Taiji vs MMA, Yes, I saw it, and many folks felt compelled to send it to me with a “…..well what do you think dude?” I suppose this was intended for me to defend it and somehow to identify with the Taiji “Master”. I don’t. I’ve railed against this type of fighting for years. What did surprise me is that it took ten seconds, I was thinking five to beat him. The MMA fighter isn’t even a top fighter. As far as the Taiji guy, when you practice an art in the vacuum of your own school or system you are doomed for failure. It’s just that simple.
First I will explain the idea of closed set math as it applies to martial arts. A closed set is an equation that is set to work within certain limits and not open to all variables. It only works in a particular framework and structure. How this applies to martial arts is this; when there are conditions set for the match/engagement and you can’t go outside of them or you lose. In other words specific rules that you must follow or you lose. Step out of the box, you lose. Cases in point: Taiji push hands and Wing Chun chi sao. I have a lot of experience in this and strong opinions about it. I will give some brief examples of my dealings here.
I was invited to do a demonstration years ago featuring several styles but mainly Taiji. I can’t stand tournaments and exhibitions of martial arts. Everyone there is a self proclaimed ‘master’ and everyone wants to brag about their particular technique/brand of an art that only they know. There’s too much chest puffing and self promotion at these things for me so I rarely go or participate. So here I am at this demo and the day is winding down and then a Taiji ‘master’ challenges me, in front of a crowd, to do push hands with him. I explain I don’t do push hands, not my thing, find someone else. He wants to make a point how superior Taiji is to Jook Lum and how he can easily defeat me. He’s an arrogant schmuck and I’m a hot headed mick and I get ticked off and agree. However he has to show me how to do it since I don’t practice it. He’s 6’3 210 and I am 5’9” 157. He lines us up and then lunges at me. I step sideways and he loudly protests. “You cannot move your stance, you must stay there!” to which I respond “are you freaking kidding me? You are bigger and have a longer reach, why the hell would I stay in front of you?” See folks, this is closed set fighting; you have to adhere to their rules. Of course he practiced this all the time so at this game he’s good and I am not. We line up again, hands in those awkward push hands positions and before he moves I change my hands to mantis hooking hands and push him down. Of course this angers him and he tells me I can’t do this. He’s grandstanding to the crowd of Taiji people saying that I am not doing it right and he stomps away. He’s not a happy camper and I am not a pawn. The bottom line is that he had a set of conditions that Taiji uses to prove their prowess but they do not work in a real life situation where there are no rules. He had to get me to adhere to the rules to prove he was better.
Now for the chi sao; I get invited to a Wing Chun/Tsun tournament with some students. At this point in time they are doing traditional chi sao. By this I mean it’s a matter of one person trying to attack and the other diverting them and striking. It’s a fun exercise and I liked it years ago. My student wins with no problem. So what, it’s a game, doesn't prove anything about fighting. He has won 3 years in a row and now it’s the fourth and they are gunning for him. Somehow chi sao has devolved now into this routine of a few circular motions and then each guy chain punching at each other, trying to walk over each other, period. No real technique just queuing up and then stampeding forward. The bigger and generally fatter guy always wins. It’s a joke. Bas Rutten once said to me “just let one of these guys try to chain punch through me, they’ll be quite surprised”. He went onto ask me if I’ve ever seen it work in the ring; nope I haven’t. It’s another example of closed set fighting; it can only operate within the confines of a certain framework.
So many arts do this type of practice and it’s foolish. I studied Aikido years ago and I often protested at the way they set up their attacks. The opponent would thrust himself forward with the craziest punches that no one uses in real life. They are great at redirecting these over committed punches but can’t do a thing with a jab. I asked the Sensei if I could invite some boxers over from Joe Frasier’s gym up the street but he declined. He claimed that on the street this is how people really fight. He was wrong. Around this same time there was a player for the New York Jets that was practicing Aikido. His Sensei was visiting from Japan and I was invited to meet him through my Zen associations. There was a nice outdoors gathering picnic style. It was very pleasant and afterwards we were invited to question the master and do some applications with him. He did not speak English and worked through a translator. I asked him, “what to you do to stop a jab” and he responded through the translator, “jab can’t hurt you, no power, he must commit, then you throw him”. I shook my head and said, “well I’d like to see what you’d do with Muhammad Ali”. He understood Ali’s name and responded directly in English,” Muhammad Ari, froat rike butterfry, sting rike bee” with a big smile on his face. Then through the translator he said, “ Ali is an exception, no one else can punch like him, don’t worry about it”. I replied, “Sensei, welcome to America, a lot of people can effectively jab here”.
Folks there is no such thing as a clean and orderly fight. It’s not a chess match or some contrived series of events like in the Sherlock Holmes movies. It is not a mathematical equation that you are going to figure out. You are not going to redirect his energy in a peaceful and meaningful way. You are going to experience violence, chaos and pain but if you’ve trained for that there will be few surprises and you will have an advantage. If you have not trained for them….well look at the Taiji vs MMA video and you’ll get the point.
Someone needs to tell these folks that the fighters stand inside the ring and the spectators stand outside of it!
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