Necessity of Fighting

This is an excerpt from a message posted in a online forum about the necessity of getting into the fighting enivornment as part of ones training. Written by Terence Niehoff.

"Your post relies on many assumptions -- so let's begin from a simple proposition: that a person can *only* learn to fight skillfully or competantly or improve their fighting skills (like swimming) by getting in the water (by actually swimming). WCK is an approach to fighting (swimming). So one can only become competant in that approach to fighting by actually using that approach in fighting. You either accept that or you don't. The evidence we can actually see -- people that fight skillfully regardless of style or lineage -- all follow that "paradigm" (if you will) in their training. And it comports with how human beings learn any physical skill. If you do accept it, then all the assumptions and the BS begin to fall to the wayside.

You talk about "good" people. How do you determine whether someone is "good" -- by what they can demonstrate (forms, drills, one-steps)? Or by how they can actually use their method in fighting? From my perspective, if they don't fight as part of their training, they can't be "good". To determine skill, we need a way to measure. If you wanted to measure your strength and how well your training helped develop strength, you could lift and record your pounds, then do training, and measure again to see your progress. In any fighting art, we want to measure performance as well so that we can see how we are progressing and tweak our training. But what do we measure? We measure what it is, the performance, we are trying to do -- fight; we measure our performance in fighting.

Chi sao (and the touching hands stuff) is a drill, sort of like "point sparring" -- which as a drill, has certain advantages, but also certain drawbacks in terms of developing fighting skills. Many things "work" in point sparring that will get you killed in a genuine fighting environment; the same with chi sao. By actually fighting, one can determine what those are, and then remove them from their point sparring to get greater benefit from the drill. Same with chi sao. Or, they can never fight but continue to "refine" and "refine" their point sparring skills -- what they would call "improving" -- and become great point sparrers without ever realizing that in so doing they are actually moving further and further away from developing good fighting skills (their "refinement" of point sparring tactics and tools are actually make them a worse fighter!). Same with chi sao. Moreoever, when one actually fights and compares that to point sparring or chi sao, they'll see that those methods of training really didn't develop attributes like timing, sensitivity, awareness, etc. for a fighting enfvironment (as they are intensity-dependent). The point sparring and chi sao are useful as drills, but nothing more. They aren't indicative of fighting skill and can't be used as a measure.

Form and function (application) are not two different things, they are the same thing. By making it work, whatever it is, we learn the "proper" form for ourselves (as individuals). And if it doesn't work, our form is bad.

Whether folks have trained a certain way for 1000 years is irrelevant, even if true. But tell me, where are all the tremendous "kung fu" fighters that this way of training has produced? Don't give me stories or legends. And so what if they have done it that way for 1000 years -- does that make it good? Or efficient? Or effective? Let's say that it has produced a *few* highly skilled people, a small percentage of folks that practice the art -- perhaps they were just "exceptional" in the first place. The important question is whether it works for you. Has it? There is only one way to know -- by testing it. What we do know is that the "paradigm" I'm putting forward has, and continues to, produce good fighters regardless of style (because that's how humans learn).

No one becomes a good fighter by aping or mimicing his "master." To blindly follow, even as a beginner, demonstrates neither the master or student have a clue as to developing fighting skill. "Form" is not static, but in action, in the performance. Good form produces good results, as form and function are the same. A good teacher or coach doesn't just tell their student to do things a certain way (because that's how things are done) but rather shows their student **how to produce a certain result in application by using a certain "form".** Bad result equals bad form. For example, you learn the "form" of a hip throw from your teacher but you take that and try to make it work for yourself. The student through application (fighting) learns to find *their form*. Good teachers invite questions, invite experimentation, invite challenges, etc. from their students -- they want the student to figure things out and understand for themselves. Understanding and skill only come from the doing.

WCK people get beat, including beginners or "masters", because they have little to no fighting skill -- skill that is developed by fighting. You can't separate form and function. And attributes like timing, sensitivity, etc. are all intensity-dependent -- forms, drills, including chi sao, will not develop them beyond a superficial level. You can only develop them by fighting. So if someone doesn't fight, they won't have the necessary attributes, nor form, nor skill.

It is simple -- if you never get in the pool, you may be able to dogpaddle a bit but that's the limit of your skills regardless of how much time you put in on the side of the pool doing drills and forms. To develop into a competant swimmer requires that we get pool time. To develop even greater swimmming skills requires even more pool time. So all the "good" tai ji people and "good" WCK people that never get into the pool will only be able to dogpaddle; and anyone who does get into the pool regularly will most likely be able to swim much better. You can try and "analyze" swimming but that won't make you a good swimmer without getting into the pool. And you are just "analyzing" in the dark.

Folks can make all kinds of excuses for not fighting. Fighting with protection is better than no fighting at all (just like getting in a pool with a flotation device is better than not getting in). Boxers wear gloves when they get into the ring but the fighting skills they develop, and which can only be developed by getting in the ring, will serve them on "the street" when they don't have the gloves on. Never boxing in the ring just means one will never develop good boxing technique, good boxing skills, or the attributes to make a good boxer. But maybe they'll look "good" in demos.

You learn form from fighting. How does one *know* where or how to position their tan sao, for example? From application, from seeing what works and what doesn't, not from someone telling you how to do it. The problem with drills is that they can be done is such a way as to presuppose a certain way of doing things (a drill is performed in a prearranged way) but that doesn't mean it will be effective for that person in a fighting environment. One needs to experience that firsthand.

And I'm not talking about being a professional fighter -- if you went to a BJJ school or boxing gym or any other place that trains fighters, you'd fight as part of your training because they are all martial arts. If you don't fight, you're not practicing a martial art. And it's not a case of hobby vs. serious fighter either -- there are hobbiests at every BJJ *but they still fight.* They can "converse intelligently" with Rickson because they all practice the same art and have experience . Maybe the hobbiest will never be as good as Rickson but to have any skill in BJJ they need to fight. "


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