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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fighting Skill vs. Systematic Knowledge

Talking with a guy who is in to try a class at Sityodtong for the first time.

Me: So, have you done Muay Thai before?
New Guy: I did Boxing and Tae Kwon Do.
Me: That's not what I asked you.

Okay, yes, I was a little gruff. It's worth noting here that the class going on was an Intermediate/Advanced class, not a beginners class. My answer wouldn't have changed much, but my rationale for the answer was more important.

And yes, I get what the guy was thinking. He's done Boxing, so he can punch. He's done Tae Kwon Do, so he can kick. Muay Thai involves punching and kicking. Ergo, that's close enough.

That line of thinking works fine for a fight, but not for training.

If I had been trying to line up a fight for one of my fighters, and that was the answer I got, I would have said "fine, great." Why? Because at that point, the guy has established that he's got some skills that he's bringing to the table, and I really don't care if it's not Muay Thai as long as he knows the rules we're playing by. He's got to be able to punch and kick (and clinch, but in a fight, that's HIS issue, not mine).

But we're not talking about a fight, we're talking about training.

In training, I expect you to have specific skills. I expect you to know how we do things in Muay Thai, because that it was we're teaching. Not "striking". Muay Thai. An art (style, system, whatever) with a particular history and ethos, but also a set of mechanics and strategies that are not the same as those of other arts. That doesn't mean other systems can't produce competent fighters, it just means they don't do it the same way.

Assuming that Muay Thai = Boxing + Tae Kwon Do isn't just foolish (and vaguely disrespectful to three arts with distinct histories and origins), it creates major problems in training (especially in an intermediate class).

If you're in an intermediate class, I make certain assumptions about your knowledge base. I assume you know how to thow a Thai style kick, for example. And while I'm always happy to tweak people's mechanics, if you're in an Intermediate class, I shouldn't have to correct you on every kick, or teach you what those mechanics are supposed to be like. We should be moving past that.

You show up in a class with the wrong knowledge set, and you are slowing down the instructor, and potentially the whole class. You are taking time away from other students, for no good reason.

If I showed up in a Tae Kwon Do school, I'd put on a white belt like every other beginner there.

If you're new to a system, you are new. Regardless of how much experience you have. Start from the beginning. Respect that you are new. Hell, enjoy it. The martial arts are wonderful in that you can always be a beginner again, if you feel like it.


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