One of the unusual features of Chelmsford Combat Karate is that the club welcomes martial artists from different clubs and styles. Not only are they welcome but they are not forced to "give up" their old style or club. To some martial artists the fact that we actually let people train with us and with someone else at the same time will seem unbelievable. To most people who haven't been involved in the martial arts it might seem odd that anyone would object to this kind of arrangement. Sadly it is very common. I've been to karate seminars and it is not unusual for a few of the attendees to sneak in praying that their instructor doesn't find out about their treachery! I have heard a number of theories advanced for this behaviour. The most convincing I've heard is that the instructor has filled their students with the belief that the style that they teach is superior to all others and that the instructor is an all-powerful master. They therefore live in fear that if the student goes elsewhere they'll see that this isn't true.
It presents an interesting challenge when sparring against a "foreign" style. Suddenly I am faced with someone who is not doing something predictable. There are two possible approaches - do what I would have done anyway, or adapt to what they are doing. For the first three years of my training I think I always did the latter which is pretty much equivalent to trying to beat someone at their own game. I find it really hard not to do this despite realising it is a flawed tactic. When ground fighting with our resident wing chun expert and he starts flailing his hands around (and jabbing his fingers in my eyes) it is tempting to respond in kind. Somehow I just get dragged into it; maybe it is a lack of confidence. Whatever the reason, it doesn't work, and actually it is playing into his hands. If I was a great runner with a fast finish I wouldn't stop using it just because I was competing with someone who used different tactics. To win, we need to play to our own strengths, not our opponents.
Of course I now need to moderate my comments. Obviously certain techniques will work less well against certain people for various reasons - their size, strength and speed being just three of the main ones. Having people turn up and use new techniques is great because it breaks my bad habits and forces me to adapt. But what I need to learn is how to adapt my strengths to defeat theirs, not how to copy their strengths. So, in future no more trying to jab Mr W Chun in the eyes; next time I'm going to sit on his head.
Oh, and if your club doesn't give you the chance the experience other people's styles, then come and join us!
We meet every Sunday from 09:30 - 11:30 at the Newlands Spring Community Association Hall, Dickens Place, Chelmsford. If you'd like to join us, just turn up on the day at about 09:15 - no charge for the first session. We also run four week introductory courses to help kick-start your self-defence journey. Email us for details of when the next course starts.