Classical training without weaponry may be missing the point

Wednesday, 25. August 2010

With a tremendous amount of martial arts available now, the art is becoming progressively more and more specialized. Some only grapple, some strike, some only like weapons and similar. To be a really balanced martial artist one needs to have at least a fundamental understanding in all 3 areas. Weaponry commonly gets lost nowadays, simply because of the mistaken belief that it’s “not applicable” in a modern world because traditional weapons simply aren’t used anymore. Nothing could possibly be further from the truth! In addition to that, you are robbing yourself of a knowledge set involved in any forms you might happen to perform.

We can start by simply looking at the name “Martial art.” It evokes images of Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and the like.  Martial’s meaning of course, is Military.

1: of, relating to, or suited for war or a warrior
2: relating to an army or to military life
3: experienced in or inclined to war : warlike

Military Art. Were fists and feet used in Militaries? Absolutely, as a backup. You used them when Your spear was broken, your sword was bent, and the dagger you were carrying was left in a body 5 guys ago and his club is now broken. Simply put they’re a weapon of last resort after your real ordinance is expended or situationally used opportunistically. Were that not the case, we’d never have evolved beyond using our bare bodies. So, why practice forms that use fists and feet then? It’s not purely that!

The answer of course is that the forms have multiplistic application. Getting to strike and kick out of them is bonus, but you are really practicing with weaponry. The weaponry is the root use of the martial training and is hidden with all forms, although particularly eastern forms. If you are only studying the striking applications of them, then you’re are missing 2/3rds of what most forms are all about. (Yes, some of the sporting stuff doesn’t specifically include it, but it’s still there if you know where to look.  Grappling is the other 1/3.)

In addition to the benefits of being a step closer to understanding what forms you are training, there are additional bonuses. Weaponry training focuses and sharpens ones awareness considerably, due to the cost of failure. Likewise, ones sense of distancing or Mae is further honed. We use hands to assist with judging engaging distance with grappling, but such options are often unavailable with weaponry. Your distancing is considerably longer, as well and must be set in a more visual fashion. Even if you prefer not to use such augmentation, its likely your opponent will be. You must be comfortable engaging with all distances.

The argument that “these weapons are no longer used” is only applicable in a literal sense. In a more pragmatic sense, all weapons have nearly identical function. You put the striking surface or cutting edge into the opponent. Weights and distances differ, but the net function is essentially identical. Target selection can vary but then again, it may not. Eyes, temple, throat, solar plexus as well as joints, arteries and nerves can still be damaged or accessed in a similar fashion.

In addition to being able to develop the ability to physically strike an opponent, you are also developing the mental ability to strike a foe. In the same fashion that some people freak out and are unable to strike an opponent effectively with fists because they visualize whats actually happening to an opponent; the effect is amplified more so by weaponry. It takes steeling oneself to be able to stand and react unaffected in face of deadly weaponry. Conditioning the mind to be able to respond is every bit as important as conditioning the body. Weaponry by its mere existence takes your training to that level if it’s not there already.  Throw a knife into the grapple and watch how much more dangerous and real it becomes. You are now training with intent, which is precisly what is needed for effectiveness.

The benefits go even further however. Weaponry conditions the body by bearing an increased load. The body responds similarly to weight training, increased muscular, but even more importantly increased strength of the connective tissues and bone structure itself.  The quick action of strikes at load is useful for developing fast twitch muscle fibers, as well as its supporting musculature.  Its also a fabulous grip training tool for the same reason, something everyone can use.

In short if you haven’t been working with weaponry due to its perceived lack of benefits, you really need to being doing so to add another full dimension to your training both physically, mentally and spiritually. This of course, has one caveat. You need to work with someone who is familiar with weapons safe usage, who is trustworthy and most importantly has good attention to detail. Failure to do so can result in some rather nasty injuries.

(I’ll argue that in order to study for self defense, you need to train with modern weaponry just as much as anything.  The pistol is the modern shortsword.  That however is another article within itself.)

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3 Responses to “Classical training without weaponry may be missing the point”

  1. Radio Prime Says:

    Every one should carry some type of weapon with them when out in the public. And when at home you should know where you could find a weapon in a heartbeat. People that tell me they don’t carry a weapon because “It wont happen to me” are exactly what the predators of today look for. That being said if you carry a weapon you must train with it extensively. I myself cary no less that 3 weapons with me at a time. They tend to be knives, pens, or a small 4 inch piece of dowel. When trained properly with a weapon you will no longer walk around as a mindless zombie like the rest of the population. You will exude a sense of confidence that modern predators can sense. I myself have caused no less than 3 attackers back away from me because they could sense something was different and I never even pulled out my weapon.

  2. runjikol Says:

    Those three techniques (striking, grappling, weapons) are the foundations of melee combat. Personally I think focusing on one, to any detriment of the others, is done at your peril. However, underestimating the power of deception in combat is a common mistake in modern styles. And of course the maxim, “Never bring a knife to gun fight” always holds true. :-)

  3. Grey Says:

    It’s just very limiting to only look at one aspect of motion when there is so much application. Your point about deception is a good one, from what I’ve found though a lot of that used properly is really assassination. Extremely hard to defend against the shank when you can’t see it until it’s sticking in you. We’ve tried this in a lot of exercises and really awareness and preemption is about the only working solution.

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