Classical Martial Arts


Welcome to blog post number 2! Don’t worry there will be many more to come, I’m so far from being done its ridiculous.

I wanted to touch on a subject that seems to be coming up more and more in social media and in general discussion around martial art gyms. I want to talk about classical martial arts and their place in the world today.

Now I think we all could agree that all martial arts started as a way of teaching and practicing movements that would enable the student to defend him or herself in a time of combat. Generally martial arts have very long histories that go back so far that people don’t have a date when their particular art was formed but let’s call it a long time ago in a land far, far away. So when these arts were being developed the world was a in a time of constant war and fighting and these techniques were ‘battle tested’ from the very beginning. After many years of war and battles the separate provinces or waring states learned to share and governments were born, stopping much of the constant fighting. Also over time the implements of war evolved and hand to hand fighting became much less of a priority when people could just shoot each other from a long distance. So in turn these fighting techniques that where so prevalent before were no longer needed on a more modern battlefield.

These techniques and fighting styles still continued to be taught but were no longer needed as a way of survival. So they too began to change so that they could be used in sporting arenas and against other opponents that also trained in that style. Techniques became more complex with set movement patterns so that they would work against someone moving in the same way or style as their opponent. Have you ever watched two experienced Kung Fu practitioners hand fight before, it’s beautiful to watch. Same can be said with two Tae Kwon Do black belts using beautiful high kicking techniques, it is a thing of beauty. The late, great Bruce Lee stated that the ‘classical mess of martial arts’ was the one factor holding back most combat systems. These styles were so set in their traditional ways that all people were expected to be no more than robots performing techniques that were not flexible in application and did not take into account varying factors of the student. For example not all techniques can be performed by every body type or all age groups. So if there is no ability within the techniques for growth the art becomes rigid and unable to evolve.

From my own experience I can tell you training in a classical style as a child we were shown a technique during a class and then told to do it exactly the same as the instructor. Now I’m not a very big man but as a child I was even smaller, I had the stature of a child many years my junior and was not very athletic at all. Because of this many techniques I was shown in my early years did not work in a sparring scenario for me at all. So I had a large amount of technical knowledge that had no practical application at all. The other downside of this is that the instructor was only able to teach the techniques in his syllabus and was not offering me any substitute techniques or variations that might work for me. It is lucky that I’m very stubborn and wanted to finish the journey that I had begun or I probably would have quit at an early age. I had a fascination with all martial arts so I was learning other styles techniques on my own through books and videos (yes I know I’m old DVD’s had still not been invented yet).

So in my view there is something very wrong with this kind if teaching and learning. We are all very aware now that most people learn differently and require multiple methods of instruction for a concept to be learnt. The most popular idea is that there are seven (7) different learning methods including;

Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.

Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.

Physical (kinaesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.

Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.

Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.

Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Knowing this martial arts must also move ahead and evolve their teaching methods to accommodate all the learning styles. This requires the teachers / instructors / sifu / sensei / professor or whatever their title is to be fluid in their approach to teaching but also the art to allow them the opportunity to grow and evolve.

So I guess the next problem is how do we get this to happen? Unfortunately I don’t think many of the classical martial arts are all that willing to change. The problem is these arts have created a mystic about them and have told their own story for so long even they believe at this stage that it is 100% effective and the best possible way to be taught or delivered. I saw a great quote the other day that stated; the most dangerous phrase is, ‘We have always done it this way’. There is absolutely no worse way to teach the martial arts and this way of training and even thought is a direct course for destruction.

I would bet the only way to evolve is for the next generation of martial artists to study hard and learn their art, master it the best they can and then work to evolve the art and themselves. Then by incorporating new ideas and teaching methods they can bring their beloved art to a whole new audience in the future.

Everyone stay safe, dream big and train hard.

Be awesome

Kris Spence





Hi and welcome to the first of many Blog posts on this page. This is my little personal space to speak about many of the topics bouncing around inside my head. First of all I know what you’re thinking, he can’t have that much going on in there we have met him. And to be fair you’re probably right, but regardless here is what I’m pondering right now;

These are my thoughts on the whole GI or NO-GI saga.

Now to be perfectly honest with you (after all that’s the whole idea right?) I only train NO-GI at Ronin Academy so this will be a one sided argument.

