In this article we will discuss some general conceptual knowledge that is likely to be of benefit to you over time. This information is a bit eclectic, but it is nonetheless worth reviewing.
Hard vs. Soft Martial Art Styles
It is quite common for people to classify a particular martial art as either a hard style or soft style martial art.
Hard styles are often thought to be characterized by powerful kicks, tense muscles, hard punches, punishing blocks, and high energy linear movements. This is of course a large generalization, but when you watch a practitioner of a hard style you will notice many of these characteristics.
Soft styles generally involve more subtle actions, often with open hands, pliable muscles, and circular movements. Power is more often derived from circular rather than linear momentum and there is greater focus on reducing energy usage.
No martial art is truly a hard or a soft style. Any competent martial artist will be capable of using either approach. In Tensoku Ryu we strive to not be considered a hard or a soft style. We wish to use hard style approaches when relevant, and use soft style approaches when beneficial. All of these skills and strategies are appropriate. We want to ultimately study and be extremely competent at them all.
Understand Fundamental Biology
Biology is the study of life. This includes how an organism functions, as well as how the various parts of the organism aid in the overall growth, function, and structure of the organism. This is, of course, a vast and complex subject. We are not expecting students to have a doctoral level knowledge of biology, but some simple biological principles are worth knowing well.
Knowing that all life is essentially based on cells is important. Knowing that different cells behave in different ways is also crucial. For example, knowing that blood cells have a completely different structure, organization, and function than muscle cells is an important insight.
A new cell is produced when one cell divides into two cells. When you build muscle tissue you increase this process. When your body detects low levels of oxygen it spurs the creation of more blood cells using this process.
Cells within your body are constantly being regenerated. Older cells die and new ones are created to replace the older cells. If you maintain a healthy lifestyle and remain in good physical condition you will generally promote this process. If you abuse your body unnecessarily you may retard this process.
Cells require nutrients and oxygen to perform their defined purpose. They also produce waste products that must be removed so the cell is not harmed. Your body’s ability to supply nutrients and remove wastes is a critical function that promotes good cellular health.
Maintaining a healthy diet, good hydration, a good exercise program, and obtaining appropriate rest are all essential elements for promoting good cellular health.
As you study Tensoku Ryu you will explore a great many different parts of the human anatomy. Each part of the anatomy typically has unique cells that support the function of that anatomical system. As you study a new system you should strive to understand the nature, structure, and behavior of these cells so that you have an appreciation for not only how they function, but what is required to ensure they are benefiting from your daily activities.
Magic Touch Points Do Not Exist
There is a huge myth that surfaces periodically in martial arts discussions. The myth is that there is a magic touch point on an individual’s back, shoulder, or neck, which if touched, will cause a person to immediately collapse into unconsciousness.
Let’s apply the rule of reason to this myth. Let us assume for the moment that it is true. Now let us consider the number of times a day the following events occur:
- Someone receives a back rub or back massage
- Someone horses around and grabs their friend by the “scruff of the neck”.
- A spouse massages the back of a car driver’s neck on a long road trip
- Someone congratulates another by slapping them on the back
- You reach back and swat a fly or mosquito that has landed on your neck or upper back
- Somebody passes you in the hallway so you move back to let them pass and impact something on the wall with your upper back
- Somebody walks up behind you and pokes a finger in your back to get your attention
- You grab your pen and use it to scratch an itch at the base of your neck
- Someone has brought you a drink and places their hand on the back of your neck as they set the drink on the table before you
- You’ve been hunched over your computer for hours and reach back with both hands to kneed and massage the muscles in your neck in an attempt to relax them and relieve some stress
These (and undoubtedly many other) events occur all the time. In fact it is likely that one or more of these events happen to every person at least once each day. There are roughly seven billion people on earth. Let’s speculate that for every 10,000 such touches someone accidentally hits the magic spot that causes an individual to spontaneously pass out. Doing the math it means that about 700,000 people a day should drop like a stone.
Looking at this a little differently. There are about 350 million people in the United States. If one in 10,000 people every day were affected, then about 35,000 people every day would randomly just collapse. Every year there would be more than 12,775,000 cases of spontaneous touch-induced fainting. This is one in every 27 people in the country. When was the last time you saw one?
The numbers I proposed are purely speculative because, well, this just doesn’t happen. You are likely to encounter many such myths as you study the martial arts. Whether it is this myth, or someone claiming they can throw a person to the floor from across the room without touching them using only their “chi power”; it is all the same. The martial arts is and always has been based on physics, anatomy, biology, and a bit of psychology thrown in to spice things up. It is nothing more. There are no wizards and there is no magic.
Oh, and that Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique featured in several movies? Yeah, you get the idea.
We have mentioned a couple of times that we expect our students to never use their martial arts skills to intimidate or bully an innocent person. That is perhaps the fastest way to become a non-student. We have little tolerance for those who wish to bully others.
This not only refers to our students, but to anyone else as well. If you find someone bullying another person then, to the extent that you can reasonably do so, you should intervene to stop it. If you are twelve and the bully is 28, then trying to stop it may not be prudent. Get the police involved if necessary – but you may not want to intervene physically. If you are an adult and the bully can be persuaded to move on, then you should encourage them do to so. If they will not then involve the police or take whatever reasonable steps may be necessary to end the problem. It would violate our general core principles to leave while another is being bullied or assaulted.
You and a Jury
Some students who have achieved their Orange Belt begin to think they are pretty darned good martial artists. Some of these same students seek to prove it by picking or instigating a fight. Clearly this is not something we encourage. You should always seek to avoid a fight and never seek to initiate one.
One thing these students often neglect to consider is that there are often legal consequences for starting a fight. If witnesses say you are the one who started or instigated the fight the police will arrest you. If there are no reliable witnesses to the fight then the police will arrest both you and the other person(s) for “mutual combat.” You will get to explain yourself to a non-sympathetic judge. Depending on how that goes, you could spend a justifiable period in jail.
If the other person has been severely injured then you will be subject to significant legal scrutiny. If the prosecutor thinks your actions were unwarranted they will seek to prosecute you. It is their job. They will prosecute you. Now you may be looking at some non-trivial prison time.
But wait, there’s more! If you started the fight, or if there are no credible witnesses that will claim you were attacked, then the person with whom you were fighting may sue you. Yes, even if they started it, they may claim they were attacked in an unprovoked manner by you. Now it is largely your word against theirs. Your opponent’s attorney will stand there before the jury and ask a question like, “So, how long have you been practicing the martial arts?” You answer in a matter-of-fact manner, “About eighteen months or so.” The attorney turns to face the jury and says, “So, you’re an expert then.”
It is likely the jury has little idea how long it takes to be an expert martial artist. Anyone who has practiced for more than two weeks is an expert as far as they may know. The implication they are left with is that you are a trained bully and quasi assassin who has mercilessly attacked some poor innocent bystander. You are toast, my friend.
The point of all this is that there is a real world beyond the Dojo walls. You cannot assume the skills you have learned in the Dojo can be utilized without consequence. There will be legal ramifications if you use your skills in an inappropriate manner. There may even be legal ramifications if you use your skills appropriately. When possible, avoid a conflict. When that is not possible, thwart your opponent. Only if that is impossible would you wish to ensure your opponent is incapable of assault. You, and you alone, are responsible for your actions.