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Thread: Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

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    Default Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

    Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo
    By Bob Hubbard - Thu, 29 Mar 2007 06:21:11 GMT

    ====================

    Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys
    By Antonio Graceffo

    Sweat dripped off of the fat red face of a 35 year old Tae Kwan Do black belt instructor who had come to show us that our art was weak. We were only forty five seconds into the fight and I thought someone would have to call the paramedics. The guy was on the verge of a heart attack. His hands were down at his sides. He was wheezing and coughing up smoker phlegm. His belly hung over his belt and you could barely see it. On the one hand, I felt bad for him. He was so completely out of his element, he was defenseless. On the other hand, he had talked a proud game before getting in the ring. I moved in and threw a three punch combination to his face, which was wide open. From his reaction, it was clear that he had never been hit before. When I circled away, he waved his hands in front of his face and said "I have had enough".

    I was fourteen years old, and one of the lowest ranked fighters in our school. We had green belt women who had beaten black belt men from other styles.

    Bruce Lee said that one of the things that disgusted him when he attended a martial arts tournament was the number of fat instructors who couldn't do five pushups. These were the days before MMA and UFC, when martial art meant Tae Kwan Do or karate, breaking boards and screaming "KIIYAE!" Fighting, for most people, meant point fighting in tournaments.

    I began martial arts training in 1979 when I was 12 years old. My teacher was H. David Collins who taught a style he invented, called the Fire and Water system of Kung Fu. Today, with years of training and hindsight, I would be skeptical of a teacher who invented his own systems. But as a kid, I didn't know any better, so I went to train with David. And thank God I did.

    David's system had a lot in common with Bruce Lee's JKD. First of all, the art was strictly about effective fighting, real fighting. "Martial art means fighting art." He said. "How can you study a fighting art without fighting?" He broke every convention of the martial arts of that time. He dropped the forms and silly techniques that were ineffective. We didn't wear uniforms. "Martial arts uniforms are basically the clothing people traditionally worn in Asia long ago. None of my students live in Asia long ago. So, I let them wear what they want." We wore T-shirts and shorts. We didn't bow, except before a fight. We counted our exercises in English. We didn't have an Asian flag in the dojo. "This is America and all of the students are American." We had an American flag. He didn't like belts. "Belts are for holding up your pants." There were only about five belts. Green belt was the second from the bottom, and more than 90% of students would never reach that level. Green belt was considered a "high rank" and students would begin teaching at that level. In the first twenty years the school existed only three people had ever made black belt. At times, the school had as many as 300 active students.

    And he always quoted Bruce Lee to explain why we didn't break boards. "Boards don't hit back."

    Like Bruce Lee, David recognized western boxing and wrestling as martial arts. Consequently, we spent a lot of time learning to box. We didn't do point fighting. We did real, full contact kick boxing, wearing boxing gloves and no body armor. We fought rounds, like boxers do. We cross trained, stressing cardio and running, but we also did strength exercises. The workout routine was approximately an hour and a half long, not including running. Students were expected to do between one and three miles on their own before entering the school. Forty five minutes of our work out was a group exercise of running, jumping, and dancing in place, set to music. We didn't know that this exercise would later be known as aerobics.

    After the hour and a half of exercise, we took a break, then we trained in fighting and sparing.

    We spared constantly. Now that I have trained and fought pro I would probably say that we spared too much. But it was the late seventies and we were some of the only people who were doing real sparing and real fighting. When black belts came from other schools to challenge us, the two things that usually defeated them was lack of cardio fitness and the fact that they had never been hit in the face.

    I grew up around David Collins and his fighting training. When I went away to the military and to college, I looked for something similar, but it just didn't exist at that time. Today, there are MMA gyms everywhere and people are doing Muay Thai, but twenty or thirty years ago, there was nothing like this.

    A few times I tried to study with other teachers but they wanted me to bow and wear a uniform. Why wear that silly uniform? You are doing sports training. Wear shorts. It is more comfortable. They wanted me to do forms and I just couldn't see investing time in the monkey fist and crane's beak, when I could be training instead. And then when we would fight I was never allowed to punch, wasn't allowed to hit in the face, or kick below the belt. They also didn't fight in a ring, so I was at an even greater disadvantage because I couldn't trap the opponent on the ropes or in the corner. They would just run away across the room and then have a restart.

