It is interesting to me to read of the various sifus and masters who are featured in martial arts magazines. A person will often start his profile by stating that he studied under a great master, only to leave & study with someone else. What for? Every system should be all encompassing and able to handle any type of attack; it should also combine the hard with the soft, etc. Why the need for so many styles?
There are essentially only a few ways to fight: neutral (standing your ground), advance straight, left, or right (initiate or intercept), retreat straight, left, or right (yield).
It takes a lifetime to master one system. I have been training 6 days per week for approximately 2 hours a day for since 1970. This is active training time, and does not include walking around correcting students or lecturing instruction. I am constantly learning new meanings to the techniques in my art, and will devote my life to perfecting them. How do people find the time to master 3 or 4 systems?
It is understood that an active master will dedicate a great deal of time towards his art. He should spend a minimum of 1 hour per day at least 5 days per week to keep nurturing it. Your body will not be able to take much more than 2 hours a day of continuous, exhaustive training, whether it is external or internal. Training actively 1 hour daily for 5 days, a master of 2 systems would train 2.5 hours per week or 10 hours per month. A master of 3 systems or more would train less than 2 hours per week, or 6 to 7 hours a month. Compare this to a concert pianist devoting only 2.5 hours a week to prepare for a concert at Lincoln Center!
All legitimate systems are good, however, you sometimes have to change dynamics when you incorporate one into another. For example, the practitioner leans away from the target when delivering a Korean style side kick. We lean towards the target when delivering ours. Both methods are effective. The problem with employing both, is they contradict the dynamics of each other's system. The same scenario applies to grappling techniques that go against the flow of your system.
Obviously, we can all learn from someone, and this article is not meant to demean people who exchange principles and methods, or make a few intelligent additions to their system. Adding something to your style is fine, as long as you do not sacrifice the efficiency of your art to apply it. From another perspective, it is possible to incorporate similar styles to form another style.
I began studying my art from Master Wong Ting Fong. Master Wong was from Toyson City, China. Toyson City has produced many great masters & is famous for it's kung fu. The discipline Master Wong practiced & taught is a blend of Hung Gar, Toy Gar & Fut Gar Kung Fu. These arts are in harmony with one another & provide an excellent training format. We use one set of basics. For example, we have one four corner horse stance, one bridge block, one tiger hand, etc. There are obviously variations & nuances of these stances & techniques. However, we do not use the techniques from all three styles, unless they happen to be the same as the ones we employ.
The point I am making is that if a person has the knowledge to add or combine movements into one style, he could conceivably have a strong effective system. The problem arises when someone trains several systems separately. Training forms or contact with variations in stances, blocks, punching and kicking methods, etc. is where things can become problematic. The practitioner has too many variables to decide on, when a split second reflexive decision is called for. It is better to practice one bridge block one hundred times a day, than four different bridge blocks twenty-five times. You will not only do the one block better, it will come up more reflexively. This problem is compounded even more when the combined arts are somewhat different, such as blending Tai Chi or Kung Fu with Karate, Karate with Aikido, or Tai Kwon Do with Judo.
Picture the following analogy: There are three master chefs, a Chinese chef, an Italian chef and a French chef. Each of them makes a delicious gourmet soup. The chefs are friends and readily exchange recipes. The Chinese chef says, "My friends really make great soup. I think I'll add some spices from my Italian friend's recipe and some beef broth from my French friend's recipe." What was once a culinary delight is no longer fit to eat.
This article is not intended to dispute the value of mixed martial arts in full contact events. It is proven that practitioners of mixed martial arts are very successful in these events. Full contact fighters have a different set of parameters. Their workout regimes, training methods and objectives generally are very different from most traditional martial artists. It is also not meant to demean non-traditional or innovative systems, as long as the guidelines are solid, consistent and easily relatable with one another. The purpose of this article is to emphasize the value of any traditional system and encourage a person to find the solutions he is seeking within it.
Sifu Norman Mandarino