Is cross training really necessary, if you know your Martial Arts System?
So its most popular nowadays to be versed in many disciplines of Martial Arts, it has now become normal for a martial artist to cross train in other systems. Not only as in the past where you might find a martial artist practicing another Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino or Okinawan system to compliment their own system i.e. a practitioner of the Chinese arts might take up Tai Chi or Shuai Jiao to compliment their Tong Long (Mantis Kungfu) or a practitioner of the Japanese arts might take up Aikido or Judo to compliment their Wado Ryu or Shotokan Karate. Present day this has gone a step much further to where you can now see a practitioner of the Chinese Arts practice for e.g. their own chosen first system, lets just say Tong Long and in addition to this they might practice the Japanese art of Judo, Korean art of Hapkido, Filipino art of Kila (stick fighting) and maybe some BJJ (modern day Jujitsu). All in the name of becoming a more rounded practitioner/ fighter.
So what is the correct approach? Is there one?
Here are some questions to ponder before you answer:
● If your style has been around for a long time and was developed to encompass all aspects of fighting, could there be a need for you to explore your chosen style in more depth? Basically do you not understand the fighting applications/ abilities of your own style? So are you looking elsewhere for this when there maybe no need?
● If you have noticed weaknesses/ gaps in your own style is it that you’re right? Is it the case that you have chosen the wrong style for you? Or is it that you perceive there to be deficiencies in the system due to your own lack of study/ understanding of the principles and concepts of the style?
● Should all martial artists cross train as it has its benefits understanding the fighting concepts and principles of other arts could come in handy, its no harm right?
● Is it damaging to cross training?
○ Most arts have key principles for power generation, is it counter productive to mix these principles? Could it lead to lots of knowledge/ ideas but no mastery? “Jack of all trades master of none” type situation.
○ Some arts particularly the Chinese ones have internal practices involving breathing methods, principles on energy cultivation and so on , could it be damaging to mix these principles/ practices?
○ Most arts have a fighting strategy/approach is it beneficial for the practitioner to mix his fighting strategy during combat? Or will it bring confusion to what can already be the chaotic world of real combat? Would a world champion boxer suddenly decide to throw kicks and knees during an encounter?
○ Does the unique training methods of a system build the physical physique a certain way – the tendon, ligament, bone, muscle development? And if it does- is it damaging to the body to train with other methods that may or may not pull the body in different directions?
● If you need to learn how to Throw or Ground fight does it mean your main system or style is lacking in this area? Or does it mean you have not looked deep enough and in reality do not know or understand your system in its totality?
So what do I think? based on my own experience and knowledge
My own personal opinion is that it can be both good and bad to cross train my own chosen system is Lung Ying (Dragonstyle) Kungfu and I also practice some Shuai Jiao the Chinese art of Wrestling. That said, Lung Ying is my Main focus and always will be – within Lung Ying there is a complete comprehensive fighting system, the art has Throws, Joint locks and breaks, Ground defence and attack, Short and mid range striking for both attack and defence. So for me the art has everything if you look deep enough you will find the hidden treasures that the masters have left for us, its a matter of exploration and thirst for knowledge. Seek and you shall find!
Also the art of Lung Ying is both external and internal so I believe that our unique breathing methods the Qigong side of the style to be truly understood takes time and focus. So yes I do believe that the practice of other unique to the system Qigong methods could be damaging and very confusing to the body.
These points are just my own opinions and based on my own experience of practicing Lung Ying Kungfu for 30 years and my exposure to the other great arts throughout the word of martial arts.
In conclusion, am I telling people not to practice cross training or MMA if you will? No ( I always struggle with this term as I believe its not a new term, Eastern martial arts and indeed all fighting systems throughout time have always had a number of elements to them such as stand-up fighting/ striking, wrestling, throwing, locking, etc. so MMA for me has always been around) what I am asking or challenging the astute martial arts practitioner to consider is the Positives and Negatives of cross training, to look at their art and decide if they are giving it the level of study required for mastery of all of the fighting element as aforementioned, to look at the potential for damage or benefits to the body by mixing the arts.
Remember most authentic arts weren’t thought up over night- the masters gave them great consideration in both their martial application and their health benefits to the individual. Most traditional styles have been refined over many years if not centuries, influenced by culture and needs (war, invasion etc.) So if it does not work for you or is not enough for you please consider the fact it could be you and not the style.
…so you should also give great consideration to the fact that there’s a reason for doing things a certain way and for not.
Article by Sifu Scott