Through my years in Martial Arts I commonly hear many martial artists referring to their particular style as the best. Through the years, I also commonly hear martial artists, negatively speaking of or even mocking other styles. I am convinced that every style has something unique, practical and useful in our development as martial artists. I am also convinced that if you are narrow minded and can’t see beyond the walls of your only style you are becoming more and more obsolete. The strength is in expanding our experiences as we discover our own self as fighters.
Take the Side Kick for example; in my life as a Martial Artist I have been exposed to three different ways of executing the same kick. Even as the foot end-up in the same position basically; the execution is totally different. As I studied Tae Kwon Do, a Korean style of Martial Arts, I was thought to keep my knee and ankle in the same line, the Side Kick was a straight line. As I was exposed to Shotokan, a Japanese style of Martial Arts, the emphasis was in pointing with the knee first. Later, as I was exposed to Wing Cheung Kung Fu, a Chinese style of Martial Arts, my instructor placed the emphasis on the lifting of the knee. The knee, this time, is above the ankle. With Wing Cheung Kung Fu I found a middle ground between the Japanese and Korean way of doing the side kick.
As I teach my students the Side Kick, I do not limit them to only one experience, I teach them the three ways I have been expose to and let them decide what works best for them. What I have discovered is that the three ways of doing the sidekicks are powerful and useful depending on the student’s body’s structure and depending on where they find themselves in a particular fight and/or tournament. In my own experience, when it comes down to power, I like the Wing Cheung Side Kick; when it comes down to speed I like the Shotokan style and when it comes down to a side kick in a close range I like the Tae Kwon Do. But is that so? Can I say: this is the absolute conclusion for the assessment of these kicks? Absolutely no! This is my conclusion base on my own body structure and my own experiences! I would have never known this reality if I decided to limit myself to one style.
My son Angelo recently became our first, First Degree Black Belt in my Program. Through the years I thought him fundamentals of Boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing, some practical Self-Defense Techniques and some Ground Fighting. As he prepares to go to college and move out of town, I strongly encourage him to continue getting involved in Martial Arts and to try other styles. It is a beautiful and powerful journey! In my opinion, it is a richer and interesting journey compared to locking ourselves into one style and give up our freedom to experience.
My journey started with boxing as a young teenager. I learn hard work, to condition my body for Full Contact, waking up at 5:30 AM to run five miles, ride my bike another three to five miles to get to the boxing gym every day to get yell at by my boxing coach, come back and then close the day with an extra three miles of jogging. My journey continued as I started my studies of Tae Kwon Do in order to develop my kicks. Then I engaged in the study of Wing Cheung as my instructor prepared me for kickboxing and simultaneously I was studying Shotokan. My journey continued, even today as I have a new born passion for ground fighting and practical self-defense. To lock myself into one style is boring to me, to lock myself into one style limits me, so I enjoy my freedom as I continue this never-ending journey.