Why Are White Belt Fighters So Dangerous?

Many experienced martial artists believe that, of all the different categories of training partners, absolute beginners are the most dangerous. To outsiders, this sounds like a paradox. Shouldn’t those with the least martial arts training be the least dangerous?

It is not truly a paradox, only a misconception. And not all white belts are dangerous, obviously. But those that are, if only on the mat, are so for the following reasons.

Their goal is always to win. They don’t yet understand the difference between trying to win, and trying to cultivate the skills that one uses to win. Real fights are chaotic affairs, and chaos is not a proper breeding ground for skill development; thus, training in respectable martial arts consists of a series of games, first introducing support structures (e.g. rules and conventions), then dismantling them one step at a time.

The need for, or value in this approach is not obvious–and it is not always explained at the outset. So some white belts never appreciate the context of their practice. Others consider themselves above the “organized despair” of the “traditional mess,” and when a rule stands between them and a sparring victory, they break it without hesitation. The conventions and rules of training, they reason, are “unrealistic in a real fight.” Continue reading Why Are White Belt Fighters So Dangerous?

Why Are Female Martial Arts Masters So Rare?

Are female martial arts masters as rare as they seem? Or are their numbers proportionate to those of female students? I don’t know the answer, but if I had to guess, here are some of the factors I would consider.

The Strength-Sensitivity Paradox

Paraphrasing Mark Twain, a martial art is something that everyone wants to know, but nobody wants to learn. The learning is arduous, occasionally painful and frequently embarrassing.

Having reached the limit of their endurance, students are sometimes tempted to abandon the principal objective, and start playing to win instead of investing in loss. Practically speaking, this means using strength and speed to “fill in the gaps”, or compensate for inferior technique. Continue reading Why Are Female Martial Arts Masters So Rare?

Why Pretty Boys Avoid Taijiquan

Tell the truth, pretty boy. You don’t really care whether your martial art works on the streets. You just want to burn calories and build muscle, because that is what works on the beach.

So let me warn you: although Taijiquan can benefit your health, your physical appearance will pay the price. Continue reading Why Pretty Boys Avoid Taijiquan

Ancient Chinese Feats of Strength

Written by the apocryphal Taoist philosopher Liezi, between 400 B.C. and 300 A.D.

The Earl of Kung-yi was famous among the rulers of the states for his strength. The Duke of T’ang-hsi mentioned him to King Hsuan of Chou, who invited him to court with the highest honors. When the Earl of Kung-yi arrived, the King examined his physique and found him a puny fellow. He was puzzled and asked doubtfully:

“How strong are you?”

Continue reading Ancient Chinese Feats of Strength

Increase Your Power by Improving Your Balance

Victory in combat does not always belong to the strongest contender. As demonstrated repeatedly throughout history, the weaker fighter can prevail, if they attack efficiently and deny their opponent the opportunity to strike back.

What can you do to increase the efficiency of your attack and defense, and overcome the odds? Continue reading Increase Your Power by Improving Your Balance