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Thread: Stripping the System?

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    Default Stripping the System?



    Excerpts From the Diary of a “Mad” Martial Scientist

    “Stripping the System?”
    By
    Ron Chapél, Ph.D.

    Stripping away at the system by implication suggests that there exists a standard system from which you can perform this task. Unfortunately, the “system” by which most understand it, is non-existent. One person may strip away something, only to discover it was never included in another’s understanding. One stripped, and the other didn’t, and they both theoretically arrive at the same place.

    The system, as most want it to be, does not exist. It is NOT a set of codified movements of forms, sets, and techniques. Nor is it a systemized methodology to convey the aforementioned because a teacher must perform that task, influenced by his own ideas and experiences, gleaned from various points in time from the ever-changing ideas of the system itself, and who taught them with the same limitations.

    Because in reality, it is only a series of ideas, many of which are open to extreme subjective interpretation, the “system” in Parker Lineage Kenpo-Karate, is different from teacher-to-teacher, and even student-to-student in the same school or organization. The teacher, specifically YOUR teacher IS the system, and that will change over time as the teacher matures, and gains experience and knowledge. Ed Parker’s ideas for Kenpo-Karate are a suggested open-ended training methodology, in many ways like JKD.

    For those who seek definitive answers to definitive questions, that may be bad news but the reality is, the system was designed to do just as it does. It allows and encourages teachers and students alike to experiment and explore to the best of their abilities, whatever that might be. It is an open-ended idea system that is devoid of hard codification. It is designed for the individual to get as much, or little out of it as they desire without the fear of structural invalidation in the process. (Street application is another review process)

    It allows the casual housewife, child practitioner to exist side-by-side with the hard-core geeks, and lifers. Under any other circumstances this would be considered genius, and in fact, is. But, commerciality raises the specter of incentivizing the process for the purpose of student retention.

    You have a distinct dichotomy of concepts. One method suggests that you “do your own thing” for your own personal reward and purposes, while the other seeks a standard measurement relative to others participating as well, when the only true standard is what your teacher accepts, along with your own acceptance of his standard FOR YOU.

    There isn’t even an agreement on what it is. While some see it as strictly self-defense, others view it as exercise with a martial component, while still others want to import the “artistic” aspect from other styles with weapons that they can’t even carry legally, or morally use, while still yet there is a group that only see it as a tournament competition venue to win trophies, and everybody wants a black belt so they can at least, feel they have accomplished something.

    Examined under the light of the Dance School Business Model it was derived from, it makes perfect sense. Dance is one of the ultimate forms of personal physical expression, and any measure is subjective to the dancer, not those around him. If he is satisfied with his dancing ability than it doesn’t matter. We’ve all seem them on the floor, and were tempted to call paramedics for what we were sure was some type of seizure. But the big difference is, no one who ever walked into a strip mall dance studio/school full of kids kicking and screaming and old ladies ever felt they were going to become “masters” of anything. They’d settle for adequate, or “non-embarrassing.” For some reasons Kenpo-Karate people think all the secrets of Ancient China Martial Disciplines can be had from a thirties-something guy with limited life skills and education, who has never left the state, teaching Kenpo as his occupation.

    In the beginning of Mr. Parker’s modern commercial business model, he not only sought, but advertised for, and drew black belt instructors from other styles and disciplines, and allowed that they would take the body of work of which they were already familiar, utilize their experience in conjunction with Mr. Parker’s ideas to instruct, but that ultimately the student would make the final decision for him/herself as to what they would or would not actually use.

    This was necessary for several reasons; There was no hard curriculum, only suggestions outlined in a business guide; Mr. Parker was not even remotely available to students on a regular basis to teach and correct; and what was being instructed had to have broad commercial viability regardless of age or circumstance, outside of the sphere of Mr. Parker influence on a day-to-day basis.

    Ed Parker’s Kenpo Karate is not being reduced to a series of individual systems, it IS a series of individual systems by design. Instead, students have elevated it far beyond what it is. Practitioners once indoctrinated into the system’s norms of behavior and philosophical expectations, want to have it both ways. They want the flexibility to do their own thing, but the comfort, security, and accolades of a traditional system rank accomplishments.

    The ideas are mutually exclusive, and practitioners tend to be very unforgiving in allowing other methodologies equal legitimacy, touting instead the superiority of this personal tailoring rearrangement method. What they fail to realize is most of the teachers they revere the most came from those traditional schools and formed the basis of their abilities they used to teach the next generations from the very methods they look down upon.

