30 Mar 2005

The Brotherhood of Fighting

One of the more unpleasant aspects of the martial arts is the style versus style debate. You still hear these days that so and so could kick your ass because his style of what-fu is better than your which-jitsu.
One of my BJJ colleagues, who has also trained in Kung Fu for 8 years, told me that he tapped out his Sifu with a triangle choke during sparring in Kung Fu class. This seemed to unsettle him for days since he honestly didn’t think he had the skills to beat his master, plus, he genuinely thought his master’s skills were unassailable and now, somehow, his view of sifu has just ever so slightly been tarnished. So what lessons can be learnt from this anecdote?
Nothing really. My BJJ colleague is a mighty strong fellow and he beats all of us at BJJ class, so it’s no surprise that he beat a non BJJ martial artist. His sifu is still a sifu and nothing changes there. If anyone was at fault, it was my colleague for thinking that his sifu was untouchable.
But it does hint at the notion that some people who swear by one style, should perhaps examine their claims and themselves a little closer – I include BJJ in this.

The first few UFC tournaments, many believed, quashed any doubt about style versus style. It showed that taking an opponent to the ground and working for submission was far superior to the supposedly mythic strikes and kicks of other martial arts. To some extent, this was true. It did expose the weaknesses of certain martial arts. But those who have read the book No Holds Barred, by Clyde Gentry, will understand that the UFC was carefully planned and orchestrated purely to showcase Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The fighters were genuine exponents, but they were perhaps not necessarily the ‘masters’ they were made out to be. Nowadays, mixed martial arts fighters train in all areas, from stand up to the ground. It has ceased to be style versus style and simply person versus person. In a way, UFC did revolutionise martial arts because now they had to take serisouly the threat of knowing how to fight on the ground.

However BJJ has it’s knockers. A quick tour of the forums will quickly reveal those who like to bring it down. But the undeniable fact is that up and down the country, hundreds of very good exponents of traditional martial arts are trying BJJ out for the first time each week and liking it very much. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that BJJ is replacing their art. In most cases, like me, I would say they are cross training in order to compliment their style. For me, it has reaffirmed my belief that sparring against a resisting opponent is an essential component of learning martial arts. It is also a humbling experience to be pinned down and choked out by a person half your size.

That Kung Fu sifu I mentioned earlier sometimes pops down to class and just watches. He is a friendly and open person and heartily agrees that groundwork is important, but he has not made the final leap to actually getting on the mat. For some, the divide is too great. There are years, decades even, of rules, customs, rituals, that have been ingrained into the mind and are very hard to release. To be beaten in sparring by a mere novice is too humiliating for some.

At the end of the day, there should be no debate about style or technique. There is enough choice for people to make up their own minds without all the bitching and immature taunts.

Martial arts is a brotherhood and not a prison. Come join the 'hood.

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Anonymous said...

While I quite agree that it is most humbling to be pinned down by an opponent half of one's size, it does beg the question: what is half the size of a meerkat?

Meerkat said...

True. I was of course referring to those that I, the tiny one, pins down, not the other way round.


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