23 January 2012

Pinetown Stingers

Tonight I visited with the great Pinetown Stingers group of KwaZulu Natal, whom are part of the San Kwan affiliation. The San Kwan and the Soo Shim Kwan have a long and fruitful history together. My own understanding of the martial arts was positively enhanced during the times that I lived in KwaZulu Natal and trained with many members of the San Kwan.

During tonight's session at the Pinetown Stingers dojang, I gave a workshop regarding the sine wave motion in different types of techniques, from basic stepping drills, to defences against wrist release and strike (grab and punch) attacks, to throwing technique and take downs.

As always, it was lots of fun to hangout with my Taekwon-Do brothers and sisters from Natal.
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15 January 2012

The 'Do'-view on War and the Difference Between Traditional Martial Arts and Modern Combat Systems

While travelling I often read. One of the books I'm currently reading is on the 'Do' (aka Dao or Tao). Principles from the Daoist philosophy are quite prominent in Far Eastern martial arts; just think of the many martial arts that have 'Do' as part of their name: Aikido, Hapkido, Jeet Kune Do, Judo, Taekwon-Do, Tang Soo Do, etc. This 'Do'-suffix is actually a farely recent phenomenon, but it does not take a way from the fact that principles of the 'Do' are central to Oriental martial arts -- one can hardly see the taegeukdo (the yin-yang symbol) which is probably the most iconic of Daoist symbolism, without thinking of Oriental martial arts.

An interesting aspect of Daoist philosophy is how it views battle and war. War, and victory in war, is not viewed particularly favourfully. When a society has moved from a state of harmony, tranquility, and being in the will of "heaven", to a state of war, turmoil and against "heaven", it has already failed. War, then, may be a meens of getting back on course, but it is in itself a sign of failure. Within the Daoist philosophy war is seen as an act of cleaning up the mess. The ideal is not winning the war; the ideal is not having the situation get out of control, "messy" in the first place.

Hans-Georg Moeller, in his The Philosophy of the Daodejing, describe it this way: "The [Daodejing -- the main text on the 'Do'] does not make any rhetorical attempts to adorn warfare at all. In this text, war is primarily seen as a social disaster and, consequently, there are two very simple and practical attitudes that it advises. First: avoid it. Second, if you cannot avoid it, win it with the least possible damage to yourself."

Traditional martial arts often highlights the importance of avoiding conflict, of not getting into a fight. This may seem paradoxical as the thing practised, namely the art of fighting (martial arts), is avoided. One would not practise a musical instrument with the aim of never doing a recital, or practise sculpture or painting without hoping to one day have an exhibition of one's art work. Yet, the traditional martial arts seem to suggest just this -- the martial artists is told to practise, practise diligently, but to try and avoid fighting, avoid the thing practised for. From a Western philosophical standpoint this is quite nonsensical. Not so, when viewed from the Daodejing. The way of 'Do' is the way of harmony. Going to war is viewed as something that occurs when things have gone wrong. For the 'Do', disharmony is a flaw in the system, a mistake in what ought to be a harmonious system. Practise in the martial arts is similar as practise in paramedics. The paramedics do not train their discipline with the hope that people will get injured, but when an injury occurs they try to return the injured person to a state of healing, keeping in mind the erroneous circumstances. Similarly, the martial artists do not practise martial arts with the hope of fighting, but when violent disharmony occurs, the martial artists attempt a form of rappid "damage control". War is always viewed as "social disaster", as something that has gone wrong, as something that needs to be urgently remedied, cleaned up; the aim is not winning, but fixing the problem -- returning society to a state of harmony, with each other and with "heaven".

Now compare this view with the current prevelant view espoused by sport combat, be it Taekwon-Do tournaments, MMA fights / UFC championships, or the wars going on in the world at present.
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11 January 2012

Traveling in South Africa

Dear friends,

I'm currently in South Africa for my annual trip "home". I'm therefore not able to write posts as frequently.
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