View Poll Results: Build your strengths into bigger strengths? Or make weak areas stronger?

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Thread: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

  1. #1
    maruchan is offline
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    Question Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    OK, here's a hypothetical. Hope it hasn't been raised here before:

    You've reached a fork in the road, as far as your personal MA training goes. You have the option of studying a martial art that will allow you to turn your personal strengths into bigger strengths, or studying a martial art that will strengthen you in areas you currently see as weaknesses.

    As an example: Your ground work is very strong, but your punches and kicks are mediocre. A past instructor told you that you could easily raise your ground work to a professional, master-of-the-art level with some solid focus. Also, there is a grappling school nearby. However, the kickboxing school just down the street really looks good; you really don't feel comfortable there, but you can see the benefit of learning.

    Which path do you choose? Why?

    Even better, give a personal example of a time when you had to make this choice, and what you learned, or what regrets you have, if any (note that for the purposes of this thread it's OK to have regrets, regardless of any bumper stickers you might own that state the contrary).
    Last edited by maruchan; 06-03-2007 at 12:12 AM.

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    This is an interesting question.

    Usually, something becomes a strength because you've worked on it a lot. Bill Superfoot Wallace said that he did 10k kicks with his left foot to get it as light as fast as it is.

    It didn't start as his strength.

    I'm torn because, in all modesty, I find that I can do a lot of things more than moderately well. Not the best, but probably above average. Because of this, I have no patience or interest in doing things that I'm clearly not good at. I'd rather spend the time working on things that show potential.

    So, while I voted to build my weaknesses, I really meant to work on the 'lot of things' and pick the ones that need the most work.

    Like working on form 5, for instance. I went through it a bunch of times today, with a focus on what I was leaving out before. I know it wasn't right and I've got a burning desire to make it better.

    I have very few regrets in my life. Only one, really. I regret that I took too many detox herbs after I was finished with chemotherapy and it overloaded my lymph system, so now I have lymphedema.

    Other than that, everything else brought me to this point and I really like where I am.

    --Amy
    The New Kenpo Continuum Book is now accepting submissions for volume 2. Our fabulous, ever-changing website is Sacramento Kenpo Karate.
    I'm a member of the Universal Life Church and the ULC Seminary. I'm also a Sacramento Wedding Minister and Disc Jockey
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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Quote Originally Posted by maruchan View Post
    ... You have the option of studying a martial art that will allow you to turn your personal strengths into bigger strengths, or studying a martial art that will strengthen you in areas you currently see as weaknesses. Which path do you choose? Why? ... give a personal example of a time when you had to make this choice, ...
    There are a lot of factors to consider in such a decission- what your goals are, what you need from training, the relative state of the strengths vs. weaknesses, what your options are for schools and partners, ... .

    I'm sort of in that position now. I need to focus hard on correctly structuring my moves. I also have still got some ballance problems (though I can now function much better than a year ago). In my case, whatever I do, I'm essentially retraining all but my understanding (not that that can't use improvment as well). So I will have to go with working on my weaknesses, as I have few strengths right now.

    Someone who might have to use his skills for real in the near future might be better advised to hone his strengths more than work his weaknesses- unless those weaknesses are glaring and in areas he considers necessary to his survival.

    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: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Quote Originally Posted by amylong View Post
    Other than that, everything else brought me to this point and I really like where I am. --Amy
    Ohhhh, people like you really get my goat!

    (keep him, he's an ornery bugger ...)

    All joking aside, I've thought a lot about some of the stupid things I did that have contributed to my condition(s). Know what? If I could go back, knowing what I know now, and change the attitudes, inclinations and natural impulses that got me into so much trouble- I wouldn't change a damned thing!

    Dan C

    edit: sorry to get side-tracked, but ...
    There are things that are worth knowing for their own sake, worth finding for the pure joy of discovery.

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    maruchan is offline
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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Wow, six votes to work on weaknesses, zero votes to develop strengths? Interesting...I added an example to my original post to help clarify; hope I haven't skewed the poll unintentionally...

    But another question: The last time you sparred for practice, did you focus on using your strengths to quickly master your opponent, or did you allow yourself to be lured into an uncomfortable range/situation for improvement's sake?

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Ah, now I see what you mean.

    In that case, I'd say to work on my strengths.

    I stink at ground fighting. I thought I'd work on it and get better, but I really don't like it. Not at all. I stink at it and I expect it will remain that way.

    I'm not comfortable with knives, but I may choose to improve that.

    I'm pretty good at kata and I work on it all the time to make it as good as I can. So, I guess I play to my strengths.

    --Amy
    The New Kenpo Continuum Book is now accepting submissions for volume 2. Our fabulous, ever-changing website is Sacramento Kenpo Karate.
    I'm a member of the Universal Life Church and the ULC Seminary. I'm also a Sacramento Wedding Minister and Disc Jockey
    New Cool (free) kenpo tool bar: http://KenpoKarate.OurToolbar.com/


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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    I voted to work on my weaknesses.

