"Secret" techniques

Some of you might have heard about a martial arts school that teaches “secret techniques” or has “secret training methods”. Something about this might intrigue you. Perhaps they guard their secrets so obsessively that you might wonder whether they do indeed have some methodology that makes them “superior” to all other arts/styles/schools...

In my school of martial art we have certain techniques that I’ve found to be very effective from my personal physical experience. However these techniques and methods are largely misunderstood today - particularly in the sports arena where issues such as glove dynamics and rules affect their use. Although they are classical techniques they are even forgotten among traditional martial artists who are increasingly adopting boxing and other modern sports alternatives (see for example my article "Faux boxing"). These include our use of "blocks" in sparring (especially with our use of "tenshin" or evasion), our "shock" kicks and the karate guard with its deceptive "Clayton's gap". They are so under-utilised and misunderstood that they might as well be “secret” for a large percentage of the martial arts populace. We also have many lesser-used methods of developing these skills including our embu (2 person forms) and randori (our "soft sparring").

I could dress these techniques or the training methods as "secrets". I could do as others have done and clothe them in trademarked acronyms. On the other hand, I could do what I presently do, and that is post this information on the net freely. In the end most people don’t say "cool - secrets!". Instead some look at them and say either: "we do something similar" or "I don't like that because I do something completely different". A small minority might copy an idea or 2 or get inspiration. Many will dismiss the information in total ignorance (where if they understood what the technique was for or what the training method achieved they might otherwise want to absorb the information, or at least some aspect of the information). For this last group our technique/method could be considered a "secret" - even though they've seen it in technicolour video. Even if I've explained it to them till I went blue in the face.

Any technique or training method worth its salt requires years of blood, sweat and tears. In my opinion that's all "secret" techniques and methods are: years of blood, sweat and tears. They are secret only because you won't appreciate the full extent of the benefit gained by training particular techniques/exercises until (a) you've got some level of mastery over them; and/or (b) you've been at their receiving end.

In respect of the latter you might well appreciate a technique, but not accept the method used to develop it. We've had "freestyle" visitors bested by "shock" kicks who still leave convinced that their method of training "pushing" kicks" is all that is necessary. Perhaps they put the shock kick down to a "lucky hit". Perhaps they think they just haven't done enough "pushing" kicks. The latter just feel so much more "powerful"...

In respect of the former, doing lots of front snap kicks (one of our “secret” methods of developing the "shock" kick) is going to be a boring chore until you're half decent at them. Once the penny drops as to how useful and effective the "shock" kick is you might shout "Eureka!" That realisation might as well be a secret, because the beginner watching you might not have any idea what you're shouting about. He or she is more likely to understand that which looks more visually impressive...

My good friend Dirk (a now retired taekwondo instructor of similar vintage to me) told me a story many years ago about how some of his junior students came to him excitedly one day with news that they had unearthed an amazing new defence. The proceeded to show him what we both know to be the basic 45 degree backwards taisabaki or tenshin (evasive movement). All he could do was laugh. They'd had a "Eureka" moment and discovered a "secret" technique.

And so I come to my main point: Yes, some useful techniques/methods like the ones I've mentioned above might not be well known to freestyle or eclectic martial artists, or even some purportedly "traditional" schools. They might be disparaged one day, and "rediscovered" the next, only to be packaged in a brilliant marketing ploy, complete with the previously mentioned trademarked acronyms. Yet you'll walk down to the nearest IOGKF karate dojo or perhaps your local bagua school and they'll look at you and say "so what". It is a truism that in the martial arts one's man's secret is another man's staple.

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic