Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cross Training Blues: Confessions of a Work in Progress

For the past five years, I've been going to a weekend martial arts gathering in upstate New York called Super Summer Seminars. The opportunity to learn a little something about Jeet Kun Do, Judo, Kung Fu, BJJ and even traditional Okinawan kata bunkai is something I look forward to each July.

After last year's seminars, I tried to take that concept out of the workshops and apply it to my own martial life, mixing a little Aikido first and now JuJitsu into my training regiment. I have no problem strapping on a white belt at all because it's all about the learning to me. But perhaps there is a point where the "new" art(s) starts to crowd the tried and true. Hmmm...

My example: my "think on your feet" self-defense needs work. Last week, the JuJitsu class added a Thursday night adults only class where they do nothing but work through self-defense techniques strictly off a hook and/or straight punch. They work on opening moves to evade and counter before looking for openings to take the adversary out of the fight - via strikes, wrist locks/arm bars or sweeps. Good stuff I most definitely need - because we never did anything like this in my first school and we only do it a bit at my current school - but getting there means my regular school's Thursday night class gets pre-empted. It's not a problem this month (I'm taking the month of July off from my regular classes specifically to work on some things), but next month, when I return to my regular routine, it might be.

My sensei and I talked about it and although he seemed to understand my need for some time away when we first spoke, the grapevine (every school has one, I'm sure) has indicated that he's not all that thrilled that my primary learning is now coming from outside the school (I'm also taking a Jujitsu class on Mondays and I have been traveling down to NYC on alternate Wednesdays to get my booty kicked cardio-vascularly at Harlem Goju since April or so - and both are days when my school has no scheduled classes). I'm still teaching the little ones on Fridays and Saturdays (and may soon add an "adult newbie" class to the mix on Sundays), and was really only looking for a way to supplement my regular training, not replace it forever. But with the different vibe that is in the dojo as of late, I thought it best to step away for a minute - and I am glad that I did. I'm not leaving the school or even USA Goju for that matter - just taking a moment to re-group and re-charge. Obviously, he and I need to have another chat about it...

And this training is totally new and most unlike anything I've ever done before. Not innate by any means, moving around and under an adversary to secure a lock is - challenging. I still get that little pang of dread when it's my turn to give it a go, but it's dissipating a bit with each class.

Nothing different I guess. I'm still a work in progress.


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  2. If you don't mind my asking, how much of your time, hours and percentage, in the primary dojo are hand's on with people more advanced?

    I can relate a little bit: I do one seminar a year. It might be a week-long worksheop for RAD, or a weekend on Feeding Crane Kung Fu, but it satifies my need to see what is 'out there'. I don't have any interest in trying to incorporate into my primary training.

    I have two classes a week (currently up to four = 8 hours) of hand's on with seniors, and even after 5 years of goju training I'm constantly challenged on a variety of levels. The point being, that I don't feel the need to look elswhere. If I was your teacher, I would feel put out. Wondering what I'm not doing right.

  3. I train two times a week at my primary dojo, Narda. Each class is two hours. I also teach at the school's satellite two times a week (2 hour classes). Everyone there is my rank (four other shodans) or lower (two 8th kys and one 7th) - except for the two senseis - one of whom is only there about twice a month - so not much time is really hands on with people more advanced - and that's probably one of the main reasons I'm feeling the need to absorb other things.

    Aikido and Jujitsu are nice additions meant to supplement - not replace - my primary art. Not quite getting how anyone could feel put out by that. Truthfully - if one of my students came to me tonight and said "I'm thinking about making my kicks better by doing a free trial at a local TKD school" I'd honestly help him/her find a good on because I know that with close to 40 students, we can't really spend gobs of time tearing apart kicks in a way that might be conducive to this student's learning style. Or, if I had any reservations, I'd talk about them with the student or his/her parent.

    Like I said, the dojo "vibe" is off - which I'm sure is only temporary - and which is why my time away is also temporary. But thanks for the insight, Narda...