    I tried tournament fighting, but I lost every single bout. The ref would call the start and I would wade in, content to accept a few kicks in order to get close and pound. But as soon as I got hit once, they stopped action, awarded a point and restarted. I ran in, got kicked once, and they awarded a point and restarted. In tournament fighting my strategy didn't work. You also couldn't jab or throw combinations, because if you made contact once, there was a stop and a point was awarded. Having superior cardio didn't help me because the fights were so short. Having strength didn't help because a hard kick or an easy kick were awarded the same number of points. Being tough didn't help. In real fighting you wear your opponent down by injuring him and inflicting pain, taking away his best weapons. But in tournament fighting you can't hit often enough to wear someone down.

    The other humiliating thing about tournament fighting was that, since I didn't have a belt, I was always put in the lowest categories. Under real fighting rules I would never have been permitted to fight those guys because they were so new and didn't know how to fight.
    In tournament fighting I was getting beaten by kids, old people, fat people, even some guys with glasses on beat me. Why not? You weren't allowed to hit in the face anyway. After they beat me, I would see some of them in the parking lot with a trophy and a cigarette. They would say stuff to me like, "Didn't you learn anything at all at that school of yours?" Or they would say, "You must not be very good because you don't wear a black belt."

    At 21 I decided to drop martial art completely and just become a competitive boxer. David Collins was my first boxing coach. Later, he handed me over to Eddie Roberts, who was my first professional coach. But the transition from Fire and Water to pro-boxing was pretty easy. At first, trainers would laugh at me and say, "karate fighting isn't the same as boxing. You have to learn to get hit." But then when they saw me spar they usually changed their opinion. I had the cardio and strength and I could take a punch. They just needed to refine my boxing technique. I needed to learn things such as keeping my feet square and closer together. A kick boxing stance is much wider than a boxing stance.

    Moving into pro-boxing training, from amateur, really taught me a lot about what it takes to win fights. For one thing, if you are a pro boxer the only thing you train for is fighting. You don't do forms. You don't bow. No one cares what you wear. And the gym is a gym, not a temple, so we have music blaring.

    In boxing there are 6 basic punches. I seem to remember that to be a black belt in Tae Kwan Do you learn close to two hundred movements. And Chinese kung fu has tens of thousands of movements. A boxer has six. People ask me how we train, I say "On your first Monday you learn all six punches. Then, for the next twenty years of your life, you practice them three hours per day." And that is close to accurate. Three hours a day of weights, running, skipping, and pounding the bag, pounding the air, and pounding the focus mitts. Sparring is a much smaller component than what people might think. Sparring is something you do to fine tune your fighting. But your punches, techniques and combinations should already be perfect before you step in the ring.

    There are health benefits and a fitness component to learning traditional martial arts. Today schools differ dramatically. Some have great fitness programs. Others don't.All of them are better than laying on the sofa watching TV. But boxing is, in and of itself, a cardio vascular and strength exercise.

    TMA guys just don't put in the hours and hours that it takes to perfect their fighting simply because fighting is ONLY A PART of what they do. For a pro fighter, fighting is ALL that they do.

    Many TMA people wouldn't call boxing a martial art. And boxers never refer to themselves as martial artists. But they are training to fight, so technically they are martial artists. Most TMA are not training to fight. So technically, TMA is not martial art.

    And of course in pro boxing there are no belts (only titles), no cigarettes, and no fat guys. Also no body armor, no limited contact, and no rules against hitting in the face or throwing combinations.

    I continued to box in and out of the military until age 25, when I stopped, so I could attend university. At 32 I had a good job and was stable enough in my career to start training and fighting again. By that time, UFC was popular and I decided I wanted to start cross training and maybe go into MMA. I started with Muay Thai in New York. Soon after, I moved to Asia and practiced Muay Thai and a number of other arts in various countries. Recently I began learning wrestling in Korea. Now I am in the Philippines doing Modern Arnis.

    In doing Muay Thai in Thailand and Khmer Boxing in Cambodia, I learned that in addition to six basic punches there are elbows, knees and kicks. All told there are probably about thirty basic techniques in kick boxing. And once again, they learn them when they are five years old and then practice them three hours a day for life.

    Now, in addition to fighting and training, I write books and articles about martial arts. I get fan mail but I also get hate mail. People write me and say "You don't have a belt. How are you qualified to write about martial arts?" I feel the fact that I fight and train qualifies me. "You are so pro boxing and anti-martial arts. If you went to China, they would change your opinion." I went to China, studied at the Shaolin Temple, and fought frequently. And my opinion didn't change. Fighting training means standing in front of a bag several hours a day practicing your fighting techniques. If you are doing snake hands or monkey tail you aren't training for a fight and you won't stand up to a pro fighter. People told me "Go to Korea, Go to Taiwan…." I went, I fought and the answer reemains the same. In Korea now MMA and K-1 are huge. But the Koreans who do it train like MMA people do everywhere. They aren't wearing Tae Kwan Do uniforms or doing forms. They are hitting a bag, kicking the pads, and wrestling. And they do weights and running. Cambodia and Thailand produce the best strikers and it is because they just train and only train for fighting and only fighting.