    Considering the lack of codification, and Mr. Parker’s own suggestion that you may insert, rearrange, prefix, suffix, add, and yes delete with impunity as long as you were satisfied with the results, each individual is creating his/her own system. And that system will insert, rearrange, prefix, suffix, add, and yes delete as long as they choose to practice it, with no fear of philosophical incorrectness. Short fat people with stubby legs will never do some of the suggested kicks. Older more fragile people will shy away from break falls, even though they too, are suggested. Children, no matter how enthused and dedicated lack the intellectual capacity to comprehend most of Mr. Parker’s “suggestions.”

    None of this is bad or wrong because once again, it is as designed. The problem is when you give all of these diverse people rankings, and all of them think, (or at least want to pretend) they’re all equal with the same rank, then you have a problem. No one wants to accept it for what it is. Mr. Parker knew what it was, and reminded students all the time, but they just paid the money laughed and piled on the stripes, while Mr. Parker admonished them, “Just because the red show, don’t mean that you know.”

    In the Traditional Chinese method, the singular System Teacher individualized instruction to the student to maximize their abilities, and it was the teacher who made the determination of what the student needed or did not. The lack of retention issues or commerciality, with no external rank mechanisms, made sense. Students were not casual practitioners, but serious participants who did not need motivating. The accomplished stood out for their ability, not for patches, belts, or other accouterments.

    So the question is, “Where is the system we’re supposed to work from?” It doesn’t exist in form, only in philosophy. The physical manifestation is as numerous as there are practitioners – and all of them are on the right track, sort of.
    "Nothing is more dangerous than the conscientiously ignorant, or the sincerely stupid." - Martin Luther King Jr.

    "Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens." - Ed Parker Sr.

    "It's much easier to quote, than to know." - Ron Chapél


    www.MSUACF.com

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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Besides Kenpo Karate and JKD, there are also other martial arts that are based on principles rather than on rigorously defined movement patterns, and that are therefore highly adaptable to the practitioner. A good example is the revered art of Bagua Zhang. According to the book The Fundamentals of Pa Kua Chang - Volume II: The Method of Lu Shui-T’ien as Taught by Park Bok-Nam, by Park Bok-Nam and Dan Miller, “The art of Pa Kua adapts and changes as the circumstances dictate and it changes to a certain degree with each individual who practices the art. This is why Tung Hai Ch’uan taught each of his students differently and why every Pa Kua instructor displays a somewhat different interpretation of the art. It is not an art which is meant to be transferred exactly (i.e., copied) from the teacher to the student. Every student is unique and thus every student should be taught to develop his or her Pa Kua ability, according to the underlying principles, based on his or her own individual strengths and weaknesses.”

    Not unlike Kenpo Karate, Bagua Zhang was designed more as a framework, which early practitioners typically brought their individual martial arts background into.

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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Every [legitimate] system of martial arts is based on physiological and psychological principles. The question lies in whether teachers (even as far back as founders) understand and teach those principles. It takes time, it takes work, and it ain’t always fun. As such, many don’t stick with it. Folks don’t want to accept that a deeper understanding of what you do actually leads to it becoming easier to accomplish and retain.

    Respects,

    Bill Parsons
    Triangle Kenpo Institute
    www.trianglekenpo.com

    "I know Kenpo!" "Cool... do you know how to use it?"

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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Quote Originally Posted by Star Dragon View Post
    Besides Kenpo Karate and JKD, there are also other martial arts that are based on principles rather than on rigorously defined movement patterns, and that are therefore highly adaptable to the practitioner. A good example is the revered art of Bagua Zhang. According to the book The Fundamentals of Pa Kua Chang - Volume II: The Method of Lu Shui-T’ien as Taught by Park Bok-Nam, by Park Bok-Nam and Dan Miller, “The art of Pa Kua adapts and changes as the circumstances dictate and it changes to a certain degree with each individual who practices the art. This is why Tung Hai Ch’uan taught each of his students differently and why every Pa Kua instructor displays a somewhat different interpretation of the art. It is not an art which is meant to be transferred exactly (i.e., copied) from the teacher to the student. Every student is unique and thus every student should be taught to develop his or her Pa Kua ability, according to the underlying principles, based on his or her own individual strengths and weaknesses.”

    Not unlike Kenpo Karate, Bagua Zhang was designed more as a framework, which early practitioners typically brought their individual martial arts background into.
    I guess I need to ask: are you making an argument against having well defined fundamentals and body mechanics?

    i agree with you in that in my opinion any good and well designed martial system is and should be based on principles, with the techniques specifically being an expression of those principles in action, with the caveate that the techniques are being done with proper body mechanics. And that’s is something that can and should be defined.

    i believe that any system does not, or should not, intend to create carbon copies of the Instructor, if the intent behind the training is to develop functional combat skills. I am always a little perplexed when people make claims to the contrary.

