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What are "principle-based" martial arts?

Posted by berniejackson on 2006.03.22 at 23:28
Martial arts generally fall into two categories: technique-based and principle-based.

Technique-based martial arts teach you sequences of moves designed to counter specific attacks. For example, a defense for a right punch might be the following technique: left outward block, step in, right punch. Most martial arts popular in America today are technique-based.

Principle-based martial arts do not teach specific sequences of moves. Instead, they teach principles of motion, such as "the knee and the elbow always move together." Students practice applying these principles in various situations, until they come naturally without thought.

Technique-based and principle-based martial arts can be seen as journeys through the same territory in opposite directions. Beginners in a technique-based style may memorize their sequences immediately, but they are often unable to make the techniques work against a real opponent until they become advanced--that is, until they have absorbed the principles of motion that make their techniques effective. Beginners in a principle-based style may master one principle of motion under certain conditions but be unable to generate power in other types of motion and unable to come up with a fluid series of motions to counter a real attack. Advanced principle-based students master enough principles of motion, and absorb enough of an ability to improvise sequences, that they are able to fight effectively.

Either way, you need both skills: executing a sequence of moves, and performing those moves effectively. That is, you need to master both technique and principle. The only question is which to tackle first, and that defines whether or not your art is principle-based.

Comments:


(Anonymous) at 2006-03-23 07:02 (UTC) (Link)

which is better?

If you are studying a principle-based art, you obviously think that is better. Why?
berniejackson at 2006-03-23 07:18 (UTC) (Link)

Re: which is better?

No, I do not think it is "better." I have found it a better fit for me. When I used to study in a technique-based system, I could never motivate myself to learn long forms. It felt pointless to put so much effort into learning a sequence that I was unlikely to use, verbatim, in real life.

I know the theory behind forms, and I can't argue with it: once you internalize them, you find yourself able to use building blocks from them as needed. It just didn't fit my personality, and it stalled my training. Plus, I always wanted to micro-analyze each move, such as a punch, to see what made it effective or ineffective, whereas other students wanted to know "what's the next move?" In other words, I simply have a principle-based mentality.

Principle-based training works for me because it is what keeps me interested, and being interested is what keeps me training. Some people find principle-based training dull, and they should not do it.

As I said before, effective fighting requires technique and principle. You can reach the summit from either direction.
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