. I figured if I could keep him in sight, then I could reel him in once we hit the curves. Well, we did, and I got on the brakes as late as I dared with the single disk up front, skinny tire, and rudimentary shocks. I got right on him, and managed to stick my front wheel inside for a second or two-just to let him know I was there. When we got to the light a few miles later, we waved good bye & respect to one another. After that, I knew that I'd gotten as good as my limited abilities will allow; God gave me more mental ability than physical. I'm no Rossi, Edwards, et al, nor will I ever be in that league; then again, few guys will ever reach that level. There's a REASON they get paid to race, and there's a reason why I WATCH them on Sundays...

Oh, and for the ignorant comments, I've gotten PLENTY of those! Being a biker, that comes with the territory, as they say. The ones that get my goat are the ones about motorcycles being dangerous-oh, please! Yeah, they CAN be dangerous if you don't treat them with respect; then again, so can fire, knives, and many other things. Most of these IDIOTS don't realize that cars aren't exactly safe, either; in fact, car wrecks are the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH for persons 0-44 years of age! When I make one of the two points, they usually shut up after that; they'll say stuff like, "Boy, I never thought of that..." No shit, asshole! Kinda figured THAT out...

Anyway, though I'm not a martial artist, I could relate to much of what you said, for I've experienced similar things in my chosen activities. This was another great piece of writing, as usual! Have a good night...