Saturday, January 09, 2010

Jim Wagner and Black Belt Magazine

Calling all martial artists: please read

Today I ran into a guy with a shirt. On this shirt was a large shuriken (throwing star) with words on it. In his hand, he was carrying a pack of gun cleaning pads. With the mole-ish eyesight that I have, I decided to strike up a conversation to find out what was on his shirt, and perhaps move to the topic of firearms as well.

Martial arts, I knew it. A kind I hadn't heard of (and could never repeat, it was so long and, well...Japanese), something from Okinawa? I almost said that I was a fellow martial artist, but it's been more than a year since I've actually practiced or anything. For various personal reasons, it hasn't been something I've been able to practice. So, for now, I'm what you might call an armchair enthusiast. Therefore, as I hate to pretend to be what I am not, I first delineated my own interest by stating that I read Black Belt magazine. I had never heard of his particular art, and BB is where I often hear about the styles I personally don't have a practical interest in, for the most part. So, that's the first thing I thought of. I was then about to speak of my own martial arts experiences, but he got to it first. His demeanor changed, and I realized he was one of those people. A Black Belt hater! He said, "I deal with the real people." Ok...?

So I figured out that this was not going to be an exchange-either-way conversation, and this was going to be "I'm gonna pout because I am annoyed by what you like, you plebe!" conversation. He then stated it has stuff in it that is not kosher. Okay, nothing's perfect, but I seriously do not agree (although I didn't say that). If you're going to diss this publication, then you also have to tie practically all of the big names into the pot. Kelly McCann, Stephen Hayes, Moni Aizik, Anthony DeLongis, and countless others I didn't and couldn't mention (that's not even to bring up all the MMA fighters that participate). Are they all dirty? I don't think so.

As he was walking away, he said, "If you ever see the name Jim Wagner in there, don't believe what he says!" At this I almost wanted to start laughing. Why? Well...what this gentleman did not know, is that at that very moment, I was carrying a Jim Wagner Reality-Based Blade in my pocket. Yes, I was carrying his knife!

While I seriously would never claim I know everything about something that I am still technically a newbie at (and I did say armchair), I still have a hard time buying the idea that every single one of the countless BB subscribers is stupid and we've all been brainwashed, and that the respected names of our field are to be implicated. Perhaps the German knife company Boker is part of it all too? After all, they made the knife.... Oh yes, and let's not forget the little fact that Mitoshi Uyehara started the publication. Oh yeah, what else was he? Friends with Bruce Lee. Oh yes. It's the shifu himself.

It's a Black Belt conspiracy, beware!

K, the martial arts is something enormously broad. Many different cultures from around the world are involved. You have the traditional arts (Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Kung Fu, etc.), the realistic self-defense methods (Krav Maga, etc.) and then the new MMA sporting aspect. It can be...very volatile, at times. (Since when were Asian relations easy anyhow, especially with Japan involved?) I follow practical fighting styles. In my opinion, you can forget the high-kicks. Give me the eye-gouges, please. I somewhat felt that this particular gentleman may have been too much of a traditionalist for Jim Wagner (Okinawa, remember?).

I almost always find myself agreeing with Jim Wagner's opinions, and he is one of my favorites. In fact, part of the reason I love the magazine so much is because he has a column in it every issue!

But, like I said, I'm armchair, and have never actually studied under Sgt. Wagner. Take this post as your chance to speak your opinion on his self-defense philosophies. I personally don't buy it, and on top of that I'm also open to differing viewpoints as well so this one martial artists, and this other ex-marine, and then this cop guy...I can abide them all (usually). Do you really think that the man who came up with the phrase "Reality-Based Self-Defense" is a croc?

Now is your time to speak. I open up the comments section as a forum. Please comment, and please be specific and long-winded if necessary.

Spencer

7 comments:

Mariah :) said...

*chuckle*

Gotta love Spencer!

The Warrior said...

Hey!

:-P

I've posted this on some martial arts forums, if anyone is interested:

http://www.martialartstalk.net/forums/other/50058-black-belt-magazine-and-jim-wagner-all-a-croc.html#50067

http://www.martialtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1257379#post1257379

http://www.martial-forums.com/forums/general-martial-arts/9613-black-belt-magazine-jim-wagner-all-croc.html

duva said...

Well, this is complicated as you say ;)

To start off I know nothing of this "Black Belt Magazine", however the title kind of scares me off. Neither do I know anything of those persons you mentioned (except Bruce Lee of course!).

For me an important disctinction you have to make is between Martial Arts and Martial Sports; I do think what I mean goes without saying but to clarify: disciplines that deals in real fighting and disciplines that deals in striking an opponent for points in an arena. (In Swedish for this once we do have more expressions than English, in actually speaking of "kampkonst" and "kamsport").