  4. The great Internet Gods at Blogger accidently deleted this post from Narda instead of posting it:

    If one of my students said he was thinking about taking TKD to improve his kicks, I'd kick his butt. ;) Up to a higher dan, that is, for specialized training. But to not be able to address a students need that is junior to me would VERY much be my concern. It would indicate to me that I'm lacking as a teacher in skills to pass on, or don't have the connections that I should have to recommend training; as their teacher, I should be able to address the holes in their training.

    Narda, forgive me while I take the long way around to answer but...

    In my pre-karate life, I was a nationally ranked athlete. I earned a full athletic scholarship to college and while there, I was a six-time All-America athlete in the women's high jump. After college, I tried out for the Olympic team twice, finishing fifth my first time out (the top three competitors in each event go on to represent the US in the Olympic Games). I competed for a total of 23 years - 16 of them after my college days were behind me. Suffice to say, I was a decent athlete for a lot of years. I'm not telling you all that to toot my own horn - just to let you know how I feel about training. Also, I know I didn't get as efficient as I was in my sport by just showing up for practice a couple of days a week. In addition to the work on the track, I spent gobs of hours in the weight room, on trapolines and in swimming pools working on the subtle points of my event. When I needed help with my body alignment, I saw a chiropractor and in addition to my regular coach, I had one for strength training as well as a nutritionist. All were very, very good at what they did, but I would have been crazy to think I get everything I needed from one person. I was the one who needed to train for 3-4 hours at a time - not them. No one told me I HAD to see a chiropractor, nutritionist or kinesiologist, but I did because I knew they would all help me become the best athlete I could possibly be. I approach karate the exact same way - as has every sensei I've ever trained with/under.

    If my student came to me and wanted to supplement his/her training by going elsewhere for a time to do it - and I KNOW I'm giving all I can while they train with me plus they are working hard in the dojo and outside it, too - I'll give them my blessing. Sure, the classes I teach are 2 hours long, but I also have 40 students and can't get to everything - kihon, kata, kumite et al - in every class. Sometimes dedicated folk s(even if they are under-belts) need more. If the mind/body are willing, who am I to step in their way and tell they can only get "the goods" in our dojo? It's not about me at all. I hope they do learn all they can while they can and that they desire more is a very good thing. I also hope they'd bring any new drills they pick up back to the dojo as I believe we can all learn for everyone.

    So, like my own training, the scenario about the student is about SUPPLEMENTING, not replacing. I do the very same thing when I go to seminars and WSD workshops and would not even feel right telling someone else they couldn't do the same.

  5. Of course....but I guess I was pointing out that no matter how rational a teacher can be...students looking elsewhere will get a teacher questioning themselves. I know a 4th dan TKD that I was privately talking to...and he had the same self-doubt...even after 20 years of teaching.

  6. I believe it is every individual martial artists responsibility to plan their own journey. I also believe that not many instructors can provide everything that a student needs. In the same way that a good student will read and research around their (and other) martial art they may also feel the need to cross-train to supplement their main training. Paradoxically one learns a lot about their main art by trying out a different one - the new perspective one gains can be very illuminating.

    I cross-train with jujitsu and kobudo. I do this with the view that it is to enhance my karate not detract from it. In fact my jujitsu/kobudo club has about 5 karateka regularly training there. In addition my karate instructor cross-trains in aikido. He has also become a registered pressure point instructor. This all enhances his own knowledge and instructional skills which in turn we, his students, benefit from.

    You cannot learn martial arts in a vacuum and a good sensei will not feel threatened by a student cross-training and will probably be doing some cross-training him/herself. Let's face it, most of the original karate masters cross-trained continuously with visits to China to learn kung-fu and Japan to learn sword techniques.

  7. Not disagreeing about the reasonableness of supplementing training, or even cross-training, for that matter. Only pointing out that often the mind doesn't agree with the heart. ;)