Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Practical Self-Defense

Imagine, someone walks up to you with a knife; or a thug has a gun and threatens you and your family; or you are out for a walk in Phoenix and threaten by a bunch of thugs who don't like the way you are dressed or your religion; or you are elderly and selected as a target by teens for their knockout game. How do you defend yourself? Do you just give up? Personally, I don't believe any good person should ever give into aggression. I believe such a person needs to learn good self-defense and train often - no matter the age of the individual.

You could buy a gun and hope you remember to take it with you, or that you can get to it in time,  you can buy pepper spray and hope you remember to take it to the shower; or you can buy a big Bowie knife and never go out on another date. But constant practice of traditional karate and kobudo will help you prepare for that day when you are attacked and it will also mean that your weapons are always with you.

The best way to prepare for that awful day when you are attacked is to join a karate club and train weekly. But not all karate (and martial arts) clubs are equal. There are (1) McDojos, (2) Sport martial arts clubs and (3) traditional martial arts clubs. 

Stay away from McDojos. McDojos are interested in your money and most instructors at these schools have questionable (if any) qualifications - we've even heard about some instructors who learned karate and self-defense from  videos. From such an instructor, you will never learn how to properly defend yourself.  So how do you defend against a McDojo if you are not already trained in martial arts? There are some sites on the internet that provide you with general guidelines on what to look for. It is not easy for the beginner to determine what is real and what is a McDojo, but just know there are some really good instructors and schools in Arizona in the mix of the McDojos.

Some suggest McDojos began to arise in the 1970s. But from my experience, these didn't start to pop up until about the beginning of the 21st century. And now they are as common as used car lots and used car salesmen.  

McDojos always have contracts (contracts that guarantee black belt ranks), sloppy training, music played while doing kata (forms), brightly colored uniforms covered with patches, many colored belts with a variety of stripes such that the practitioner looks more like a strand of buddhist prayer flags than a martial artist, kobudo techniques that would look good in high school pep club.

A recent and alarming fad has been the development of so-called superhuman feats with people using star wars martial arts or martial arts magic to stop opponents. This is becoming too common and results in martial arts cults who abandon martial arts abilities (if they had any). These martial arts cults likely arose from Star Wars and Marvel comic books. They are easy to spot as they use the force and the force (farce) only works on their students and has no effect on outsiders. McDojos (and most sport martial arts) have large picture windows and many are located in malls. We even saw one that was actually located within a Walmart in Gilbert, Arizona.

Sport martial arts were invented by the Japanese sometime after 1922. Gichin Funakoshi, a Shorin-Ryu karate master moved from his home in Okinawa to mainland Japan where he introduced karate (an Okinawan art) to the Japanese at some Japanese universities. Funakoshi modified Shorin-Ryu Karate which later was called Shotokan karate by some of his students against his wishes. The invention of sport karate occurred around 1949 with the creation of the Japanese Karate Federation. Prior to this time, karate was considered to be a weapon, not a sport, and many techniques that were taught in Okinawan karate were taught to injure or kill another person. In some cases, there is nothing wrong with sport martial arts as it does tend to build good reflexes, particularly martial arts styles like kyokushinkai karate and shotokan karate. But the objective is sport and most training focuses on gaining points rather than knocking out the opponent. After training in kyokushin kai karate, wado-ryu karate and shotokan karate for several years, I found my reflexes were very good, but my technique was sloppy. You can see what I mean by watching most kumite (sparring) videos.

I really didn't learn about proper self-defense until I began training in Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo and, in particular, training under Dai-Soke Sacharnoski with Juko Kai International. Juko Kai is one of the larger US-Okinawa martial arts associations in the world who practice traditional martial arts.

Traditional martial arts focus on self-defense and self-improvement and traditional martial artists do no compete. This is one of the major differences between sport and traditional martial arts. In my definition of traditional martial arts, I see these arts as self-defense weapons as taught for centuries on Okinawa.

So, free-sparring is uncommon in traditional martial arts because it tends to breed sloppy technique. Instead in traditional martial arts, people are taught to train with one step to three step sparring and ALL techniques must be taught with full power and full focus. In order not to cripple or injure another person, these focused techniques are taught in a particular way to protect all members.  And rarely is anyone every injured. Students also must never use protective gloves as these teach improper technique, but they must learn to strike with power, focus and acceleration. By doing so, one can learn good self-defense techniques designed to take another person down with one strike, or one combination.

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