I for one have no interest in the sports whatsoever, but I don't begrudge others who do; then again I can't help but smile a little when they think what they had learnt would help them in the real life though ;) As for the Martial Arts I think another distinction is important, that between Martial Arts and Self-Defence. Now it's getting trickier, because except schools such as Krav Maga (which clearly has little to do with what I'd cathegorize as Martial Arts), this line often goes within the discplines rather than between them, and here it's often (but not always!) a geographical line: that between western countries and their countries of origin.

So what do I mean with Martial Arts? Well, from my experience people here in the west often seem to think there's something fancy and even slightly magical about those eastern fighting styles. I say, no, it isn't. People have known how to fight always and everywhere. However, there is a difference, and that's one of mind-set, something that goes beyond using Japanese phrases or exotic gimmicks. I'm not saying you need to be a buddhist or shintoist to appreciate Martial Arts, not at all, but you do need to study more than ways of moving your body.

Then again, I think you, Spencer, are more into the Self-Defence part of this, so I'll leave my thoughts on "Martial Arts", unless you indeed are interested in discussing them.

As for my experience, I've studied Ninjusu, Taijiquan and some Kendo. Funny enough they fit quite well into these three cathegories: Kendo is an obvious sport (therefore I did stop quite soon, then again all that shouting was kind of fun ;)) while Ninjutsu and Taijiquan fall into the other part. My Taijiquan instructor was definitely what I'd call a Martial Artist, however my Ninjutsu instructors were more into Self-Defence; I have read a lot of writings of the Sôke Hatsumi though, and must confess a lot of my views are heavily influenced by him.

As for effective fighting techniques. In short: no fanciness. Low kicks if at all. Throws are generally difficult and dangerous. Against the face is most often effective, you needn't even actually hit to disturb your opponent that way.

In both Ninjutsu and Taijiquan you spoke of five elements: earth, water, fire, wind and void. The Ninjutsu I learnt was definitely of an earth/water type: you'd evade first, be steady, then strike back hard and brutal. The Taijiquan I practiced then was more of a fire/wind school, jumping straight at your enemy as he stroke, hitting him first, often going straight for the neck.

I think you need to be familiar with it all, however I did like my Taijiquan more.

JT Norlander said...

I think that traditional martial arts and self-defense martial arts should stay separated. I believe that all martial arts are for self defense, and I believe that I can defend myself very well with the high kicks of TaeKwon-Do, (which I hold a Black Belt it.) :)
But I think when you start getting into MMA, that has to be something on it's own. I think diluting classical martial arts with that kind of stuff on a regular basis, and diluting the actual art itself is degrading. I don't have a problem taking or watching street self-defense classes, but I don't think it should be put in place of classical curriculum.

hope that made sense. :)

JT

The Warrior said...

To start off I know nothing of this "Black Belt Magazine", however the title kind of scares me off.

Well, I don't think it should be scary, why is it scary? For many MA systems and in course probably the majority of MA practitioners in the US, it's what they think about and work towards. "Gotta get that black belt, I want that black belt..." So, I guess it's like a running magazine being called "Marathon." What if you are only at the level of half-marathon? You're probably working towards a marathon. And what if you only run for fun, or on hiking trails? It's still a good title for a magazine.

Thanks for the post; I agreed with most of what you said; insightful. I especially appreciated your dioscussion of the three aspects of martial arts (traditional, self-defense, and sport/MMA, something I'm always thinking about, really).

JT: Good job for the black belt! I took TKD for some time, and believe me, I know it ain't easy. :-P

As to high kicks, I'm impelled to ask, if you think traditional styles should stay segregated from self defense styles, then why do you think Tae Kwon Do is sufficient to defend yourself with?

Personally, I'm not the best at kicking (I'm waaaay too big and my legs are too heavy, I'm pretty much 2/3 legs and I'm 6'4"), but let's talk about you.

Can you really defend yourself on the streets with a high-kick? A tornado kick? A spin kick?

Are you sure?

And, my second question is, have you ever studied self-defense techniques (outside of any possible lessons inside your dojang)?

I say all of this not to argue with you or say anything negative. I am merely discussing as you yourself were. :-)

Spencer

duva said...

"Well, I don't think it should be scary, why is it scary? For many MA systems and in course probably the majority of MA practitioners in the US, it's what they think about and work towards."

Well, I think you answered the question yourself there. If one is striving for a black belt rather than striving to actually learn one has missed the point ;) (of course you'll learn something while striving for the black belt but I'd rather see the black belt as a side-effect of learning than reverse, if you understand what I mean)

So well, calling the name "scary" might have been a little silly choice of words but I think it puts focus on the wrong thing.

The Warrior said...

Well, I think you answered the question yourself there. If one is striving for a black belt rather than striving to actually learn one has missed the point ;) (of course you'll learn something while striving for the black belt but I'd rather see the black belt as a side-effect of learning than reverse, if you understand what I mean)

Oh, sorry, that's actually what I meant. It's just that the black belt means that they did all that, right?

Spencer