    People told me, "go to Philippines, then you will see that you are wrong.:" I am here. And I haven't changed my opinion.

    That which you practice is what you will master. If you practice eagle talons and dragons feet, you will master that. If you point fight, you will master that. But if you want to be a master of MARTIAL fighting art, you need to train in fighting. And until now there only seems to be one way to train for fighting: Running, lifting hitting, hitting, hitting, hitting, kicking, kicking, sparing, and wrestling.




    Antonio Graceffo is an adventure and martial arst author living in asia. His articles appoerar in magazines around the world. He has four books available on amazion.com. contact him Antonio@speakingadventure.com see his website WWW.speakingadventure.com

    Checkout Antonio's website http://speakingadventure.com/
    Get his CDs and DVDS ar http://cdbaby.com/cd/graceffo
    Get Antonio's books at amazon.com
    The Monk from Brooklyn
    Bikes, Boats, and Boxing Gloves
    The Desert of Death on Three Wheels
    Adventures in Formosa


    Read More...


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    Default Re: Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

    Every word true. However, some "truths" are a matter of perspective. For what this author wants out of the martial arts, he's correct. On the other hand, he falls into the same traps as those he disparages.

    He fails to consider that others have different needs. A cop might need more restraint tactics. Anyone not intending to fight in competitions could bennifit from some de-escalation and avoidance training. Military personnel do best with CQC courses. Training for any of these, or just street survival, should include weapons- carry, use, and defense. His training seems to fail these tests. Even when he traveled to learn FMA's, he really just found more of the same as he alwayser trained.

    Here is his real weaknwss. He fails to try and find the value in any other system. Because, when you have the "truth", you tend to draw into a closed world where everyone agrees with you. Only reason to step outside that world is to evangelize.

    I admire his dedication, his discipline and will. But I take exception to the attitude that there is no value to the arts outside the ring. Sell it to the MMA crowd. They're punch drunk enough to buy into it.

    Dan C
    There are things that are worth knowing for their own sake, worth finding for the pure joy of discovery.

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    Default Re: Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

    I admire his dedication, his discipline and will. But I take exception to the attitude that there is no value to the arts outside the ring. Sell it to the MMA crowd. They're punch drunk enough to buy into it.

    Dan C[/quote]
    I agree...

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    Default Re: Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

    I love his stories and his writting style that backs up his premises.
    Do I agree with all he said?
    Nope. I do agree with a lot of what he said.
    I mostly agree with how he said it.
    Dr. John La Tourrette

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    Default Re: Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

    Same as above, I agree with parts of what he said, but certainly not all. He does make some valid points.
    All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small. - Lao Tzu


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    Default Re: Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

    There's clearly a difference in people that train TMA between those that have trained for and fought full-contact and those that haven't. You learn many aspects from full-contact fighting that you can not get in any other way.

    That being said however, I do think that the writer has tunnel vision and is certainly not thinking outside the box - his box being competitive fighting in the ring. The points he makes about out of shape guys and lack of cardio type training in TMA schools are all valid, but the reality is that unless you're training to fight competitively, you just don't need that level of cardio - real street fights are short, ungly affairs without rules.

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    Default Re: Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

    He had some good points but some of his examples were the exception, rather than the rule. He also seems to be locked in to the fighting aspect of martial arts, which, imo, is only a portion of what martial arts have to offer.

    It reeked a little of the "what I do is great, what you do sucks" mentality. To each his own.

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    Default Re: Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

    Like most of you, I agree with a few of the valid points. But he fails to investigate a number or reason why "fighting" is not the end all be all of training I used to have an opinion like his, back in my youg and dumb days. But when I was running my school, my Pops told me something very important. He said "son, you are the super-market, they are the customer. Stop trying to tell them what to buy. Just let them buy it." People's reasons differ, so to judge all martial artists from their ability to fight is a taste myopic. I know folks who were told that they would never walk again, after a car crash or whatever. Just being able to participate in martial arts is a MUCH bigger accomplishment than winning som fake metal trophy.

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    Default Re: Why I hate TMA, Point Fighting, Belts, and Fat Guys By Antonio Graceffo

    Quote Originally Posted by GSteinUSA View Post
    There's clearly a difference in people that train TMA between those that have trained for and fought full-contact and those that haven't. You learn many aspects from full-contact fighting that you can not get in any other way.