    Proper body mechanics and foundational skills ought to be well defined, but how one actually uses and applies those skills is open to interpretation and imagination. The curriculum of a system should not be viewed as THE answers, but rather as POSSIBLE answers and ideas, which open the door to genuine creativity based on solid and functional fundamentals.

    as for bagua, I’ve never studied it but did have a sifu for over a decade who taught it to other students, so I have familiarity through osmosis. It is my impression that bagua, like every legitimate Chinese system that I have experience with, has well defined body mechanics and is based more on principles than on technique, as I described above. I have heard the story of the founder of bagua teaching students who already had significant training, but I am not convinced that that is the same as saying that the method itself was actually intended only for people with a significant background. I suspect the truth is closer to simply stating that people often had some training of some kind, and it might have been unlikely to find an adult student who did not. It’s just he way that life was, at that time and place.
    Michael


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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Double post.
    Michael


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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Quote Originally Posted by flying crane View Post
    I guess I need to ask: are you making an argument against having well defined fundamentals and body mechanics?

    i agree with you in that in my opinion any good and well designed martial system is and should be based on principles, with the techniques specifically being an expression of those principles in action, with the caveate that the techniques are being done with proper body mechanics. And that’s is something that can and should be defined.

    i believe that any system does not, or should not, intend to create carbon copies of the Instructor, if the intent behind the training is to develop functional combat skills. I am always a little perplexed when people make claims to the contrary.

    Proper body mechanics and foundational skills ought to be well defined, but how one actually uses and applies those skills is open to interpretation and imagination. The curriculum of a system should not be viewed as THE answers, but rather as POSSIBLE answers and ideas, which open the door to genuine creativity based on solid and functional fundamentals.

    as for bagua, I’ve never studied it but did have a sifu for over a decade who taught it to other students, so I have familiarity through osmosis. It is my impression that bagua, like every legitimate Chinese system that I have experience with, has well defined body mechanics and is based more on principles than on technique, as I described above. I have heard the story of the founder of bagua teaching students who already had significant training, but I am not convinced that that is the same as saying that the method itself was actually intended only for people with a significant background. I suspect the truth is closer to simply stating that people often had some training of some kind, and it might have been unlikely to find an adult student who did not. It’s just he way that life was, at that time and place.
    Preach, Brother!
    "Nothing is more dangerous than the conscientiously ignorant, or the sincerely stupid." - Martin Luther King Jr.

    "Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens." - Ed Parker Sr.

    "It's much easier to quote, than to know." - Ron Chapél


    www.MSUACF.com

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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Quote Originally Posted by bdparsons View Post
    Every [legitimate] system of martial arts is based on physiological and psychological principles. The question lies in whether teachers (even as far back as founders) understand and teach those principles. It takes time, it takes work, and it ain’t always fun. As such, many don’t stick with it. Folks don’t want to accept that a deeper understanding of what you do actually leads to it becoming easier to accomplish and retain.

    Respects,

    Bill Parsons
    Triangle Kenpo Institute
    You mean, unlike EPKK designed to be commercial, the hard part is in the beginning - and the better you get the LESS you need to do instead of MORE? Wow, what a concept.
    "Nothing is more dangerous than the conscientiously ignorant, or the sincerely stupid." - Martin Luther King Jr.

    "Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens." - Ed Parker Sr.

    "It's much easier to quote, than to know." - Ron Chapél


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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc View Post
    You mean, unlike EPKK designed to be commercial, the hard part is in the beginning - and the better you get the LESS you need to do instead of MORE? Wow, what a concept.
    The system that I train places a heavy emphasis on developing a full body rotation as the primary foundational principle that drives our methods. We use a basic physical exercise, called “waist turning” as a primary drill to develop this skill in isolation, before progressing to using the method within actual techniques.

    This principle is so important to our method that the founder of our system, Ng, Siu Chung, had a saying “if you understand the waist turning, you can do a thousand things.”

