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Thread: What style do you teach?

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    Default What style do you teach?

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    What style do you teach?


    I’m hardly a soccer expert of any sort. I’ve watched soccer. My son is learning soccer. I’ve attended his lessons. But I in no way purport to understand the intricacies of soccer. And while I know many subtleties of soccer elude me, but I still believe that I possess a reasonably founded layperson’s understanding of what soccer is on the whole.

    Unlike soccer, I don’t think the general public holds a sound conception of the martial arts, which is fraught with mythological perceptions: The first parent of popular martial mythology is the media--Enter the Dragon,The Karate Kid, Daredevil, etc. I love a good martial arts flick as much as anyone, but they all distort the martial arts into what looks good on screen. (Real martial arts—especially the most advanced—don’t film well at all because the movements are too subtle.) We don’t see the same problem with soccer; there just aren’t thousands of soccer movies mythologizing the mystical, Eastern qualities of soccer or that depict soccer in fantastically unrealistic ways. To be fair, I’m certain that any movies that have covered soccer have also, to varying degrees, distorted it, but soccer movies are hardly a genre the way martial arts/action movies are a genre.

    Putting movies aside, the parent of martial mythology is the way the martial arts have promoted themselves. Most people “know” of martial arts according to what they’ve seen at their local dojos. One of the key problems with such observations, however, is that most people have observed classes for kids. Meanwhile, the martial arts we provide to children can be radically different than the martial arts taught to serious adults.

    Similarly, many adults now “understand” martial arts based on the classes they took when they were kids, which means they were only exposed to the child versions of the arts in the first place. By way of analogy, we could say that the adults hold a conception of card playing roughly the equivalent of Go Fish, a great game for kids, but hardly the high-stakes Texas Hold’em that adults might play.

    Finally, the last and arguably most toxic issue distorts public perception of the arts is the ubiquity of black belts. So many people achieve a black belt in this or that after a few years of training and, often stopping shortly thereafter, continue to conceptualize martial arts from that rather nascent understanding. I’m in no way denouncing people for earning black belts; my only point, having been training for about thirty-five years, is that virtually nothing you understand after a few years grants insight into the deeper qualities of martial arts.

    By way of analogy, I always tell my students that a black belt is the rough equivalent of a high school diploma. In high school, you might have learned some important, useful, and accurate things about geology, but you’re by no means a geologist, and you really don’t hold a clue about geology compared to someone working as a geologist for forty years. Your conception of geology isn’t wrong, per se, and it’s greatthat you learned geology in high school, but your understanding of geology is still very simplistic.

    Nevertheless, all of the factors above—movie mythology, child classes, “high school” black belts, etc.—put many senior martial artists in a quandary when trying to answer what is an otherwise fair and earnest question: “What style do you teach”?

    Let’s say, for example, that I say that I teach karate (which I don’t; it’s just for example). Once I invoke that term, I simultaneously invoke a tidal wave of connotations: screaming (kiais), white pajamas, rigid movements, blocking and corkscrew punching, etc. I will say karate and my listeners will hear “karate.” They won’t understand how different karate really is from their conception, how supplely the body most move to generate power, how a kiai isn’t about generating power but about rooting the body, how most bunkai—kata applications—manifest in the transition between postures rather than in the final postures themselves, how dedication to a sensei is really about a service to oneself, how the connection between karate and Zen exists but in ways that far exceed just “being in the moment,” etc.

    Thus, the problem in saying that I teach karate is that the “karate” (or kung fu, or BJJ, or MMA, or Krav Maga, etc.) that most people understand isn’t the karate I teach, and it might not be the karate that really exists at all. And there’s no easy way to bridge the gap between “karate” and karate because doing so doesn’t just require educating the public, it requires re-educating them. Unlike talking about soccer, explaining what I teach in martial arts requires at least as much dispelling of popular misconceptions and partial truths as it discussing the facts.

