Inspirations and Limitations

This tale reminds me of stories that have inspired me. Firstly, a good friend of mine was run over by a bus in 1989 and also suffered a shattered pelvis. I went to see her in hospital many times as she recovered. Natural childbirth was not a post-op option but she is now married with a son and teaching kids in India. A little mundane in comparison to marathon running, but I have always been impressed with her ‘get on with it’ attitude. The second episode concerns an article I read in a paper. A blind man sailed round Cape Horn – I’ve looked but can’t find this story, which blew me away at the time. The sailing trip in itself is pretty good but doing it blind! Last year, there was the story of the ‘blind Dave’, from very close to home, running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. Amazing stuff regardless of disability.

Dave Heeley and Malcolm Carr

Dave Heeley and Malcolm Carr

There are countless stories like these, which can be described as awesome, in the true sense of the word. Inspiring, of course, but how come some people manage these things while others are content with Coronation Street. Human nature I suppose, although the Coronation Street fan is likely to impose self-induced limitations, which reduce him/her to a sofa-led life fuelled by crisps, cake and coke. That may be a little over-damning but you get my point, by settling for the ‘soaps’ there’s less time for more adventurous pursuits.

In the Martial Arts we often have limitations prescribed by the systems we ‘study’. We are told that a certain technique/principle/attitude is just not xxx. In karate, kata (forms) and kihon (basics) are considered important, in fact more than important, they are considered key, while the link to kumite (fighting/sparring) is often blurred or lost. For a flavour of this I refer you to two Karate Underground threads on kata and bunkai and kihon/kumite respectively. There, at the very least, seems to be a lot of confusion.

The point of this post is not to enter the argument over the merits of the karate model (the three K’s), rather to point out the limitations this system imparts. The outcome of being bound by ‘traditional’ training methods and absolutes means progression as a system is reduced. By concentrating on kata performance, for example, any lessons contained within can be lost, ignored or misinterpreted. Form is emphasised over function; a crime that leads to techniques and practices that look good/pretty but are sub-optimal in a fighting situation.

An emphasis on absolute performance criteria results in a stifling atmosphere, any progression is underpinned by form constraints, limiting them critically. However, lateral over literal thinking inspires and aids progression. Personally, by training with inspiring individuals and adopting a scientific approach to training our club is free of limitations, hopefully.

Progression within a system, whether internally or externally led, is essential for a system to survive. If not, you are left with an archaic, self-perpetuating, sub-optimal martial art. And art seems to be the correct terminology as systems limited by archaic form-related practices tend not to be scientific. Rather, they have more akin to the blind faith of those believing in psychic ability or whatever. I’m right, you’re wrong. Why not have a look and test it, see how a ‘new’ technique/principle/attitude works in comparison to what you currently use, you may even learn something……

I wonder if the two blind people or the two people in the road accidents I referred to earlier were limited by their afflictions?


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