“If you can afford to put total focus on
the front, it is a game, not combat”
This post by Tom Collings took the form of a comment to an article titled Competitive martial arts training: “What you get, what it costs”. I felt the points made by the author deserve special attention, especially for those who encourage competition in martial art sports, or are inclined to denigrate aikido as a martial art. – Editor.
In February, I passed my 25th year working ghetto streets and would like to make it to retirement alive in a few months. Winning does not matter to me, only survival – that is my personal definition of WARRIOR. Most styles of training have a valid focus, and also have their inherent weaknesses. You need to be clear about personal needs, then chose which makes sense for you.
It is true that close quarters combat often goes to the ground, but it is also true that in real world violence, the ground is the WORST place to be. You can easily be cut and it’s easy to get the sh*t kicked out of you by your adversary’s home boys.
No disrespect to MMA, but my old sparring days reinforced tunnel vision, dulled my peripheral vision (my most essential survival tool) and battlefield awareness – AN UNBROKEN FOCUS ON MY REAR.
What has served me well are O’Sensei’s training exercises like Tai No Henko and Kihon exercises requiring immediate turns to the rear or lateral movement out of the death zone (the front.) Multi-directional weapons training like Happo Giri and jo katas requiring continuous change of direction have also been useful.
O’Sensei was opposed to his Budo becoming competitive NOT just for philosophical reasons, but for TACTICAL reasons. He was in real combat and sent soldiers he trained into combat. He knew that sparring of any kind takes the mind out of battlefield awareness (street) mode and places it in GAME mode, that is, focus on one person only… my competitor, and one direction only… THE FRONT.
If you can afford to put total focus on the front, it is a game, not combat. You come to rely on the referee to cover your back and protect you from the others if you go to the ground. I am not opposed to MMA just because it is brutal, ugly and devoid of any Budo ritual or shugyo which brings the mind to stillness and clarity. My opinion is admittedly biased; my grandfather was killed in combat from the side, and my partner was assaulted from the rear.
I CANNOT AFFORD THE TUNNEL VISION WHICH CONFRONTATION AND ALL FORMS OF COMPETITION INSTILLS. I will leave those games to young athletes and the sport fighting fellows.
Perhaps I will go for a trophy in miniature golf!