Poland #3

Ok, so yesterday I had BJJ training at 12:00 at Miroslaw Okninskis school (www.valetudo.pl).
Again, because of the clubs training camp, which is taking place right now, there was no instructor. However, just as wednesday, there were good MMA guys at the gym so one of them led the training.

After warmup we practiced the various mounts and how to escape from them. This became something of a game where we started „fighting for the position“, so taking a given position rather than actually submitting the partner was the goal. Of course, at the end of the training, we had lots of sparring. Great training.

At night, I met a friend of mine, Jakub, who directs a TKD club here in Warsaw (www.ronin.waw.pl). We talked a lot and covered just about anything, but here I’ll present a short outline of the martial-arts relevant topics that came up:

  1. Instructor qualification
    One of the hottest topics at hand was the question what a martial artist needs to qualify as an instructor.

    We both agreed that while sufficient experience (while „sufficient“ is a very individual thing, as some learn quicker than others) is a must, it’s not enough to actually teach. A trainee has to understand his art on both the physical and the mental side before he can help others understand. So, the art has to be in the heart and in the head.

    All of this, of course, is discussed on the assumption that the instructor to-be is able to perform his art at a high level, e.g. has a string physical and technical base established before thinking about becoming a teacher. If you can’t or just won’t practice what you preach, you’re useless.

  2. Charlatanry
    Well, talking about instructor qualification inevitably leads to the point of charlatanry, e.g. wannabe instructors that joined some weird instructor course with no prior experience in the art they’re going to teach after finishing their workshop (which often consists of a whole weekend of training). Mainly, this kind of deception can be found in self-defense circuits, however, with the increasing demand on MMA schools, strikers seem to become wrestling instructors in no time and vice versa. When chosing a school, do yourself a favor and check the instructors background.
  3. Deterioration of the art
    Sadly enough, while some fields of the martial arts seem to improve by the day (for instance the UFC, which has gone a long way from #1 to #100), many other things, especially in the amateur sector seem to deteriorate. Now I’ve noticed this myself pretty unconsciously, but when Jakub made the point, I came to understand what was bugging me over the last time.

    You see, as a general rule, the technical abilties of amateur newcomers seem to decrease distinctly. One explanation is that trainees start doing competition too early. The trainers, on the other hand, try to compensate their athletes lack of technique with better physical preparation. It’s just so much faster to improve someone’s physical condition than teach him proper technique.

    So, fighters with very little technical knowledge but superior strenght and endurance are put into newcomer competition. There, their physical edge over the opponent actually allows them to achieve success. Those near-term successes lead to higher motivation, media presence (here in Poland, anyways) and ultimately in the trainee / the trainees parents paying the tuition fee for another season.

    On the other hand, there’s schools like „traditional Taekwondo“ (TKD was founded by general Choi in 1955, what’s so traditional about it?) and others that exclude sparring from their curriculum. Also, in styles that do put emphasis on sparring, there are still those who choose not to attend sparring lessons, thus going only the easy way of flashy technique and theoretical deliberation. Those guys may have an excellent technique while practicing on the pads, but they usually can’t deal with the stress that arises in a real confrontation (I consider sports competition to be real confrontation as well). To cite Mike Tyson here „Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face“.

    To sum things up: It’s the instructors obligation to find a decent balance between technique training and application. If one of those elements is lacking, the trainees will have a hard time learning both the physical and the mental / spiritual contents that set the martial arts apart from just about any other sport.

  4. Forms
    Talking about crappy technique, we briefly touched the topic of forms. While I strongly disagree, Jakub says that praciting forms (Kata, Poomsae, Tuls, …) will improve your technical skills, thus allowing you to fight at a higher level later on. As a Shinergy instructor, I don’t see the point in practicing fixed patterns (except for education and disciplinary action, just as marching in the military). I won’t go into more detail on that topic here, though.

Today, I planned on doing MMA training with the guys at Pawel Nastulas Judo club, however, somehow I managed to catch a (hopefully minor) food poisoning yesterday, so today I had bed rest. I’ll save the Nastula Judo club for my next visit here. Tomorrow I’ll be off to an air show.

So long,

take care

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