    This sums it up. The hard part is developing the foundation skills through understanding the principles. Once you do so, the rest sort of falls into place.
    Michael


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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc View Post
    You mean, unlike EPKK designed to be commercial, the hard part is in the beginning - and the better you get the LESS you need to do instead of MORE? Wow, what a concept.
    Isn't this similar to what John McSweeney did with his system. Smaller group of info but put to use in multi applications?
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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Quote Originally Posted by nelson View Post
    Better to know a hand full of "tricks" well than a boatload HA. This applies to any system as I've noticed.
    I have to disagree, or at least phrase it differently.

    better to understand a principle deeply and be able to apply it widely, than to know any number of tricks, without understanding the principle(s) that make them the most effective.

    any system that does not have consistent principles underlying the methodology is not really a system. It is just a handful of tricks, and ones mileage will vary. Tremendously.

    a system needs to be...systematic. Or else it isn’t a system. Consistent principles underlying the foundation makes it systematic, and make an it a system.
    Michael


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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Quote Originally Posted by flying crane View Post
    I guess I need to ask: are you making an argument against having well defined fundamentals and body mechanics?
    I am not making an argument against anything - and most certainly not against well defined body mechanics!

    I was simply highlighting the fact that, besides Kenpo Karate, there are other styles taught with emphasis on principles while allowing for a good deal of variation in regards of their application. I am not saying that this is better or worse than the approach of the more stringently defined arts, at the most one or the other may be more suitable for a particular individual and/or at a particular stage.

    Talking from personal experience, while my early involvement with Shotokan Karate gave me a satisfactory solid foundation to build on in my further martial arts studies, I appreciate the situational adaptability that Kenpo offers. I also like that it allows me to be creative and integrate all the knowledge I have gathered in over 30 years from styles as varied as Kyokushinkai, Aikido, Taiji, Kyusho-jitsu and others.

    i agree with you in that in my opinion any good and well designed martial system is and should be based on principles, with the techniques specifically being an expression of those principles in action, with the caveate that the techniques are being done with proper body mechanics. And that’s is something that can and should be defined.

    i believe that any system does not, or should not, intend to create carbon copies of the Instructor, if the intent behind the training is to develop functional combat skills. I am always a little perplexed when people make claims to the contrary.

    Proper body mechanics and foundational skills ought to be well defined, but how one actually uses and applies those skills is open to interpretation and imagination. The curriculum of a system should not be viewed as THE answers, but rather as POSSIBLE answers and ideas, which open the door to genuine creativity based on solid and functional fundamentals.

    as for bagua, I’ve never studied it but did have a sifu for over a decade who taught it to other students, so I have familiarity through osmosis. It is my impression that bagua, like every legitimate Chinese system that I have experience with, has well defined body mechanics and is based more on principles than on technique, as I described above. I have heard the story of the founder of bagua teaching students who already had significant training, but I am not convinced that that is the same as saying that the method itself was actually intended only for people with a significant background. I suspect the truth is closer to simply stating that people often had some training of some kind, and it might have been unlikely to find an adult student who did not. It’s just he way that life was, at that time and place.
    Prior experience in other styles is certainly no requirement for taking up Bagua today, however, its founder Dong Hai-Chuan indeed seems to have purposefully outlined it as a mere set of principles, highly adaptable to the particular methods preferred by the seasoned martial artists he was instructing.

    Let me quote another, more elaborate source on this (John P. Painter: Combat Bagua Zhang Nine Dragon System Volume One: Forms and Principles, p. 17):

    "A curious fact about his unorthodox teaching methods is that Dong taught each student differently. He mostly accepted men who were already superior martial artists. He then adapted his basic principles of circle walking and combative methods to their particular natures and styles of boxing. Dong would instruct his students based upon their previous knowledge of martial arts or according to their movement abilities. Thus, a man who was predisposed to grappling arts would learn the required circle walking but emphasis would be placed on throwing or wrestling (shuai jiao) movements. A man who was fast with his hands might specialize in striking (da) and kicking (ti) more than throwing.

    He also allowed his students to modify the simple basic forms he taught them according to their own specific needs as long as the forms or exercises they created complied with his basic principles. This type of training was considered quite revolutionary for his time. The result is that today there are many variations of Dong's original method and each instructor tends to mold the art to suit his or her personal idiosyncrasies.

    While this methodology of teaching may have created superior martial artists who developed unique versions of Dong's original method, it also gave rise to disputes and controversies among the followers of his original students years later after his death as to which method was more pure or correct. These petty squabbles continue today."

    Sounds familiar, hun?

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    Default Re: Stripping the System?

    Quote Originally Posted by flying crane View Post
    better to understand a principle deeply and be able to apply it widely, than to know any number of tricks, without understanding the principle(s) that make them the most effective.
    Very well said. My point exactly.

    Respects,

    Bill Parsons
    Triangle Kenpo Institute
    www.trianglekenpo.com

    "I know Kenpo!" "Cool... do you know how to use it?"

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