Thursday, July 8, 2010

Traditional MA / Mixed MA, And The Three Dantiens

Yesterday in last post's comment section, reader Aric and I opened up the Traditional Martial Arts / Mixed Martial Arts can of worms again.
I am the first to say that practical sports like Western Boxing and Wrestling are perhaps the fastest path to fighting skills. But without the underpinning of philosophy and perhaps some form of meditative spirituality, Boxing, Wrestling and MMA are fight-sport, not Martial Arts. Just my opinion.

Where do the Dantien's fit in?

Let me see if this comparison works:
My Tai Chi Chuan instructor Michael Gilman was explaining the Three Dantiens to us. In my own words, the lower Dantien is near our navel, where we were connected to our Mother by the umbilical cord. It is where our sexuality stirs, and it is our physical center. The lower Dantien provides a sense of self.

The middle Dantien is in the chest, near the heart.
It is where we find our sense of love and responsibility to community, and is a higher level when concentrating on meditation and contemplation.

The upper Dantien is the "Third Eye", above the eyes in the forehead. It is associated with the Pineal Gland and is the highest level Dantien to open and meditate through. It is associated with psychic energy, extreme spiritual experience and all that is metaphysical.
This is the Dantien that is also opened up with drugs such as LSD, Magic Mushrooms, Peyote, etc. The problem is, some people who experiment with psychedelic drugs have no grounding in their sense of self or sense of community, found in the lower Dantiens. They have taken a short-cut on the long journey, but their vehicle has hit a bad stretch of road and trouble occurs. They have a Bad Trip...
So for young people, especially those that have no sense of self or sense of community, MMA is a similar short-cut. They may be given dangerous fighting skills, but in the wrong hands this can be socially and legally risky. Traditionally, Martial Arts Masters withheld the most dangerous techniques for only advanced and trusted students. Of course, this was in the era of the firearm, where Martial Arts stopped being a profession and moved into society as cultural expression and personal self defense. It was also at that time when philosophy and spirituality (something the typical soldier didn't need) was meshed with the fighting skills.
It's OK to take things one-step-at-a-time. We don't have to take the short-cut and risk a bad trip.


Aric said...

That wasn't so bad, was it? :)

Interesting comparison to the 3 Dantiens and bad trips.

nemovic said...

I think you are saying, using a nice allegory, the Dantiens (with wich someone has not to agree), that you can not go directly to the "thing" (fighting, or "the trip") because you will have no "grounding" or fundementals and it will turn out as a "bad trip", or reasonless fighting.If you mean that I agree fully with you.

Also I think that you cannot compare the cultural value of TMA with MMA.

But meaby Aric is right at one point, the scope to be achieved is fighting ability.

every martial art is "mixed" as it is evolving via incorporating techniques and responses.

I think what you miss, DJ, in MMA is structure.MMA is incirporating techniques without a "philosophy" (structure).

But we should give MMA some time, structure is emerging from experience and repitition....later they will find the "words" to explain it. Like it happened with TMA, you can write about Dantiens because somebody just startered without thinking about it.

B said...

I agree -- maybe I'm sounding like an old fart. However, the crash-and-bash approach that you see in MMA turns me off.

Yes, yes, there ARE exceptions and I'm sure that there are a few MMA schools that also build character. Heck, it's done with boxing clubs all the time.

Still, I think MMA needs a makeover. My opinion.

Scott said...

We started the 20th Century with the claim that traditional martial arts weren't good for fighting because they had become corrupted and degraded and superstitious.
Now the 21st Century is starting out the same way. With MMA claiming to be purer martial training. Why?

Because martial arts never were exclusively about fighting, they were also about performing and they were a type or aspect of religion.

Your claim that martial arts went through a transition from paid professionals to amateur hobbyists at the introduction of guns is false (although there was an increase in people studying theater-martial'-arts as amateurs toward the end of the 1800's.

Prior to the late 1800's anyone taking money for martial arts (fighting or performing) lost their status as a commoner. To take money for fighting or performing was something like charging interest for loans in Europe in the 1500's, it made you a low class, low status, low caste person. You and your children could only marry other low class people, and you would be barred from access to the government. If you got in a fight and it came before the courts, you would get a worse punishment for the same crime as a commoner would.
Yes, there were caravan guards and itinerant martial monks who were professional and took money, but they were at the bottom of society. The vast majority of practitioners were amateur.

Charles James said...

Hi, DR!

Really nice explanation of the three levels of man: gedan, chudan, and jodan in karate-do. I like it a lot and really appreciate your connecting it to the "third eye," and other more esoteric teachings.

Only one point, drugs, i.e. the LSD stuff, etc. as I see this just another short cut regardless of the grounding of the person. Anytime, to include other means of self enhancement, one uses these things it is just a short cut for the impatient.



Dojo Rat said...