    I don't like groundfighting either, I'm small, most guys outweigh me, and quite frankly I don't enjoy rolling on a mat with a sweaty gi in my face.

    That said, I have about a year of BJJ.

    I knew I didn't know the ground, and I refused to have such a big glaring hole in my game, so I went out an got it. But I'm a firm believer that you have to have a solid understanding of possible opponents strategies, and just watching a video won't do it.

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Quote Originally Posted by maruchan View Post
    But another question: The last time you sparred for practice, did you focus on using your strengths to quickly master your opponent, or did you allow yourself to be lured into an uncomfortable range/situation for improvement's sake?
    Sparring is a training tool, you use it to develop certain attributes, if you are always comfortable in training you are probably stagnant. Yes, I put myself in uncomfortable ranges or strategies all the time. It is also my responsibility as an instructor to put my students in uncomfortable places as well, and my instructor does it to me.

    Lamont
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    He, who will not reason, is a bigot; he, who cannot, is a fool; and he, who dares not, is a slave.
    ~William Drummond

    "This person is as dangerous as an IED."

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    akskarate1 is offline
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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Your only as strong as your weakest point, when this improves your strength will become stronger.

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Yin and Yang.
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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    I didn't vote. fortunately there is time for both. Work on your strengths to keep them, work on your weaknesses to lose them. A good motto for life in general not just martial arts.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    This is a very interesting question. People have given some thoughtful answers, but I believe it is important to see more levels than just focusing on your strength or your weakness.

    For example, last year I moved across the country. That made it quite a commute to the studio Id been training at, so I had to find a new place.
    I had been training in Kenpo for 12 years so stand-up striking was my strength, and my ground game grappling a relative weakness. I had a choice whether to continue in a striking style, or to start training in grappling.

    I chose to continue improving my Kenpo, so you could say I chose to focus on improving my strength. On the other hand, my kicks were far better than my handwork (ya, in Kenpo. Im funny like that), and I decided to focus on improving my punches, chops, other hand strikes and combinations. So you could say I chose to focus on improving a relative weakness.

    Any time you improve something, you are improving upon a weak aspect of it. To anyone who knows me, focusing on my kicks would seem to pretty obviously be focusing on my strength. However, I could have gotten more specific and said that my strongest techniques were right, lead leg kicks from an open stance. In that context had I decided to focus on my left-leg kicks for a time that would then be focusing on a relative weakness.

    A different angle to approach this would be, how many levels out from your strength do you want to focus on?

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    I like to be well-rounded so I work on my weaknesses to bring them up to par.

    Usually, after working on a weak area to the point where it's no longer a weakness, one will discover yet another area that needs improvement.

    Sometimes, working a "weaker" area will shed light on areas for improvement in an area you once considered strong.

    There's always room for improvement.
    "It is sobering to reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." Charles A. Beard

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    Kenpo-Owl is offline
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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    There are a lot of factors to consider in such a decission- what your goals are, what you need from training, the relative state of the strengths vs. weaknesses, what your options are for schools and partners, ... .
    Is the best response yet, IMHO.

    What are your goals for learning martial arts? If you're looking to 'learn an art', focus on learning one art. If you're studying because you want to learn self-defense, there are a couple of other things to consider. What are the holes in your skills, and WHY ARE THEY THERE?

    Someone earlier commented that they didn't care for the ground game because they were physically small. To a degree, that makes a LOT of sense. It helps to have a 'good working knowledge' in all aspects, but lets face it, if you're 5' tall and weigh 100lbs, your ground skills aren't going to mean much when Guido steps in at 6'2 and 300lbs. He's going to make you a stain on the concrete if it goes to that. (I'm speaking from personal experience...I've got a background in both kenpo and ju-jitsu, but for the longest time was 5'6" and 130lbs). Learn the ground game well enough to know how to avoid getting taken down there...and to give yourself SOME hope of getting up. But learn the standing game so well that there is far less chance to you being taken down...make sense? Or do it the other way if you're Guido, and like to smear people over 8 feet of concrete...LOL!

    Factors include your temperment, personal preferences, physical abilities/disabilities, etc...

    But first and foremost, it all hinges on what you're looking to get from studying the martial arts.

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Focus on the weak areas while making sure the strong areas don't slip in the process. I also don't necessarily agree with the premise of the question that you have go to another school for whichever you choose to work on.
    Be careful what you say, some may take it the wrong way.

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenpo-Owl View Post
    Is the best response yet, IMHO.

    What are your goals for learning martial arts? If you're looking to 'learn an art', focus on learning one art. If you're studying because you want to learn self-defense, there are a couple of other things to consider. What are the holes in your skills, and WHY ARE THEY THERE?

