Martial Arts Halls Of Fame And Associations

The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind. Bhagavad Gita 2:23

…or glorified by a plaque and picture. Rickbo.

I am in no martial arts hall of fame, or currently member of any association. There are so many martial arts organizations these days!

I’ve been a member of a couple.  Not too many, since monetary fees are involved, and I can think of other things to do with those monies.  But I’m not big on being part of martial arts organizations.  They don’t really serve my needs in an extended manner.  Often, they really don’t contribute much to your martial arts skills and knowledge.

If you look you’ll see on some martial artists’ bios that they are members of many organizations, and in many halls of fame. They are in photos with many great martial arts celebrities.  Those are supposed to validate the martial artist; “He is so great he is in a picture with someone else who is great!”  It becomes a kind of competition; “How many awards do you have?  How many celebrities are you in a pic with?”

I am suspect of that kind of validation.  Actually, I find it superficial.  You see, I grew up believing that the greatness created by martial arts training was mostly invisible.  It was beyond physical skills, and certainly beyond photo ops, even beyond the validation of a plaque.

I too have some photos with martial artists, some I’ve trained with extensively, and some just a few times.  I’ve trained with more people than I have photos with. Why? Because we spent our time training.  But, I would invite my friends, teachers, students, and any others, not to use the photos or certificates, or even belts, as an accreditation of my soul or my character.  For that you have to experience my presence.  Everything else is easily deceiving.

In Zen, the Satori; the transcendent experience of the sublime, in a manner, your mastery, is said to occur as a transmission beyond the scriptures.  That means that the experience did not come by passing a standardized test and getting a certificate or diploma, and  it is not validated by a declaration, paper, or external symbol.  Many masters are mostly unknown and not easily recognizable.

Let’s be honest, you pay your way into most Martial Arts Hall Of Fame things.  When you join an organization you get an “In Good Standing” diploma, and I’ve seen where people have paid to attend a seminar, not participated, and went and got a photo with the master.

Wherever I live, I try to establish a relationship, a simple relationship, with a martial arts instructor, club, or school where I can learn, train, or teach.   I’ve been fortunate in always finding one.

I have joined organizations, but ones where I could actually benefit because of regular training opportunities. When that has exhausted, I moved on.  I have high regard for many of my seniors, the instructors I’ve trained with, but don’t ask me for puppy dog like worship, which I’ve seen become one of the requisites of these organizations.  Like President Obama said in a speech today “it’s not gonna happen.”

I’m happy being an active martial artist without personal celebrity, and without the validation of multiple organizations.  I don’t even have many facebook connections, and I like that.

I understand the marketing value of the fame, but my martial arts practice is a personal thing, not a corporate one, and,  like I express in my addendum to the epigraph, celebrity and external validation do nothing for the soul.

Training Damages and Injuries

Left knee-joint from behind, showing interior ...

Left knee-joint from behind, showing interior ligaments. (Lateral meniscus and medial meniscus are cartilage.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I skipped training for the last couple of days. 

Sometimes I’m lazy.  Sometimes I forget that rest and recuperation are part of a smart training regimen.

Sometimes I don’t want to do 25 repetitions of slow 4 count slow sidekicks and much less 6 count reps, then move on to the other kicks.    Sometimes my muscles ache from having done them the day before.  It’s a little damage for a good cause.  But I’ll take a break from that and be back to it in little time.  Exercise does do a little bit of damage to the body, but there’s a mechanism whereby that physical damage done intelligently, is a prelude to an improved regeneration.  We know this because others have successfully used the process before.

Bodybuilders strain their muscles in order to tear certain fibers that with proper nurturing will cause them to become bigger and stronger.  Other athletes stretch their muscles and ligaments in order to exceed average performance.  Those repetitions I strain through make my kicking skills and abilities better than the average, and maybe better than some others who do it less. That’s their value.

These are limited damages and injuries.  But we can’t be ignorant about extended damages and permanent injuries.  Bill Wallace a famed Karate superstar known for his extreme flexibility and kicking prowess once said something like “everyone wants to get into a split, that’s no problem, I can put you in a split, you just may not be able to walk for six months.”