    That being said however, I do think that the writer has tunnel vision and is certainly not thinking outside the box - his box being competitive fighting in the ring. The points he makes about out of shape guys and lack of cardio type training in TMA schools are all valid, but the reality is that unless you're training to fight competitively, you just don't need that level of cardio - real street fights are short, ungly affairs without rules.
    Real street fights also can introduce horrific scenarios that are infinitely worse than anything that you'll see in the ring.Getting shot,jumped,ran over by a car,gang raped,robbed and beaten,literally lynched,trampled,being called upon to defend loved ones.How about RUNNING for your life and/or the lives of innocents,those in dire need,and/or loved ones? You can get ambushed and dragged by cars.Because the reality of SD can be infinitely more severe than ring fighting,you should have MORE CARDIO AND GREATER FITNESS,NOT LESS.Navy SEALS,SWAT team members,HRT guys,Special Forces,Gang Unit,Recons,Combat Swimmers,and the like don't tend to find themselves in the ring...but they're amongst the best conditioned athletes in the world.Almost none of us will be HALO'ing from 20k feet into enemy territory but it's entirely possible for us to have to fight off a surprise attack from an assailant(s),beat feet for a 100 meters through an obstacle course (say a parking lot or race across a major intersection with traffic zooming by),bust into the nearest business establishment and call the police.Or leap into our cars and peel out.Or race to the rescue of someone in a car accident or someone being victimized by a bad guy(s).

    There is NO excuse or justification to be out of shape and train martial arts.ESPECIALLY when you're focused on SD.You should be in the best condition that you can possibly manage.If we had a proliferation of fat belly saggin SEALS,we'd be the laughing stock of the world's armed forces and DESERVEDLY SO.We who tout the physical,mental,character building,spiritual,and other benefits of the martial path have LESS justification to be out of shape than ANY ATHLETE ANYWHERE.We're supposed to be training OUR WHOLE LIVES.Athletes only train for as long as their careers last.

    However...his point about forms? All the way wrong.I used to think the same thing.I diiiiiisssssseeeeed forms.HARD.I loved the way they LOOKED,but completely skimped on their combat value.Of COURSE most Asian old skool forms aren't as immediately recognizable and directly applicable as say shadow striking is...but that's because imho many of us don't penetrate to the deeper purpose of forms (and I didn't either.My GM Bobby Thomas broke it down to me and got me studying it:"Son,forms are a library for the content of the techniques of each belt level and they're ways to preserve the knowledge of those who came before you in order to ensure that the martial art that you practice both survives the changing times and grows.Remember,maaany martial arts were OUTLAWED back in their native countries so the practitioners of their time had to find ways that allowed consistent training,kept you fit and focused,yet was subtle enough to be hidden from the prying eyes of the government that would execute them for practicing outlawed disciplines") .Since that time years ago I threw myself into forms and discovered also that they are YOGA...it has incredibly beneficial effects that you can't get from beating on the bags and shadowstriking.Plus they're BEAUTIFUL,and there's nothing quite like the confluence of all of these aspects: practicality,strengthening,balance,inner equilibrium and energy growth,purging of destructive and/or negative feelings and emotions,amplifying one's martial muscle memory,breath,focus,and the magic of beautiful human kineticism.That's mho,at any rate.

    Then I discovered that shadowboxing/striking/drilling was merely abbreviated,faster,spontaneous forms.Exactly like the roda ginga is in capoeira,except capoeira's roda ginga kicks it up several steps higher.And then I was hooked.And then I came back to my GM all bouncing around and happy and blathering away and he was like:"No kidding? I was taught this before you were born,son.I have fast katas that consist of merely 2,3,4 sometimes 8-10 moves.That's it.And Coach (my GM's teacher) thought of it when I was 8 years old.Your momz was in kindergarten.Lol.Keep on keepin on because I like the fact that these discoveries are new TO YOU...but they're NOT NEW PERIOD.Now; show me what you learned in your own path and lemme see if I can use it too."

    Humble pie+ an "attaboy,show me whatcha got maybe I'll use it too and keep training." That's my uncle and GM for you.

    Dude is right in what he speaks about...now if he took his functional mindset and actually applied it to forms and whatnot? I'm sure that he'd find an unending lifetime of info and knowledge just waiting for him to discover and engineer in such a way that it reflects his tastes on the matter.Endeth sermon.

    With respect,

    THE ATACX GYM

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