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Is cross training a good thing?

Posted Jun 16 2010 12:00am 2 Comments
Dan Prager over on his blog Martial Arts and Modern Life recently wrote a post about cross-training - 'Cross training in multiple martial arts?'   This got me thinking about whether I am doing the right thing by training in jujitsu/kobudo as well as my main martial art of karate.

When you have been training in a martial art for a few years and you are starting to understand its principles; and then you look at what other martial arts are offering you start to realise that there is a lot of overlap between them, or at least between some of them.

In my karate club the attention to detail in teaching us how to punch and kick is intense - the bio-mechanics of striking is explored in detail and we practice strikes repeatedly to get them right. However, with throws and take downs the attention to technical detail is a lot less. As expected, the result of this is that we are better strikers than throwers. On the other hand in my jujitsu club the attention to technical detail for teaching throwing techniques is intense whereas there is very little instruction on how to punch correctly. The result - the students are good throwers but only mediocre strikers.

On the surface it makes sense to learn to strike from a striking art and to learn to throw with a throwing art. However, there are problems. Karate is essentially a 'hard' art whereas jujitsu is a 'soft' art. This difference shows most in the way you move. In karate movements are generally sharper and crisper with stances quite deeply rooted, whereas in jujitsu movements are more flowing and stances much lighter. In both arts, striking requires a little distance between partners whereas locks and throws require you to be close together. Both arts use blocking and tai sabaki.

So, if I cross train in jujitsu will it adversely affect my karate or enhance it? I am aware that these different art forms have a different fighting strategy so it would be foolish to try and pursue the strategies of both arts. I think it is important that I remember that karate is my main art and that, for me, jujitsu (and kobudo) are adjuncts providing me with specialised training in a component of fighting skills (throwing) that is not a main component of karate. This is not to take away from jujitsu which, after a years experience of being a member of a jujitsu club, I have come to respect and acknowledge its strengths as a complete fighting system. It's just that I am more physically and mentally suited to karate.

So in what ways is the jujitsu and kobudo training enhancing my karate? Firstly, I am more confident at falling than some of my fellow karate students. We do break fall practice in both my karate and jujitsu clubs but I am doing more of it so I have got more confident more quickly. Secondly, though karate is generally a hard art, when you are coming in to throw someone it requires you to soften up and flow into the technique just as much as you do in jujitsu. Hopefully the jujitsu training will help me to learn to flow better into these techniques. Thirdly, both art forms include a range of locking techniques, some are the same and some different but I am getting extra training in locking techniques.

I find the kobudo interesting in that it enhances both jujitsu and karate training. It's main advantage is that it teaches greater precision. Precision in how you block - if you don't put your hand/tonfa in the right place you risk getting it bashed with a bo/sword or whatever. Locking someones arm/wrist with a tonfa or bokken enhances your understanding of the principles of the lock. Weapons training also enhances your understanding of distance and timing - if you're distance is wrong you might get hit with the bo/jo, but if you're not close enough you may not block a bo/sword swing at its slowest point.

What about disadvantages? Some of the break falls are performed slightly differently in karate compared to jujitsu so I have to alter which way I do it depending on which club I am in, but that is not a major problem. Altering stances is a little more problematic. In karate the stances seem to be an integral part of the technique, often used to unbalance your partner and to shift your weight quickly and dramatically from one foot to the other or from front to back. In jujitsu the higher, lighter stances enable you to move around more quickly but most of the technique is performed using the arms, upper body and hips. There are exceptions to this I know such as body drops and inside hock ( but then these techniques are not dissimilar to some take downs in karate!). Sometimes I find that my stances are too deep and rooted for some of the jujitsu techniques to work well and occasionally in karate I have started to forget to bend my front leg enough when in zenkutsu dachi!

However, overall I think the advantages of doing some cross training in jujitsu/kobudo outweigh the disadvantages, at least for now. I can envisage a time will come when the jujitsu training (though not necessarily the kobudo) will start to have a negative effect on my karate and I will need to recognise when it is time to stop.

Do you cross train? Do you have a particular rationale for doing so?


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Comments (2)
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Hi Ciani, I used to do a lot of dancing when I was younger so I know where you are coming from! I think there is a lot of similarities between dancing and martial arts - it's all about movement and body control.
YES! I'm a martial artist and I cross train.  It's a necessity because I'm not in the Dojo 24/7. Swimming, running, sprinting, plyos, yoga, and pilates.  But those are just exercises.  I continually cross train in another discipline and thats DANCE.  I swear by it.
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