Done unintelligently in our training we can do lasting damage and even irreversible injury to ourselves, in pursuit of our martial arts skills and abilities.  Worse yet, someone else can do it to us, like the novice instructor who insists that you do a bridge exercise without knowing if you have spinal or back issues just cause he can, or wants you to do hard lock out roundhouse kicks without knowing the particulars of the knee joint, or about your particular knee issues.

I’d argue that pursuit of a 180 degree split in order to do a skyscraper side kick, is not worth being out of work for six months because you’re bedridden from a severe hamstring tear.  Old school karateka, would do damage to their hands in order to have desensitized, deformed calcified, rock hard fists.  Practically none of these were brain surgeons or concert pianists.

With youth, you can recover more quickly from limited damages and injuries, especially if done in an intelligent, progressive sort of manner.  With aging and maturity you do not recover as quickly, even with intense mind over matter hoodoo.  That means that the degree of limited damage you are subjected to, or subject yourself to, should be a lot more gradual and progressive.

 Another thing is that the extent to which you want to improve performance may not be obtainable.  You may have severe arthritis, which hinders the use of your joints, or you may have scar tissue that cannot regenerate, going from zero to 180 degree split in a short time may be done, but at the greater cost of irreparable damage.  Do you want to have to use a cane for no other reason that going for a split?

For professional athletes, the rise in performance equals greater income, even if shortened careers, and extended damages and injuries are a trade off they are willing to make.  For military and law enforcement personnel the difference in performance can mean the difference between life and death.  For average martial arts practitioners with aspirations beyond sports specific goals, like growing in professional careers or keeping a job, raising a family, or serving the public, extended damage and injuries become a life setback.

I skipped training for the last couple of days.  I’ve been training reasonably hard: strength, cardio, bagwork, sparring, kata, stickwork, hitting the tires, and flexibility.  Yes, I’ve been putting in the time and work, not many men my age go as fast and hard as I do in all these areas.  But, I have longstanding damage to a body part, and know there’s a point of irreversible damage to it.  I have to be mindful of stopping short of that, in spite of my own “I CAN DO ANYTIHNG” mindset.  “OOPS!” does not heal anything. 

So, I took a couple of days off, and when I do I feel bad about it.  I read, I study, I write, work around the house and do other things, I’m not idle.  But, I feel guilty, like all the work I’ve put in my whole life will have gone to waste if I miss a day of training.  But that’s not true, and my goals are different.  I don’t train and exercise for sports specific, or military goals.  I do it as a part of my holistic personal development, and no part of that development should damage any other.

I’ll get back to it all tomorrow, and within a week expect to be back at my chosen level, possibly exceed it.  These days I try to be guided by knowledge and wisdom, rather than by testosterone and bravery, though there’s times for that too 🙂

Martial Arts, Martial Combat Training, Martial Sport Training.

When I train an offense/counter offense skills I am training 2 out of the three, combat and sport.  I’ll come back to why not 3 out of three later.   I have little doubt that a trained boxer will outperform an untrained street fighter as far boxing in a street fight.  He trains a sport but that sport has substantial combat applications.  Individuals who take their military combat training seriously (oh yeah, there have been and will be slugs) are not people you want to tangle with in a bar, but may have no real sense of the sport aspect of their training, or the “art” of it all.

When I was in The Marine Corps decades ago, we used to joke about how little “Martial Arts” training we underwent, but that we were still bad asses.  Those half dozen or so moves we did train had a lot of body, heart, and soul into them.  We trained them for “KILL” mode and that counts for a lot.  I saw a supposed martial artist spin crescent kick a brig guard once, a decent kick too, only to get tackled and beat pretty good for that offense by a martially unsophisticated Corporal.

Yes, it’s not the martial art, but the martial artist that accounts for the quality of the art.  I’ve heard it, and said it as well.  But substitute “mode” here, martial mode not martial art, not yet, and what I’ve got to say may make more sense.

“Art” is really hard to train, says someone who went to art school (me).

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931...

