Martial Art and Judo training methods on the East and on the
West differ as differ the place cultural traditions.
Those differences create many problems for both sides of the
isle: for Easter teachers who are coming to the West to promote their Art and
for Western students who are coming to the East to study Art at its source.
Those issues aren’t unique for traditional Eastern martial
art studies, but manifest themselves in all cases of East-West or West-East cultural
and business exchanges.
When there are a lot of sources to examine those differences
from first-hand experience and from throughout research, I’ll touch just a few
points that critical for martial art study.
The relationship between Teacher and Student at the East are
paternalistic family-like when student expected (and taught) to trust his
teacher like a child trusting his parent. It’s for teacher’s sole discretion to
decide what and how to teach, and it’s seen as student’s obligation to accept what
he taught without questioning and asking for more. Student’s patience in the
study is the utmost virtue.
book “Mind Over Muscle” Dr. Kano giving his recollections related to Judo training
methods from his early days as jujutsu student. “Attack me!” instructed his
teacher, Fukuda Hachinosuke and as Jigoro Kano
did, he was thrown hard on tatami. And this was
repeated over and over again. No technique explanation was given, nor any defense was shown. No question was asked. Just endless repetition of been thrown. Been thrown
eventually teach Kano
how to throw and this old-days method remains
in nowadays Judo instructional toolkit.
On the West Teacher and Student are seen as largely equals
and it’s responsibility of the teacher to satisfy student’s desire to learn and
to insure it will be done the best possible way. In Western tradition student’s
curiosity are appreciated and encouraged.
In the World of traditional Eastern martial arts teachers are
seen directly responsible for their students’ actions. To protect themselves in
this liability the multi-layer training methods have been developed. At the beginning
student taught the harmless basics that will prepare him physically and mentally
for further study and will expose his character for the teacher, who will decide
if, when, and how to move study to the next level. Then external elements of
the art are taught, elements that teacher wouldn’t mind to expose and witch perceived
as a hallmark of his art by outsiders. And only after this, after years of
study when strong personal bonds are developed, the student is accepted to receive
the core inner knowledge of the art. And only one of those students will be
selected by his teacher as the next master who will continue tradition, and
only he will receive knowledge of the art in its entirety and only when his
teacher will fill that his time is coming. The teacher’s concern was preserving
his art as his legacy, but not expansion of it among outsiders.
Understanding of this traditional environment helps to make sense
out of a number of things in traditional martial arts as they came to the West
and to dispel some misconceptions. One of them is role and use of kata within
martial art and Judo training methods.
From the Western point of view it’s important to understand
that blind copy of the Eastern training methods – often done in the name of
preserving tradition – is troublesome.
The other point is who is the teacher?
Until Dr. Kano established Kodokan Judo the vast majority of
professional martial artists ware often illiterate who knew little about outside
world (literacy was a priced skill in its own rights and not often possessed by by professional martial artists, sure with some notable exceptions to this rule). Dr. Kano was the first who introduced modern pedagogical methods into the
World of martial arts. Dr. Kano promoted Judo on the East and to the West as
the modern martial art that going beyond just physical fight.
The other martial arts that followed Judo’s footprints to
the West brought with them their old traditional training methods that was –
and sill is – seen on the West as magical Eastern treasure that must be
accepted without explanation. The modern paradox is that many prominent Eastern
teachers who moved to the West evolving their training methods in the way that
Dr. Kano did to adjust to Western realities, when some Western teachers clinching
to orthodox Eastern traditions without questioning and understanding.
I received the first-hand experience with this phenomenon
when some time ago I decided to try a Tai Chi class (with emphasis on health
benefits of the art). I found one with good reviews not far from my home, called
teacher/owner and got permission to observe a class. At some point the teacher –
who is a westerner – came over to me and we had a nice chat. He asked me and I told him my
background and what I’m looking for and at some point asked him to see the
push-hands class (it was only in an advanced class and not in the entry-level
class that I was observing). To my surprise he gave me immediate and resounding
‘No’. He told me that his push-hands videos are on YouTube (I saw them prior to
my visit; I won’t include any links) and it’s nothing more I can see. I left
and never came back, but this story bothered me for awhile until I understood
what is underneath – he obviously followed old Chinese multi-layer teaching
tradition without its throughout understanding.
I should admit that teaching traditional Eastern Martial Arts in the modern Western World is a challenging task. But dispute the challenges we can find good examples of how it's should be done. One, like Wing Chun Life that takes very traditional Chinese Wing Chun style in it's integration with our non-stop 24/7 daily life.
From this point on my site I won’t address the traditional
Eastern training methods anymore and all references are only to the modern Western
methods (even some been developed on the East – Judo randori training, as
The Eastern idea of multi-layer training works on the West with
some meaningful modifications.
When the first order of business is to develop student's interest in
the training, the sport aspect of Judo training – and randori in particular – is a good
tool for the task. Sport is addictive. The other types of martial
arts started to incorporate some sort of competition, be it form/kata
demonstration or competitive fights under different sets of rules. This is
exactly how Dr. Kano saw Judo training. And this works as long as sport fight seen as Judo training method and not misinterpret
as a real fight.
Judo as sport (as a part of martial art training or by itself) is based on using general sport and combat sport training methodologies. When it’s very wide and diverse topic, I would touch only a few specific points
that often not spelled-out and overlooked in discussions, but always found in practice of good instructors.