Sunday, July 28, 2013

Martial Arts Musings

This post is prompted from the many hours that my hero wife was in labor which allowed me to read Sun Tzu's Art of War and Musashi's Book of Five Rings - two very noted texts of literature known for its applicability in military science, business, and politics. THIS - I will surely blog on in the future. 

So a part of me that I've recently shared is my enthusiastic interest in learning martial arts. I've dabbled, studied, learned, gleaned, tried-out, tested, and journeyed in martial arts since I was about 8 or 9 years old. Why? Not for the best reasons. It was because I was getting bullied - a LOT.

Now, I know this is hot topics in the current sociopolitical climate - let me just say that while getting bullied really REALLY sucked, the experience made me for the stronger. Paired with the study of martial arts, I learned how to have an accurate view of myself, a good sense of what real confidence is supposed to look like, and, when things get violent (ie. I get cornered or surrounded) - how to best make my way back to safety.

Let me also say that - sure - I started martial arts at a young age; I am by NO MEANS ... a master of ANY sort. I am a student. An enthusiast. A life long learner regarding the disciplining and optimizing of the human body's functional performance. Moving on...

For a while, however, I dropped out of martial arts. I found my refuge in surfing because some certain life events (surfing actually has many similarities in terms of martial arts lessons and philosophies). Surfing was great. I lived for those perfect northwest ground swells for the local San Diego reef spots. Amazing. In any case, for over seven years, my training completely ceased and my skills deteriorated with it. However, fate has it that I've come back to martial arts at a new level of awareness, analysis, learning, and execution. I have also found that there are certain parallels in how I've traveled through systems of martial arts to find my current destination (and home) much in the same way I've found a destination in the concept of how I apply myself clinically.

Since my young age, I've come across the paths of Southern Chinese blend kung fu - a mixture of what is best described as Shaolin, Wing Chun, and Tai Chi. I eventually sought confidence in the hard hitting styles of Western Boxing, Kick Boxing, and Muay Thai. I found interest in wrestling and eventually (like most) in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I found some formal training in Wing Chun and also found a fascination with Combat Shuai Chiao (Shuai Jiao) - best translated as Chinese combat wrestling/judo (much of which, historically, the United States Marine Corp has adopted into their martial arts repertoire). Through all those learning experiences, I enjoyed the positional strength and adaptability of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Also, I simply loved the explosivity and pure dominance of Combat Shuai Chiao (CSC). Studying Wing Ching (WC) taught me line of attack (and defense), trapping techniques, and a general philosophy (for which I now can more deeply appreciate) the evolutions of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do (JKD).

After all these collections of martial arts experiences, I realized that in my younger years, I had less purpose to my study and more passion. While passion is important, misguided passion is much like unharnessed energy. Energy can build and energy can destroy - I was unfocused and constantly defeated myself in my poor application of training.

Also, during those experiences, I was drawn to study the systems which were attractive to me. I was not necessarily dedicated to the arts that were functional - merely attractive to me at the moment in time of youth.

In any case, my journey now has landed me at the Rebellion Academy in San Diego - studying under Professor Jeff Baldwin.

At this academy, three very well respected combat systems are taught:
  • Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do (JKD)
    • Bruce Lee → Dan Inosanto → Roy Harris → Jeff Baldwin
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)
    • Mitsuyo Maeda → Carlos Gracie → Reylson Gracie → Joe Moreira → Roy Harris → Jeff Baldwin
  • Filipino Martial Arts (FMA, aka Kali; Eskrima/Escrima; Arnis)
    • Guro Dan Inosanto → Roy Harris → Jeff Baldwin 
It is the content at this academy and the way it is instructed that has found harmony with my maturing martial arts philosophy. After years of contemplation and self-inflicted-floundary, I've realized in corroboration with the writings of Sun Tzu and Musashi that in martial arts, there exists a science which considers physiology, physics, and psychology.

I have found, for myself, that all martial arts have merit so long as they fulfill three criteria/principles:
  • The system must be biomechanically sound (it must make sense)
  • The art must employ and value efficiency of movement (it really cannot be "flashy")
  • The training must yield situationally adaptable skill sets (it needs to work in the vast majority of possibilities, environments, and scenarios)
JKD is seen by many as the next evolution of WC and the first real mixed martial art (MMA). BJJ is nothing if not biomechanically focused. It also is one of the best training platforms to hone a system which is adaptable to practically all situations/scenarios/positions - since BJJ is basically bringing joints, connective tissue, and circulatory tissue to terminal stress, this is actually an art which I feel that all physical therapists would benefit learning from! And, finally, FMA starts with training with rattan sticks (eskrima); "The Stick trains the Sword, The Sword trains the Knife, The Knife trains the Empty Hand." - Guro Dan Inosanto.

FMA, as it stands, is a blend - taking the best of all the worlds it has learned from and tossing the useless/redundant/flashy. It is typically an art that considers melee weaponry by which anyone at anytime could hold something in their hands and use to defend themselves - a pen, the corner of your mobile phone, a newspaper, a hardback book, a pronounced key, a cane or crutch... the list goes on.

The teachings at this school are disciplined, systematic, and constructive - three elements one really values at a martial arts academy. There is no pride at this school; no one is out to prove something. The members of this academy are decent and kind - willing to share their experiences and help you strengthen your weakness. This, of course, represents good instruction and leadership from the academy professor.

In another vein of thought, I've also found that much of life unfolds in the same manner as to the three principles above. Why study or employ things that do not make sense? Why get involved in systems that are not effective? That are a waste of time and effort due to redundancy or being complete bunk? Why identify with an approach that works only in small window of confidence for which only a small and select set variations are made possible?

I see these three principles are a great set of tuning forks for clinical approach. Say you come across some new clinical method for dealing with foot pain. Does this approach make sense? (ie. is it evidence based?) Is it efficient? (ie. let us make sure this isn't over complicated) And, does it work for the vast majority of foot pain out there?

Food for thought. Again, I'm not a master by any means. But, I would humbly suggest that I've seen and learned enough to make solid judgments in this regard. This musing of martial arts blog series is something very exciting to me - it's exciting to be back in training and its exciting to share about this very important part of my life.

Yours Humbly,
-Ben Fung

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