Let’s start at the beginning, Jiu Jitsu (Ju Jitsu) translated means ‘gentle art’ using the original Japanese words. Today Jiu Jitsu has many forms from the more traditional Japanese version to the wildly popular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) that has taken the world by storm in the last few years. In the beginning, the arts where taught in a Kimono (GI) as it was the traditional dress at the time. When the Gracie family was introduced to Judo by Esai Maeda this was still the dress commonly used in Dojos all over Japan. Maeda at the time was a Judo champion and a direct student of Jigoro Kano (who had developed Judo in the late 1800’s and it was his version of Jiu Jitsu), at the Kodokan in Japan. This according to my research was about 1914 in Brazil.

So that’s the quick history lesson to set up the rest of my thoughts, because I don’t want to do a couple of thousand words on the history of BJJ. So at the time when Maeda first staring teaching Carlos Gracie (the first of the Gracie’s to learn) they began wearing the traditional GI.

Now let’s fast forward time about 102 years (because we can) and land in a martial arts school in Townsville named Ronin Academy. Here you will find 20 members learning Jiu Jitsu wearing rash guards and shorts and sometimes just rocking tights. Now all these members have excellent technique and can use clinch wrestling and friction grips using their whole bodies to nullify submission attacks from their opponent and execute their own.

Also within 50 kilometres or about 31 miles from that very gym are other members of other gyms practicing similar techniques wearing a GI. Their technique is also excellent but instead of using clinch wrestling and friction grips these students use grips on the GI for control. They are also using their GI for attacks like collar chokes or using the GI for defence.

So here are the two examples of GI training and NO GI training. At a first glance could you tell me right now which style is better suited for today’s environment and self-defence application? Here is a hint, no one walks around in a Japanese Kimono anymore (or if they are, best to probably avoid them anyway). Now let me guess your answer, was it the NO GI version?? I’m going to guess that I’m right unless you currently train mostly in the GI than I realise that it will be very difficult to get my point across here because you already have a strong opinion on the subject.

Now let me be super clear at this point, I do not hate GI training or think that it’s wrong to train that way. I trained in a GI for a few years but did not enjoy the experience at all, it just wasn’t for me. For all those that train in a GI and love it, please continue what you’re doing and hopefully the sport and art can continue to grow. I would like to simply point out that if your training for self-defence than NO GI is clearly a better option.

For the next point, now this one is going to upset some people, is the argument that GI training makes you more technical. I’m going to come out and call it, RUBBISH. It’s the biggest load of garbage that I have ever heard, and here is why.

As already discussed NO GI requires excellent control of your opposition and you only have your body to use as a weapon and tool. Where in GI you have a giant material barrier that is made not to tear and can be held onto by any person with decent grip strength.

So who in this example is using more technique? I will leave it with you.

Regardless of the easier controlling aspect of GI the speed which both different types of training utilise during sparring or rolling are greatly different. During GI rolling, because of all the extra friction provided by the clothing it is inevitably slower than NO GI. This is not saying that GI can’t be a fast paced sport at the higher levels but while learning Jiu Jitsu the ‘new guy’ is always going to be pinned down and stuck under a more experienced opponent. While in NO GI unless you use your body in unison it is difficult to hold anyone down unless you have a considerable weight advantage, without proper technique that is. So the ‘new guy’ can move more freely and learn the transitions and body movement required from the start of their training.

My last point will be simply this; I believe that GI and NO GI are as different to each other as football codes differ but are all still called football. For example here in Australia we have Rugby League and Rugby Union. Both football codes are similar but the rules are different and the basic strategy changes. In the U.S of A they have American Football again another sport similar in ways but vastly different again. I believe the same is to be said for GI vs No GI Jiu Jitsu. So different in fact that I will do a whole new Blog just on this, but for now let’s appreciate the difference. If you can’t see it stay tuned for that one.

So there is my brief overview of GI vs NO GI as a I said at the start I’m obviously biased to NO GI (and proud) but here are some of the reasons why that is the case. I think if you want to be good at NO GI that’s how you should train. But if you want to be good at GI than train with it on all the time. If self-defence is your aim than again NO GI is where you will learn real world application.

If a great NO GI student goes against a similar level GI student who wins? Well I suppose it would depend on whether they are wearing a GI or not right? The GI would be a great advantage for someone that trains with it regularly, but I’m sure the student would sure miss that advantage without the GI on.

OK! Who is better? Well considering that the NO GI students techniques hold up without the assistance of the GI they have the advantage every time. Like I said at the start not many people wearing Kimonos anymore.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I don’t mind if you think I’m completely crazy and wrong, it’s just my opinion and I’m happy to have this discussion with anyone.

Everyone stay safe, dream big and train hard.

Be awesome

Kris Spence