    In fact, even though my students see me demonstrate all the time, and even though what we always train the applications of our techniques, it still takes me students about a year or two to really get a sense of what the style is capable of accomplishing with more long-term practice. Such is the case for many arts.

    Yet if this diatribe seems like a critique of the public, then allow me to correct that: Despite the challenges I’ve enumerated, the problem is that I become tongue tied and search for words. I struggle to communicate against the popular misconceptions of the arts. I struggle to put to words that which can only be experienced. I struggle to do any more than invite people to come and take some classes so that they can begin a journey toward understanding. And I’m hardly alone in that. Many martial arts instructors struggle with communicating what it is they teach beyond the use of a popular term like “karate” or “kung fu.”

    As Alan Watts wrote, “The menu is not the meal.”

    Steve Pearlman, Ph.D.
    PraxisMartialArts.com
    Author, The Book of Martial Power



    Steve Pearlman
    www.praxismartialarts.com
    Author, The Book of Martial Power

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    So, what do you teach?
    Ed Boyd

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    Quote Originally Posted by CEB View Post
    So, what do you teach?
    In this thread he dodged the question.
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

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    Well Steve needs to check back in to the other thread he started. That is golden. To quote the Go Rin No Sho of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu and to have a Menkyo, direct descendant of Musashi responding is pure gold.
    Ed Boyd

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    Mr. Boyd,

    Thank you for alerting me to the discussion thread on my other post, and certainly to the Menkyo's presence there. For some reason, I had stopped receiving notifications of posts on that thread, and was quite unaware that anyone had responded beyond the first two. I'll certainly return to that thread as soon as opportunity presents itself.

    As for what style I teach, well, the very premise to which I was driving here, which I'm sure you understand, is the insufficiency of words as a means of explaining that. However, for all intents and purposes, I teach my own style. I am frustrated with my own response, you see, in that I don't believe I have founded a style of martial arts as much as I just have a set of understandings that I enjoy sharing. I don't feel as though I have improved on existing arts; I just have an approach that is meaningful and pragmatic for me, and one that a few others also find meaningful, for which I am grateful.

    Thus, in response to Mr. Gendzwill, I'm not dodging the question at all (though I can see how that impression could be inferred); I'm rather lamenting my inability to answer it to my own satisfaction. I suppose that affords me yet another area in which I need to improve!



    Steve Pearlman
    www.praxismartialarts.com
    Author, The Book of Martial Power

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    The usual thing would be to list what you have studied, i.e. those things that inform what you now teach. Failing that, broad terms: armed or unarmed? If armed, weapon(s)? If unarmed, do you punch? Kick? Throw? etc.

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    I teach armed and unarmed techniques, including striking, locking, throwing, trapping, groundwork, knife, stick, staff, and flexible weaponry. I root my teachings in martial principles as I wrote about in a book, and my present teachings emerge out of six core movements that we pronounce differently depending on the context, which means each movement could be strike, lock, throw, etc. We strike more open hand than closed by far. Kicks are low. We primarily train with partner (no kata), primarily for self-defense application. Depending on the moment, we might look like a hard style or soft, like a linear style or circular, like a Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, or Indonesian style.



    Steve Pearlman
    www.praxismartialarts.com
    Author, The Book of Martial Power

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    Quote Originally Posted by StevePearlman View Post
    I teach armed and unarmed techniques, including striking, locking, throwing, trapping, groundwork, knife, stick, staff, and flexible weaponry. I root my teachings in martial principles as I wrote about in a book, and my present teachings emerge out of six core movements that we pronounce differently depending on the context, which means each movement could be strike, lock, throw, etc. We strike more open hand than closed by far. Kicks are low. We primarily train with partner (no kata), primarily for self-defense application. Depending on the moment, we might look like a hard style or soft, like a linear style or circular, like a Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, or Indonesian style.
    So, you made it up based on martial principles? You can't point to previous teachers?
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

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    Allow to me to take an opposite view.

    With all due respect to the erudition and thought you put into your post.

