Just this past weekend Branden Strickland, a friend and fellow karateka, tied the big knot. Branden and Laura had an outdoor service that went off with great success. The weather cooperated unusually well, the scenery was excellent, and even their corgi Yoda behaved like a little gentleman.
Over this past summer Branden had to balance his work life, his ensuing wedding, and his black belt test all at the same time. Needless to say every day was smooth sailing with little to no stress. Despite how easy all of that must have been, Branden successfully got his black belt in Okinawa Kenpo Karate/Kobudo…and now in commitment as well.
Here are two additional photos, one of a group of Branden’s dojo mates and one of me and the big man himself.
Big congrats again to Branden and Laura. I dispense small thoughts about karate and the martial way here on this blog, but I am certainly not capable of giving advice in the marriage realm. Perhaps some of the more experienced readers out there can step in for me and give Branden a few cents worth of wisdom!
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The funny thing about technique is that it can be very alluring. Martial arts inspire great leaps of imagination and originality. So much so that people (including myself) are often tempted to examine all the various possibilities of technique. This can range from exploration of bunkai, self defense, takedowns, chokes, grappling methods, vital point striking, etc etc etc.
So what’s wrong with imagination and exploration? Nothing – I wholeheartedly encourage it. What I do want to warn you about though is technique overload.
The Age Old Battle: Quality vs Quantity
How many prearranged self defense techniques do you really need to learn? 20? 100? 200? Certainly having some available is desirable because it helps program the body during times of stress (much in the same way kata can). Unfortunately it can be extremely easy to go off the deep end and over plan. If 5 prearranged knife self defense techniques are good, certainly 50 would be better right?
In my experience (both personally and having interacted with people of other styles and arts), an abundance of prearranged techniques or series of techniques can actually hinder a person’s real ability to defend themselves. This occurs for two main reasons:
#1 Tons of techniques are learned in a shallow fashion. This is the same problem with too many kata. There is no time to acquire muscle memory through rote repetition. As fancy as some prearranged tactics can seem, they are useless if the body can’t conjure them up when it counts.
#2 Too many options create a mental roadblock. Take for example a punch to the face. If the mind must choose between 60 techniques regarding how to handle that punch, it wastes valuable milliseconds processing that decision. If, on the other hand, you’ve trained yourself to naturally shift out of the way using 1 out of 5-6 mastered block/strikes, your body can simply proceed naturally and move on to dispatching the opponent.
Fear and adrenaline should never be underestimated when it comes to compromising the wonderful things we are able to do in the dojo. A beautiful 4 point kyusho knockout technique that looks astounding on a compliant opponent becomes a jumbled mess when your heart rate is jumping and your hands are shaking.
If you study your art for long enough, you’ll begin to understand the core concepts that make so many different techniques work. Things like timing, distance, weight distribution, balance, and generation of power. It is then that a scant few techniques can take on a wide variety of personas.
Keep Exploring…Just Be Warned!
Explore your style with my blessing and encouragement. Just be sure to give as much attention to naturalness. Let yourself be attacked in unexpected ways. Give yourself opportunities to fail and find out where your weaknesses are. Don’t be too quick to cast aside basic, simple techniques (those are the very techniques that could save your life).
Most of all, whether we are talking about technique, or rank, or titles, or whatever, remember – quality outweighs quantity!
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Hey all! I hope everyone had a great Halloween (or baring that, just a great weekend). I’ve always found this holiday intriguing, both from its unusual roots and how my appreciation for it has changed over the years. The past few Halloweens I only put a passing effort into dressing up, but this year I decided it was time to try a little harder.
My inspiration, oddly enough, came from a random viewing of Kill Bill Vol. II on TV. When I tuned in it was at the part where Beatrix Kiddo was getting dropped off to study with the notorious Pei Mei. For those who might not be familiar the movies, Pei Mei is one of Bill’s primary martial arts instructors, and is renowned for being both cruel and unusual in his training methods. Despite the virtually guaranteed unpleasantness, Kiddo decides to train under him anyway in hopes of achieving some of the same skills Bill possesses.
I’ve always loved this part of the movie, and was inspired to do my best to dress up as Pei Mei this year!
Do I strike fear in your heart? Does your blood run cold at the thought of crossing me? There’s no shame in it.
Also, yes – that IS the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique I am about to perform. shortly after this photo was taken I laid waste to all in attendance.
Getting the wig and facial hair on was pretty annoying…but well worth it. This costume also gave me a great excuse to buy kung fu shoes; something I’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t find a proper excuse. They are terribly comfortable!
For your continued amusement (and mine), here is a clip of the real Pei Mei being awesome:
Happy Halloween and feel free to include links to your costume in the comments below!
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