Today’s martial arts: are MMA a miracle recipe?

Article for Taiwan Ho

In recent years the face of martial arts has changed dramatically. With the success of televised MMA (mixed martial arts) & NHB (no holds barred) tournaments in the USA and Japan – K1, Pancrase, Pride, The Cage, UFC, etc.-- people in and out of the martial arts world are finding out that there is more to martial arts than just kata forms and “crouching tiger” postures. Competitors realize that in real fighting no discipline is better than another and that efficiency is based on a serious knowledge of different martial arts and on sparring practice. And this obviously is the biggest change ever in the history of martial arts.
So are the NHB/MMA bouts the panacea? No because in a street fight, there are no limitations. In those tournaments there are still many rules that give a serious edge to grapplers. However, they’ve had the advantage of putting together for the first time people from many disciplines and show that none is the best; only complete, well-rounded fighters can win.

I, a little Frenchman under 60KG, didn’t have to wait the turn of the century to learn that. As a youngster, due to my small size, I experienced the vicissitudes of bullying as early as primary school. So I picked-up judo, a very fashionable sport at the time, then I learnt karate; but then one day I got beaten badly by a boxer. So I moved to boxing and kickboxing, and went through several other martial arts over the years, until one day I discovered Yoseikan Budo, and said to myself “that’s it: everything I learnt separately before is in there, all in one!” On and off, I’ve been practicing MA for about 40 years; so let me explain a bit about martial arts.

The Birth of Modern Martial Arts.

Let’s have a look at history. Although martial arts, whether Eastern or Western have existed for thousands of years, they, until the early 20th century, were mostly restricted to the nobility and military specialist personnel. Only around WW2 did common people start to have enough free time to practice martial arts, which at the same time became sports. In ensuing years, martial arts lost their original warring purposes to become a form of leisure, and in the process started to loose part of their essence, to the point that arts like aikido in some schools have become rather a philosophy of life than a defense system. Many schools started teaching forms -- exclusive of any sparring -- and as schools burgeoned in the USA and Europe in the 60s, martial arts diluted and were increasingly devoid of their martial content. This probably would have been fine for Asian people who mostly practice for health and inner development, however with the rise of violence in the occident, many Westerners – just as me -- were also interested in the self-defense capacities of martial arts. Since the 90s, reality tournaments have shown that one cannot win with a fancy traditional kung fu trick, or a slow-motion Taiqi move. Defending oneself in real, street situations also requires a good dose of toughness and serious sparring practice, because only through sparring can one understand and assimilate the basic principles that make a good fighter: distance, movement, timing and rhythm. For me, technique is only the icing on the cake.

Nevertheless, forms are fantastic exercises that emphasize focus, precision, speed, power, balance and memory. Forms are the memory of martial arts, and I believe that we should also stick to the roots and study the traditions. In other words, today’s martial arts should be a good balance of modernity and tradition. A dojo should be a place where you cultivate moral virtues while you train in martial techniques.

The Japanese Arts

Originally, Japanese martial arts were called Budo - the way of war (only later was the word budo interpreted differently). There were split in two categories: kobudo - or weapons techniques (that included kendo and iaido), and jujitsu - or barehanded techniques (note that many jujitsu techniques were designed to fight an armed assailant). Only later did other names appear: karate, judo, aikido, etc. These disciplines all used only part of the jujitsu techniques, and sometimes enhanced, refined and perfected them. Judo was created in 1882 and aikido around 1920. Some Japanese masters emigrated to Europe and America and spread the arts all over the world, such as in Brazil, a country reputed for the quality of its ground wrestling.

Yoseikan Budo

Yoseikan Budo is a complete martial art. Like Chinese kung fu, it integrates all kinds of techniques: punches, kicks, throws, locks and floor work, weapons and sword. It is based on the use of qi, a wave or vibration that starts from the body's epicenter -- called "tan tian" in Chinese -- and propagates through the limbs to generate a strong impact. Yoseikan Budo is also a philosophy of life based on communication, understanding and tolerance.
Master Minoru Mochizuki from Japan opened the first Yoseikan dojo in 1931. Minoru Mochizuki, one of the highest-ranking "budokas" in the world (10th dan aikido, 9th dan jujitsu) and a former assistant of Jigoro Kano and Morihei Ueshiba (the founders of judo and aikido) died in 2003 at age 96. His son Hiroo Mochizuki took over as "soke," or Grand Master of the Yoseikan in the 90s and systemized and modernized the form to include bare hand and weapons competition. The Mochizukis actually brought Japanese martial arts to Europe. They were the first to teach karate, judo and aikido there before World War Two and they now live in France.

As a direct student of Hiroo Mochizuki, when I moved back to Taiwan seven years ago, I decided, with our Master's approval, to start a Yoseikan school in Taiwan. A national federation was established, and I opened a "dojo" in Tianmu. This is the only place where Yoseikan is taught in all of Taiwan at present. In a strange way, I have completed an interesting loop, bringing back to Taiwan a martial art born in China, nurtured in Japan and exported to Europe.
At the Yoseikan in Taipei, we teach both the Yoseikan sportive form and the traditional forms such as kobudo, Iaido and kenjitsu. Since I have an long experience of street fighting, I put a strong emphasis on efficiency, and we do a lot of self-defense, boxing, jujitsu and ground wrestling. We train both with keikogi (kimono) and in casual clothing or MMA style. Of course it’s rather tough and restricted to people in good health. The Yoseikan is the most international club around and it’s very popular with the foreign community. I’d say that in Yoseikan, one can find all the fundamentals of martial arts: physical fitness, self-control, focus, confidence, respect, honesty, courage, persistence and spiritual development, and also learn many more techniques than in any other martial art, and mostly, learn to combine them all.

VIP & Seminars

At the Yoseikan we not only offer a nice, clean and safe environment. I am trying to bring in “heavy weights”, high-ranking masters from the Yoseikan and other disciplines. In the last 4 years we’ve had seminars with Mr. Fontaine (4th dan and ground/self defense specialist); Mitchi Mochizuki (son of the founder, 5th dan and French champion); Mario Ambrosini (6th dan and 1993 world champion) and recently from Japan Master Kan (7th dan), Master Sato (5th dan) and Kensaku Sugiyama (4rd dan and pro-boxer). I don’t think anyone here, even the largest federations, can claim to be able to bring in so many VIP’s from abroad. This allows for steady development and we now have four people who hold a black belt ranking at the Yoseikan here.
Regular teachers at TYB are: myself as head coach, and Kevin Hsen (1st dan Yoseikan) as assistant instructor. Gradually, I’m passing over more and more duties to my senior students, and plan to open a new Yoseikan section in China soon.

Personal Development

In the end, the more you learn, the less you get into trouble. In life, there are different levels of aggression. The beginning level of self-defense is when somebody attacks somebody else and they get killed. The second level would be when someone attacks someone else and they're only hurt. The third level would be when someone would attack someone else and they're not hurt. The fourth level would be that as they begin to think of the attack, one of them does something that stops the thought. And the last level would be that they never think of it. So with Yoseikan Budo, I'm slowly going up this scale in search of that tranquility. Now, as I have matured, I feel that what I'm doing – helping others, kids and adults alike, to grow stronger, behave better and live happier lives -- is full of meaning and satisfaction…

For more, visit TYB’s website at: www.budoasia.com.

Copyright 2006 - GZ.

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