    If one can't directly and with some degree of precision, explain what it is that they do, in a short paragraph or even a sentence or two, they likely don't understand it well enough.

    If it requires a thesis to make oneself understood in even a basic fashion then one likely does not understand what one does as well as they might.

    Not talking about the details of ones chosen practice, just talking about answering the question/s "What style do you teach/do?"
    Last edited by cxt; 26th May 2017 at 03:32.
    Chris Thomas

    "While people are entitled to their illusions, they are not entitled to a limitless enjoyment of them and they are not entitled to impose them upon others."

    "Team Cynicism" MVP 2005-2006
    Currently on "Injured/Reserve" list due to a scathing Sarcasm pile-up.

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    I didn't "make it up" at all, which as the connotation of finger painting. I did (and do) extrapolate it from what I've learned and principles as I understand them.



    Steve Pearlman
    www.praxismartialarts.com
    Author, The Book of Martial Power

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    Quote Originally Posted by StevePearlman View Post
    I didn't "make it up" at all, which as the connotation of finger painting. I did (and do) extrapolate it from what I've learned and principles as I understand them.
    Fair enough, but also very vague. Why are you not interested in listing the previous styles/teachers that you learned from?
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

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    Hi, Mr. Thomas.

    I appreciate your point. In one sense, yes, of course, we should all be able to articulate what we do in some brevity. And I can. But first a caveat, and then a disagreement:

    The caveat is that with physical techniques, it becomes difficult because they are far better seen or experienced than put to words. I can say "trapping," but trapping means many different things to different people depending on their own exposure to styles that "trap." Seeing my trapping skills would do far mare to define them than discussing them.

    In disagreement to your point, the problem also becomes one of how context really defines language--language isn't self-defined. So for example, I'm a college professor. One of my sisters once made a remark to me about how, as a college professor, I must be accustomed to lecturing. In actuality, I don't lecture, but it was nearly impossible to actually convince her of such because all of her college experiences involved lecturing. So I can explain in short order what I do, but the connotations that people receive based on their own understanding are problematic.

    Terminology can exist across sub-cultures, but the connotations that become laden in those terms can overtake, or govern, the denotations.



    Steve Pearlman
    www.praxismartialarts.com
    Author, The Book of Martial Power

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    Only because my only official "teacher" from whom I attained a rank is a connection I long ago needed to disavow, and none of my present practices relate to that practice. Otherwise, I've had quite the smattered background with no formal teachers, which is not a path I recommend. I truth, there were teachers with whom I should have devoted myself at times and did not, never because I didn't think I could learn from them, only because I allowed other paths to take precedence.



    Steve Pearlman
    www.praxismartialarts.com
    Author, The Book of Martial Power

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    Quote Originally Posted by StevePearlman View Post
    Only because my only official "teacher" from whom I attained a rank is a connection I long ago needed to disavow, and none of my present practices relate to that practice. Otherwise, I've had quite the smattered background with no formal teachers, which is not a path I recommend. I truth, there were teachers with whom I should have devoted myself at times and did not, never because I didn't think I could learn from them, only because I allowed other paths to take precedence.
    So, why choose to come to a site devoted to Japanese martial arts where, almost by definition, we will be traditionalists? Our first questions to people are likely to be, what is your style and who are your teachers, both of which you dance around.
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

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    Hm, well, I guess I came to this site of fellow martial artists in the spirit of camaraderie, believing that I would be judged not on my lineage but on my ability to contribute meaningfully (I hope) to a discussion, and most of all to learn other perspectives on the martial way. I suppose I did not expect that, because I did not reply to a post in haste or in a way that met one individual's satisfaction, that I would be accused of "dodging a question" or "dancing around" an issue when, in fact, I've been nothing but open and candid, and welcoming of all inquiries. My post to start this thread, in fact, spoke to the inadequacies of defining martial arts through language, which this very discourse has evidenced.

    What style do you practice, may I ask?



    Steve Pearlman
    www.praxismartialarts.com
    Author, The Book of Martial Power

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