A few days ago I told someone I have a black belt in Taekwondo. He asked if it was a traditional or pop culture school. To be honest, I believe Oh Do Kwan to be halfway in between. At least, as far as Taekwondo goes, Oh Do Kwan has the best reputation in Australia by quite a landslide, and the centre at Maddington has two near grand masters as instructors, so we’re doing all right.
But a good friend of mine has started learning Kung Fu of the Choy Lay Fut variety. After doing a little reading and hitting youtube (and my book on various martial art forms) I’ve decided that the Chinese martial arts were almost positively more lethal, or at the very least more hardcore. Taekwondo Oh Do Kwan, as I see it, trains its disciples to be light on their feet, to minimise one’s own target while being able to kick one’s opponent efficiently, quickly and with strength. One hopes that the opponent will be downed after sufficient kicks have been landed. Its forms and taeguk are based on ancient (2000 year old?) Korean techniques and are relatively simple and easy to master. I mastered most of my forms after doing them a dozen times or less.
Recalling what experiences I have with Kung Fu and particularly Wushu, I realise now that if I went up against a disciple of either who was my rank- 1st dan or equivalent), I would almost certainly lose. The techniques they learn are vast and complex, intricate and meticulous, with grace and beauty rather than simplicity. They styles are vast and adaptable in ways that Taekwondo cannot hope to counter. Stances are varied, hand techniques extremely important, dodging at close-range rather than keeping out of range, actually blocking, close quarters attacks with the fingers and elbows as well as fists and ridgehands… But the fluidity and adaptability of a master would just absolutely floor me.
While it’s a much more… hardcore art to devote onesself to, I am unsure I have what it takes. Lately I have not practiced Taekwondo for discipline as I once did, but to keep up my ass-kicking skills (which is not a particularly noble reason). I’ve become dependent on the idea that I could not possibly lose a fight, and while I have confidence in my ability to intimidate, it cannot be denied that Taekwondo has flaws which I am struggling to overcome. Sherman or Roy, two practitioners at the club, would probably never lose a fight because, even though they only use TKD techniques, they apply them with such ferocity, speed and composure it’s hard to imagine anyone getting close enough to defeat them. But I am neither Sherman nor Roy. And I think I’ve somewhat plateaued out. My skills are keeping roughly the same with little improvement- it’s merely maintenance hereon with little separating the first dans from the third. Fourth dans and up are more serious, but I lack the patience to devote myself to the art that long. I seek diversity, variation, the new. Maybe not wushu as of yet, but some day perhaps, if my joints will allow it.
So, because I feel Taekwondo is somewhat lacking, I’ll move on to capoiera because it looks enjoyable and has its own beauty.
I’ll learn aikido because Ueshiba sensei, its founder, lasted a half hour in a duel with a master swordsman without ever drawing his sword. At last the swordsman gave up, and Ueshiba, untouched, realised he had founded ‘way of the harmonious spirit’, as aikido roughly translates.
I might try my hand at boxing to strengthen my punches and improve my reflexes.
Maybe kickboxing or possibly Muay Thai (Thai boxing) to learn how to use my elbows and knees properly.
Definitely judo or some equivalent to learn how to grapple so I’m not just taken to the ground and beaten to a pulp.
And once I’ve learned all of the above, I will challenge a Wushu or Kung fu master. And if I lose, I will forget it all and devote myself to the eastern art which bested me.
All in the name of self-defence? I think my ego may be involved. Either way, I seek to be invincible in combat. And it seems like such a miserable goal, spending years of time and effort just to reassure myself I can’t be beaten. Maybe I’ll just stick to aikido and hope I never face a Wushu master.
EDIT: Now that I think about it, I think what might be worrying me is that I might not be the best. I have, for a very long time, considered myself the best fighter I know (with a few exceptions at Taekwondo and a certain Jack Goodrick). My drive to learn more arts to cover the various weaknesses of the others is based on the fear that, someone might come along and beat me because I haven’t been trained to block five strikes to the eyes within the span of two seconds. So I feel I have to go out and learn it myself, or learn how to defend from it, so no matter what’s thrown at me I can still reassure myself with the knowledge I cannot lose. Why is it so hard to let go? Why do I always have to prove myself? Hm…
It’s not like I’m going to get attacked by a grand master anyway. I’d be surprised if I ever got into another fight in my life outside a training hall. So it’s apparently all about my ego…