Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tunnel Vision

There's been several interesting blogs debating the value and timing of cross-training in the martial arts.  I, for one, am a fan, but feel one martial art should be your 'main' style or system.  This way, you can benefit without too much confusion over different methods of movements, or concepts.  Cross training then complements your study, and is not at odds with it.

Keeping an open mind is one of the most important things you can learn in the study of any martial art.  Once you stop having an open mind, your progress stops as well.

Having dabbled in this art and that over the years, I've seen too many people fall into the trap of thinking that their style is the best style out there.  All systems have their strengths and weaknesses.  You just need to find what works, makes sense, and can be applied by you.  And the teacher to teach it.

One thing I've noticed is that many styles out there are extremely good at defending against themselves.  This can lead it's practitioners being over confident in their abilities and having an unrealistic view of how transferable their skill set is to a variety of attacks.

To illustrate.  I am a big fan of Kali and Escrima.  I've had an opportunity to cross-train in them and have benefited immensely from it, especially in my development and research into effective knife survival skills.  What did I take away?  I would never knife fight with a knife fighter.  I would never stand face to face with a dedicated Kali practitioner.  He or she would likely carve me up. Same as I would never fence against a fencer.  Or straight up box with a boxer.  The list goes on.  They are too good at defending against what they do, because they practice both sides of the equation in their chosen art.

It is easy to develop tunnel vision if you fail to recognize that your opponent may not attack you in the style or method to which you are accustomed.  I'm not saying for one second that Kali, boxing, fencing, BJJ, etc. can't defend from a variety of attacks, but what I am asking is does your stance, plan, or confidence go out the window if your opponent 'changes the rules?'

How good is a Kali knife fighter if you run away, dart in from time to time, throw a chair...?  If they really wanted to get you, they'd have to run after you.  What happens to their stance then or their ability to defend from an erratic form of attack?

I've used Kali as an example because I don't want this to turn into a what style is the best type of scenario.  I have the utmost respect for Kali and Escrima and do and will continue to cross train in it.  I could have easily used Japanese Jiu Jitsu as an example as well.

The study of any martial art where combat effectiveness is the priority, must take into account a variety of different methods of teaching, methods of attack and principles of movement.  You need to determine if what you are learning is based on the most likely form of attack that you might receive, in the real world.  If you don't, you might find yourself in a difficult position when you attacker doesn't attack you 'right'.  This is why principles are more important than specific techniques and an awareness of real world violence and your own likelihood of being attacked, by who, when, where and how, are just as important as any other part of your training.

Be safe.


  1. Your comments concerning being good at fighting practioners of the same art are reflected in my blogs on the insidious effects of training methods. It becomes ludicrious to me when tactics and techniques are developed and taught to counter tactics and techniques that are taught by a particular martial art. Even more so when counters are developed and taught to counter the counters that are developed and taught to counter the tactis and techniques taught by a particlar martial art.

    With regards to the benefits of cross training; the cognitive sciences suggest that the core of all learning is the identification of similarities and differences. You can learn more about what you do by studying other martial arts that don't do what you do. I know I have.

  2. I had recommended that series of posts when I found your blog. You are correct, it gets kind of silly learning a counter to a counter to a counter to a counter.

    I agree that the examination of how other arts are similar or different can unlock new levels of understanding for your own martial art study.