You totally get it.

Mr. B:
Yes, Boxing clubs do create structure and build character. I think we all know stories about inner city youth that have been steered straight by a good boxing coach. Point well taken, but still fight-sport.

Your point?

Yes, I certainly agree that psychedelics are not recommended for everybody. Given proper guidence (which no kid ever has), they can be very mind expanding. I am not advocating their use, even though I have used some. It was just an example of short-cuts.

In general, and this probably doesn't need to be said, I do see MMA as entertaining and useful to examine techniques.
Unfortunately, I have read so many screwy comments from young wanna-bees and even known some in my training circle, that I have concerns.
- But I have to remind myself that I started training in the 1970's and things have certainly changed.


Scott said...

My point? People think kungfu is a failure because kungfu people have been misrepresenting it, for a 100 years. People who don't know history, claim to, and make claims about that history that make it impossible to understand where the arts are coming from. And because of that they are seen to fail and many aspects of these great treasures are thrown in the trash heap. People say martial arts are about healing...but when people try to use them that way they die off or get sicker. Healing as exorcism, healing as conduct practice, but not medicine.

And this whole dantian thing, really man there is one dantian and it contains the whole body. Thinking of it as a spot is just a day one lesson about relaxing your has little to do with the practice. The three dantians as used in daoist meditation can be roughly described as three regions where transformations take place. Transformations along a process which includes all three in a single practice--called jindan or the golden elixir.

But what your teacher described is from the Indian Chakra system.

Christopher Dow said...

Hi John—

I’d like to weigh in on the the effectiveness of traditional martial arts vs. mixed martial arts. I can’t help but believe that this issue, raised most often proposed by MMA advocates, is really a nonissue.
MMA is, indeed, a sport—a viewpoint that most of its advocates would not dispute. To quote Wikipedia: “Originally promoted as a competition with the intention of finding the most effective martial arts for real unarmed combat situations, competitors were pitted against one another with minimal rules. Later promoters adopted many additional rules aimed at increasing safety for competitors and to promote mainstream acceptance of the sport.”
So, by definition, MMAs as they now are practiced are more limited than TMAs. While some MMA practitioners may be hell on wheels in the ring, where techniques are restricted, many could not stand up against a highly trained traditional martial artist on the street, where anything goes, including bone breaks, joint dislocation, tendon tearing, cavity strikes, and other debilitating and deadly techniques that take only an instant—and often no apparent effort—to accomplish. I think of someone like Yang Jwing-ming, whose expertise in chin na (not to mention several other TMAs) is so extensive, accurate, and fast that to present him with an antagonistic limb in any form or at any speed and power is to know instant pain and defeat—not to mention a probable hospital stay.
But let’s get to the reality of the situation. Mixed martial artists—and those who practice some of the more brutal combat arts such as Krav Maga—train strictly to fight a human opponent, and therein lies their failing no matter how effective they may be in combat. The truth is, the vast majority of us will never get into a fight, or if we do, it will be a rare occurrence generally against an opponent who is not well trained. Think drunk, basic belligerent jerk, or brawler. Against these opponents, the automatic trained responses of the average-to-good martial artist are probably effective enough to quickly end or divert a fight as most aggressors are interested in intimidation, not in getting hurt.
But all of us, whether we train in martial arts or not, do battle daily with some of our worst enemies: depletion of energy, ageing, illness, aches and pains, lack of direction, lack of concentration, stubbornness, laziness, and other ailments and negative proclivities of the human condition. Against these enemies, MMAs can’t hold a candle to TMAs—particularly the internal martial arts. Anyone who doesn’t believe this should watch the movies Requiem for a Heavyweight or The Wrestler. Both are realistic portrayals of the toll that ring combat sports take on the human body and spirit. Or, if you need real-life examples, think of Muhammad Ali, whose Parkinson’s Disease was probably caused by too many blows to the head or Mickey Rourke, star of The Wrestler, disfigured and also the recipient of too many head strikes, forcing him to retire from the ring and return to acting (thank goodness!). Then afterward, watch any YouTube video of traditional martial arts masters in their seventies and eighties who move as if they are decades younger than their calendar ages. To put it another way, the “broken-down pug” is a well-known stereotype for a reason, but how may of us have an image of the “broken-down karateka,” or, even more ludicrous, “the broken-down tai chi chuanist?”
If you’re going into the ring against an opponent, go ahead and practice MMA. Even Ali could barely stand up—literally—to mixed martial artist Antonio Inoke in 1976. The bout was called after fifteen rounds because Ali’s legs were bleeding from the kicks Inoke administered, and later, his legs became infected and developed blood clots. But if your principal enemy is the toll that life takes in many and various ways, TMAs are for you. The fact that they most definitely train you to defend yourself should the rare occasion arise is icing on the cake.

daniele.perkele said...

2 words: totally agree

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