Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Culture Shock

I find myself in a bit of a culture shock. Or maybe a reverse culture shock.

I spent almost 15 years doing traditional Martial Arts. I received black belts in Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do. The culture in these arts was belt based. In order to learn new techniques, you had to progress through the belt levels. Great emphasis was placed on testing and receiving new belts.
The first two questions that were asked of any new student walking in the door was, Have you trained before and What belt are you?
Time and trouble were spent mastering moves that may or may not have any relevance in a combat situation.
Sparing and contact were kept to a minimum, except for those who wanted it. Even Though you used different moves in sparing, great emphasis was placed on the non combat moves, because they were required for testing.

Then I went to a fighting gym. I have been there for about 4 years now. New students were welcomed, then shown where the mat was. Little to no emphasis was placed on belts. The only belts that mattered were championship belts. Sure there was a belt system in place, but since everybody did the same techniques what use was there in testing?

In the fighting gym everything was about respect. You gained it by spending time on the mat, and in the ring. Those who stepped in to the ring or the competition mat were looked on with reverence and the training focused on getting them ready for fights. Training was always intense, because somebody always had a fight somewhere. You could not help but improve your technique. You improved, or you were dominated.
Useless techniques were discarded. No time was wasted on moves that could not be directly applied to the fight.
All that mattered was the fight.
Technique drills and sparing time was overbalanced in favor of sparring.

Both cultures had their positives and negatives. I the fighting gym, only the toughest of new people stick around to train. It is good because anybody on the mat or in the ring at any given time is going to give you trouble. Everybody is tough, nobody ever quits.
It is bad because maybe that one guy is a diamond in the rough, but needs just a little bit of external encouragement, or incentive to get them to be a good training partner. In the fighting gym, this person is crushed, and sent home

In the belt obsessed gym, everyone is included and encouraged to participate. This is great because all are given a chance to learn and grow. Everybody learns the beauty of the Martial Arts and have the chance to participate in all activities.
It is bad because the weak and the half assed are there to drag you down. The workout is not nearly the intensity of what it could be, because all fitness types must be accommodated.

In my opinion the TMA gym will foster a false sense of security in most of the participants. They believe that their workouts and their sessions will prepare them for the fight. In fact very little of what they do prepares them for the fight.
Heart, toughness, the ability to take and receive pain is not experienced. For certain perseverance is preached, and for the very unfit, experienced in the daily work out.
In the fighting gym, you never gain a true sense of security. You are always striving to improve your fight game, because those around you are doing the same thing. There is no complacency, because complacency is punished by those willing to push farther than you are. The fight is the only thing that matters. Heart is built daily. Limits are tested daily. At some point in every workout your mind attempts to betray you with thoughts of quitting. These qualities build the fighter.

The gym I just joined tries to make a distinction between the two cultures. In the beginning it is more of a TMA dojo. Emphases is put on getting belts. When a certain level of achievement is attained, you are allowed to work out in the intense advanced class. This allows the beginner to learn and grow until they are ready for the more intense work out.

I am in a bit of a culture shock, because I am stuck in the beginner classes. I know the moves, and I have the fitness and drive to be in the upper level, but they simply do not know me yet. So, I am stuck in the belt ranks. After being at the fighting gym for so long I miss the intensity. I miss the fight. I thrived in the fighting gym because I craved the ability to step up my game and to find other fighters that were willing to go hard until we dropped. Few and far between were those types of people in the TMA dojo. In the fighting gym that type of personality was always the guy you were with.

No comments: