We are live.

Well, I talked about it for a long time. I played with the idea, and repeatedly convinced myself it would be a waste of money. But we have finally gone live here at www.wallacesmedley.com .

Over the coming months there are going to be a lot of things happening. I am going to get my books back out for sale, just as a start. I took them offline as there were some editing issues that I simply did not feel I had time to fix, and rather than let the people who sit in their mother’s basement and chat on internet forums about what great warriors they are and how Wallace Smedley misspelled some words so he must not be a real warrior, I took the books down. (By the way, I’ve never been in a war, so I am actually not a warrior, and never claimed to be).

Once I complete the process of getting the books back on the market, I will begin the dreaded process of editing the film footage to provide instructional videos. Many of these will be free clips, and I will also be putting my curriculum into video instructional format, and those will be available for purchase.

In keeping with my previous statements about the silliness of secrets in the martial arts, I will be putting my entire curriculum online in a non-instructional format as well. There is far too much secrecy about many styles of the Chinese martial arts, and I think we need to modernize our thinking in this, as well as many other areas.

I will continue to provide my honest best effort in the articles. I tell the truth in these articles, as I see it, and while there is an infrequency to my articles, this is in the interest of providing quality articles. If you are interested in every rambling thought that goes through my head, follow my twitter www.twitter.com/wallacesmedley

Once again, I thank you all who have followed my work from sifuatlarge to here, you are much appreciated and the fact that I get some emails from people who find value in what I do here more than makes up for the hateful emails from the mystical warrior monk wannabes. Keep coming around as there is going to be a lot happening! As always, you can keep up by simply subscribing and spread the word by sharing the articles you enjoy! Take care all!

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Pseudoscience and Drama…

                Okay, the time has come once again to address some very strange claims made by a couple of people involved in the Chinese Martial Arts. Before we begin, I would ask you to watch this video:

                From the opening line, “It is called Qigong…” this is all about drama. There is very little in the entire video that has anything to do with real issues or a close and unbiased examination of facts. The line claims, “science will attempt to reveal the truth” is quaint, but when the facts are in your face and you ignore them in favor of drama, then you are not going to be taken seriously.

                The fact is, I would not even take this clip seriously enough to write about it except for one problem – a student sent me the clip wanting to know if I would be willing to teach them “Iron Shirt Qigong”.

                So when there is a student taking this garbage seriously enough that they actually want to learn it, we have a problem.

                Take another look at the swing taken on the crash test dummy at the 1:59 point of the video. One can clearly see that the strike was intended to achieve maximum impact. The strike goes well into the chest of the dummy and there is a false recoil made by the person swinging the bat after it had already bounced free from the dummy. This is important later.

                When we take a look at the strike on the “monk” at the 3:43 mark, we can clearly see that the strike was pulled. The recoil happens almost on impact. There was a strike, as is evidenced by the red mark, but I have to let my inner skeptic out and ask, why did they allow the strike to be performed by the “monk’s” student. Why not A-Rod? Why not any pro baseball player? If Qigong does protect, what would there be to fear from a strike from anyone. Let me take a swing at him!

                The spear is very impressive to the uninitiated, but it is an ancient parlor trick where the pressure is not going straight in but rather, down. They make passing reference to the redness on his chest below where the spear tip was but fail follow up on why it should be red, and exactly how much pressure was applied there to cause the redness.

                Sorry kids, this is one for the crackpot file. Nothing special here, just some pseudoscience and a heavy dose of drama.  

Practical Application (Study and Practice)

I had a very interesting discussion with a friend of mine a couple of days ago regarding practical application study within the Chinese Martial Arts, and how this field of study compares to the same field of study being done in the Okinawan and Japanese Martial Arts.

The study of practical application within the Japanese and Okinawan Martial Arts seems to have begun in earnest with the debut of the UFC. In this event, on a huge stage, the traditional striking martial arts got it handed to them in short order, and everyone who had any sense saw immediately that we needed to go back and take another look at what we had been taught and what we were teaching.

For the Japanese and Okinawan systems, this study took on a very serious note and many open minded practitioners saw that much of the problem lay in a lack of objective understanding of the techniques themselves. Where it had been standard practice to teach a block as a block, these thinkers began to see blocks as strikes. The chambered hand, long taught as being an elbow to the ninja that had just jumped onto your back, was seen more and more as being a limb control/repositioning of the opponent type of maneuver. And as this study goes on, much is being re-evaluated and understood to have a much more practical use than had previously been taught.

Within the Chinese Martial Arts, there was a lot of resistance to the idea that we didn’t know what the techniques were supposed to mean. As I mentioned in a previous article, for many years I had taught that a particular technique was a swinging strike to the underside of the jaw, when in looking at things from a more practical perspective it is a scoop to the underside of a kicking leg that allows you to (quite easily) dump your opponent onto his backside.

The people who resist have pointed out to me on a regular basis that the techniques of Hung Gar need not be seen as anything complicated. They love to point out the tiger strikes as their support for their position.

 

In Hung Gar, the tiger strikes are quite obviously a redirect with one hand and a strike with the other. And on the surface, there is nothing complex. I think, at least to me, the real complexity would be readily apparent to anyone as soon as they try to use these tiger strikes on a fully uncooperative opponent. The first time I experimented with this, I was amazed at just how difficult it is to pull off the techniques properly, and have them deliver as promised, when the opponent is doing everything in their power to prevent you from being successful. It took quite a bit of training to understand some of the more subtle aspects of timing, pressure, and adaptation required to make the techniques successful. They payoff was not just that I developed the ability to use the techniques. Better still was that I understood how to use them well enough to effectively teach how to use them.