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Museum of Modern Art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is not a mere matter of skillfulness.  We distinguish different modes and potential expressions of artistry such as visual arts, literary arts, musical arts, and movement arts such as martial arts, dance, or even gymnastics, but not every skillful expression in a particular mode is art.

The Art part, with a capital A, takes place in the invisible realms of life, of living, and of the soul.  I have learned visual modes of expressions and martial modes of expressions in the classroom.  I have learned the Arts of these in contemplative moments, in moments of personal challenge or crisis, through desire, fear, love, hate, confusion, weariness, and more, then repeat, then it infuses into your mode.  That’s when the mode becomes art.  The skillfulness may be higher or lower than another’s, but true artistry has no degrees.

It used to be said that kids could not be blackbelts because they lacked wider life experience, and the blackbelt was not just reflective of skill, but of wider ranging maturity.  I agree.  We can teach martial modes, or expressions such as Karate, Escrima, Kung Fu, but not every student will be a martial artist.  Even the skillful student may not be a martial artist, and that part is hard for the observer to determine at a glance. However, it seems we’ve tacitly agreed to acknowledge skillfulness over maturity, and adding youthful athleticism and resilience to the mix how can you not have an eight year old 2nd degree blackbelt?  Sarcasm here!

As martial arts instructors I think we train and teach 2 out of the three.  We train martial combat skills for fighting and self defense, and martial sport skills for the competitive individuals.  But the “Art” is not something we can give, it has to come from the student, and involves more than just skillful maneuvers.


I saw a guy on the subway, cool looking dude, minding his own business, waiting for the train.

Big dude, 6’6″ or over, around 300 stocky looking pounds, it was winter and he was wearing a thick poofy looking leather coat, ski gloves, heavy jeans, and timberland work boots.  He looked lie a nice dude, listening to his ipod and waiting for the train, and I’m glad he was a nice dude at least at the moment.

But it got me to thinking, suppose he wasn’t a nice dude, instead, drunk, or crazy, and started a fight, or attacked people at random.  He can smother you.  How do you neutralize this guy?  To hit him in the face you’d have to jump a like a kid just to get a bit of a smack on him.  The coat he was wearing was like armor from the neck to the knees.  He had big hands so a casual strike from him would be significant, and being kick by timberland boots is no joke,  He was a football player quality individual.  how do you stop him, precluding use of a firearm, and high caliber at that?

I have a couple of ways I’d approach that, but the easiest would be to strike to the body.

English: PHILIPPINE SEA (March 7, 2010) Aviati...To drill a punch or kick to his ribs or chest so hard you’d break something or at least double him over to bring his head down to eye level, then work on taking out that command center. But, he’s wearing this poofy coat, and I don’t know how many layers of clothing under that.

I’m 5’6″, heavy at 175 lbs, it would have to be a really hard hit, or two, or three.

What about someone lighter and shorter than me, what about a delicate woman?

When I was younger I had something called a makiwara, at the dojo, and at home. It was for hitting practice, for developing hitting power.  These days I use a heavy bag, a punching bag, and I mostly use it like a boxer.  But sometimes, I’ll use it just to do a few rounds of singular, quick, “just as hard as I can” hits.  I try to remember something an instructor told me about punching “with your whole life.”

English: GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (March 25, 2011)...

I see guys at the gym sometimes hitting the bag, working their jabs, footwork, being slick, and not shooting big ass power, fight stopping punches, just pity pat.  Other dudes, especially heavier ones, will do nothing but big wind up hay makers you can see coming from Cincinnati.  I try to train and teach a balance of speed and power.  Sometimes you need both. Sometimes you need one more than the other.   If you don’t train hitting under stress with power, chances are you won’t generate the power you need in a crisis moment.

Even with my size, weight, and age, I’m confident I can strike quickly enough, with enough power, to hurt the big guy, after all that is the point, train for anything less and you might as well take ballet lessons.

Because of my body and personality type I prefer finesse over brute force, but even your brute force aspects should be developed, keep that ying and yang balanced.

Practice hitting, really hard and fast, just in case your big guy with the poofy coat and timberland boots, isn’t as nice as mine was.

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