    Someone earlier commented that they didn't care for the ground game because they were physically small. To a degree, that makes a LOT of sense. It helps to have a 'good working knowledge' in all aspects, but lets face it, if you're 5' tall and weigh 100lbs, your ground skills aren't going to mean much when Guido steps in at 6'2 and 300lbs. He's going to make you a stain on the concrete if it goes to that. (I'm speaking from personal experience...I've got a background in both kenpo and ju-jitsu, but for the longest time was 5'6" and 130lbs). Learn the ground game well enough to know how to avoid getting taken down there...and to give yourself SOME hope of getting up. But learn the standing game so well that there is far less chance to you being taken down...make sense? Or do it the other way if you're Guido, and like to smear people over 8 feet of concrete...LOL!

    Factors include your temperment, personal preferences, physical abilities/disabilities, etc...

    But first and foremost, it all hinges on what you're looking to get from studying the martial arts.
    True, but in order to develope an approach to defend against what one would consider a weakness, it is necessary to gain an understanding of it.

    If you consider the ground game a weakness, regardless of reason, I would suggest studying it in depth. After studying, you may still not "like" it, but by gaining more understanding about the strategies involved, you will be more capable of defedning against it.

    -IMHO
    "It is sobering to reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." Charles A. Beard

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    maruchan is offline
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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    Really great responses so far. We have some real disciplinarians here at KT! Still, I wonder how many MA students are really focused on going cross-disciplinary to iron out their rough spots. I say this because it's easy to *say* you *should* work on weak areas, but in practice there are a lot of different motives for studying martial arts. Combat is just one.

    It seems like a lot of people do MA not for self-defense or fighting reasons, but to "have fun and maybe learn some helpful stuff at the same time." Or, "to get in shape and learn to be more flexible."

    Some would say that isn't Martial Arts, just Flexibility Exercises, etc...but seriously, schools are packed with these types.

    As another example, last week we invited a wrestler from the MMA/cage fighting class to stay and give Kenpo a try. His response was, "nah, I just really like to wrestle."

    I'd assume it's that sort of person who would prefer to stick with their strong area and develop it. Maybe he's into wrestling for kinesthetic reasons rather than defense and just wanted a venue to keep it in practice.

    Another example might be an XMA guy/gal who doesn't want to learn to grapple. I wonder how many times the XMA hear "you can't really use that in a fight."

    Thoughts?

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    Mark L is offline
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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    I didn't vote for either, as I think it is important to do both. You folks have mostly echoed my views, but I must confess that after my first half dozen years training kempo I did feel that I was lacking in kicking skills. I think that was largely due to the place I was at (both the organization and my own lack of diligence to becoming a well rounded practitioner). So I took a few years to go focus on a predominantly kicking style. It was very enlightening. It revealed both the gaping hole in my skill set and the significant strengths of my kempo training.

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    True, but in order to develope an approach to defend against what one would consider a weakness, it is necessary to gain an understanding of it.

    If you consider the ground game a weakness, regardless of reason, I would suggest studying it in depth. After studying, you may still not "like" it, but by gaining more understanding about the strategies involved, you will be more capable of defending against it.

    -IMHO
    I can agree learning how the art works will give you a great amount of insight in how to defend against it. That makes a lot of sense.

    I also think that there is a point where you have to decide how much time and effort you want to spend working to learn that art. If you're facing a physical limitation, there comes a point where you can continue to LEARN the art, but you won't advance in ABILITY in that art.

    The example I'd mentioned in ground-fighting is along those lines...in High School, I was a kick butt wrestler. NO ONE in my weight class could take me...growing up on a farm learning to use what muscle I had, combined with a background in martial arts made me very formidable...against someone my size. Unfortunately, I've never actually fought anyone my size in a real life situation. The times I've had to defend myself, its inevitably been against someone much larger than me. Ground and pound with a gorilla is a bad idea...unless you're another gorilla.

    I've got the knowledge to fight on the ground...but lack the ability due to my size difference with the people I end up facing off against. So, I stick to where I DO tend to have an advantage...close range combat. MOST large guys aren't comfortable with fighting someone who's within six inches of them...they rarely know how to generate power at that range. A lot of them will try to take that to a grapple match, but I've concentrated on learning how to avoid the takedowns rather than to learn to fight from the ground under a 300lbs guy. Spending more time learning how to fight on the ground probably isn't going to help me much if I'm squished under a linebacker and don't have any air left anyway...hehehe.

    You raise a good point, and I don't totally disagree with you. Just throwing in a few more factors to think about.

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    Default Re: Focus on your strengths, or focus on your weaknesses?

    I think there's another realistic view point that has to be considered when choosing a response to the question. There are some things that some of us are just not going to do well, regardless. Mainly because of body type, chronic injury, whatever. In this situation, do you still focus on the weak areas that may never be strong areas, or do you focus on what you do well to make it even better in compensation?

    In this scenario, my answer is just the opposite of my original vote. I would have to go with focus on strengths.
    Be careful what you say, some may take it the wrong way.

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