There need be no insecurity in this study. In fact, insecurity should be the last thing you feel. Each time out, I got better at it, and eventually made it look and act like I was told that it would.

So, once again, we find ourselves back at the basic idea of training. No matter how basic and obvious the application may seem to the naked eye, unless you get out there and work until you can apply the technique on an uncooperative opponent, you will never be all that you think you are.

Here are some training ideas that I found useful:

  • Start Slow. It can be very disheartening to dive into full speed application study. Starting slow allows you to build up the understanding form the most basic levels. As you become more confident, you can increase the speed of everything going on, and then increase the level of resistance that your partner is providing in the exercise. But learn to do it right first, and only then start increasing resistance.
  • Be sure the opponent in not always wearing long sleeves. Yes, train with sleeves, but train sleeveless as well. You will need to understand the differences in what you have to do to make a technique effective under both circumstances. Have you partner, if they are not sweaty enough, go run water on their arms. This will provide some further exploration in the study of application against a slippery opponent.
  • Multiple Opponents. Have three to four partners standing at various angles around you. Do not fool yourself into thinking this means you will be able to take on multiple adversaries! Rather, this training provides a quick change up as a different level of resistance, as each person will define the level of resistance differently. For Hung Gar people, you can position them to allow you to go through the Ten Tigers section of Fu Hok for a great drill.
  • Have the opponents stand at different distances and practice the appropriate footwork needed to reach the opponent. Not everything is going to take place at the optimal distance. Allow for this by varying the distance in the starting point throughout the drill. Have the partner start out too far, as well as too close, and also start from poor angles (place the defender at a disadvantage)We have to train as realistically as possible, and yet maintain our understanding that “close” is as good as we are ever going to get. We have to make every effort to get as close to the real thing as possible, but at the same time maintain a safe environment. We must also take care not to make claims that we are mimicking an actual violent encounter, because in the end it is only training. Training is not just our best hope for surviving a violent encounter, it is our only hope.

I hope that the point I am trying to make is clear. Understanding that this is the probable application of this or that individual technique helps only a little. You need to take time and drill the technique. A surface understanding is going to do you no good. There is no replacement for experience. There never will be. Train the use of the techniques more than the mere repetition in the air. You do need a live opponent. Where many schools go wrong is in not trying with a partner at all, usually out of never seeing the initial stage of slow technique as being “step 1” of the process), or in jumping to full speed too soon.

When training for application, one must start very slow, to learn placement and footwork. Then pick up the pace of the entire execution. Once this becomes proficient, then the opponent will begin to offer resistance to the execution, and the real learning will now begin.

Don’t Fool Yourself

The topic came up recently on the Iain Abernethy forum and I thought I would give my take on the subject.
Very often in the martial arts we approach our subject with a kind of arrogance that is not well founded. When we train, we tend to use the term, “untrained street fighter”. The arrogance is in the belief that anyone who attacks us on the street is inferior to us based on the fact that we are trained martial artists, and they are not.

This is not a well thought out idea, and in this article we will look a little more closely at what the truth of the matter probably is.

First let us take a look at a trained martial artist. We spend our time in a relatively clean, very much controlled environment. Any martial arts school, aside from the decorations on the wall, is going to look pretty much like any other martial arts school, a big open floor, mostly free from clutter. The classes will be pretty similar; repeated practice of techniques from the style or system. Whether this practice will be in the form of kata or partner drills makes little difference in what we are seeing. The bottom line of this point is that the situation will not be chaotic. You will know what you are working on, and you will know you are safe. Even in sparring, where you may not know the actual technique your opponent will be using, you do know that it will fall within the construct of a known set of particular rules. These rules are necessary (no matter how much this is downplayed) to ensure the safety of the participants. Over time you will develop a certain mindset regarding the training. You will not have to think about the rules, legal targets and techniques and so on. It will become a habitual act to follow these rules, and free the mind for the creation of strategy.

But here is where we fool ourselves.

We think that this training is for the real thing. It could not really be much further from the real thing, but we turn a blind eye to this fact and press on and convince ourselves that we are in fact training for the ultimate street fight. We know that whenever the day comes that an untrained street fighter is dumb enough to attack our well trained self, we will defeat them while dazzling the onlookers and bystanders with our prowess.

Now let us take a look at these untrained street fighters. Street punks have more than likely spent their entire life in or near violence. In the real world, there are gangs and fights every day. When kids in these neighborhoods grow up like this they are quite likely to have a much more clear understanding and much more intimate knowledge of violence than any martial arts student ever will. The fights these kids grow up having as a part of their life are not pretty, but they are violent. Proper technique and sound strategy are not to be found.

What comes to mind for me is a scene from “A Game of Thrones” wherein Ser Vardis Egan is in a fight to the death with a common sellsword named Bronn. Here is a look at it:

In the scene, the knight is well trained, and much better armed and armored. Bronn does not fight a clean or pretty fight, but he uses experience and “street smarts” to kill Vardis.

When violence happens, it is not going to be pretty. It is going to be sudden, and a lot faster than you can imagine. Visit www.nononsenseselfdefense.com , http://www.conflictcommunications.com/  , and http://iainabernethy.co.uk/forum  for further reading on the topic by people who can present much more thoroughly, and from a much more experienced perspective.