Thoughts on “pure system” vs “cross training”

26 Jul

Among my students there is a widely known concept, based upon my own experiences with the late Chan Tai-San. We would ask Chan Tai-San, “Sifu, is it this or this”? “Is it a throw or a strike”? “Do we do it this way or this way”? And the answer was inevitably the same; YES.

In life, things are seldom black OR white. There are a lot of shades of gray. Yet in the martial arts world, many people cling to absolutes usually to their own detriment. Such is the case of those who, for lack of a better term, look for “pure system” vs those who embrace “cross training”.

The approach of the “pure system” person is that all the material, all the answers, are already there. Certainly, a real system passed on correctly (Chinese martial arts) will have “ti, do, shuai, and na”; a well rounded complete approach. Of course, we could argue (observe) that most traditional systems do not have anything resembling the modern approach to ground fighting. We could note the long history of Chinese martial artists against Muay Thai fighters (and now MMA fighters). But I’ll return to this in a minute.

Today, “cross training” is a very popular approach. Cross training embraces ideas such as Western boxing to improve hand striking. Muay Thai or Savate to improve kicking, wrestling to improve the clinch, etc etc. One thing is certain, the various “source methods” are all very effective at producing fighters. The question remains, the central problem, is “cross training” just meaninglessly random? How should it be approached correctly?

My own approach or “take” on all this? My students and those who have come to train with me all know that anything I teach I can simultaneously “source” to BOTH traditional Chinese martial arts AND other non-Chinese (often “modern”) methods. Yes, there is probably nothing in “modern” methods that can’t be found in traditional Chinese methods. Yet, let us also be brutally honest, there are VERY FEW people in traditional Chinese martial arts today who can demonstrate with practicality many of these methods.

The late Chan Tai-San taught me a tremendous amount. But part of my appreciation of his methods was based upon other training I had done before meeting him, both Chinese and non-Chinese methods. Furthermore, more importantly, I would NOT be who I am if I had settled for the training I did with Chan Tai-San.

For me at least, “cross training” allowed me to appreciate and IMPROVE what I had learned from Chan Tai-San. What we know as “arm drag” exists in a lot of Chinese martial arts, most notably as a push hand (Tui Shou) tactic in Taiji Quan, but learning how Western wrestlers drill it improves your understanding and execution without question! Chan Tai-San certainly taught me side kicks and back kicks, but training in Taekwondo and Savate gave me new ways of approaching and training them! At bare minimum, boxing gloves gave us better ways to train the powerful strikes of Lama Pai.

Keep up with my products, seminars and coaching programs at http://www.SifuDavidRoss.com

Also find me on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sifudavidaross/

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2 Responses to “Thoughts on “pure system” vs “cross training””

  1. Andrea July 30, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

    Great comments. I have always cross trained and the variety has kept me motivated.

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  1. Thoughts on “pure system” vs “cross training” | SMA bloggers - July 30, 2017

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