Thought on book-taught Arts.

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Thought on book-taught Arts.

Post by Nirvana » Sun May 01, 2005 6:18 am

I taught myself Iaido from a book I got a Barnes & Noble, It's a book called " Iai: The art of drawing the sword " and it allowed me to learn 7 Katas, 4 in Seiza and 3 standing, also sword care and how to identify a good sword, etc.

It's sort of like a Ronin type style of learning I think, Masterless.

Also I plan on learning Tai Chi Swordmanship this way to, The basic movements anyway.

What do you guys think about this style of learning, Because here in Chicago (Suburbs of chicago were I live) It's very hard to find schools and most are 10-20 miles away and that's for Kendo and can become a chore getting there.


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Post by darksun_uk » Sun May 01, 2005 7:00 am

hi again,

you are unlikely to get many encouraging replies posting a self training thread in martial arts forum now are you ?

martail artist are a funny bunch the self defense orientated ones are an interesting bunch, the historical reinactment guys are less interesting and more obsessive (some in a good way).

without wishing to rant on again on a subject that has been done to death i will simply point out the fact that what you have learned to do with a sword ia NOT iaido or in fact any traditional martial art as in fact you neeed to learn from a regognised master / teacher of that art to be in fact a leitimate student/exponent.

whatin fact you are is someone who has taiught themselves selfdefense techniques with a two handed sabre. the history complex social and historical interaction involved in a japanese sword art cannot be taught from a book.

i wil leave you with my views on the subject of self training from books/dvds in this case in response to a thread about a dvd i belive.
darksun posted all this before in yet another self training vrs formal training thread/rant, so here is what he wrote:

I am posting this for no particular reason other than it seems relevant to the general topic under discussion in this thread none of my comments are directed toward any specific individuals nor should they be taken as such.


The point about any armed combat system (imho) is to wield the weapon in question safely and not to include much if any spurious and overly complex techniques some of which would only be useful to demonstrate acquired skill and not to advance the system as an effective means of self defence using the weapon in question. this is of course a separate issue than the cultural, historical and other aspects to a traditional form of a Japanese sword art that can be as important as the martial use of a sword and to some inseparably so....

If someone practices a series of actions and movements in a safe and responsible manner there motivation and reasons for partaking in this activity should be there own and not subject to others derisory opinion based on there pre conceived ideas of what constitutes “correct” use of any inanimate object especially when it is not the original culturally significant item (a nihonto) as indeed are many if not most of the swords used by all JSA practitioners this attitude toward the sword is interesting and problematic as a symbol of an art form and a cultural icon the katana is invested with a great deal of significance which in my opinion is redundant from a purely martial point of view, if only from the simple point of view that there is no longer any such thing as a samurai and as such the aspects of any system relating to the use of a weapon in the context of said group is more a cultural living history activity than anything else, and this point needs to be understood in the context of any discussion regarding Japanese style weapons and the arts surrounding them a particular point would be the significance of the Shinto ritual that as far as I am aware Is to many people the origin of a true nihonto and any sword that has not had this ceremony performed at the start of its construction is not in fact a genuine katana, although this view is not common it is still valid to some people, this point is made simply to highlight the degree of complexity and cultural diversity of opinion present within the realm of Japanese sword arts as a whole.

The combat or self defence effectiveness of any system is something that can be debated ad nauseum and largely to no useful purpose as the nature of combat is so varied and unpredictable that as long as the basic movements and techniques fall within the confines of common sense the scenario of the novice (self taught or not) armed with a weapon they feel comfortable with and a few techniques that they are also comfortable performing standing a much better chance against your average home intruder/madman as a untrained member of the general public armed only with say a golf club and sense of indignation is a valid one. I don’t think that anyone could fundamentally disagree with that scenario.

The simple fact of the matter is that no matter what the weapon used that some form of one on one or group based training is preferable to any solo practice and I would not seek to further an opinion based on any premise other than that, however it is not always possible or necessary to do this and as such a wide diversity of weapons and personal need is under discussion it would not be fair or prudent for someone to take the position that it is, as long as certain basic safety considerations are taken, personal responsibility common sense and free will should not be open for debate as reasons for undertaking any activity.

With regard to the specific dvd in question I cannot comment on it specifically as I have not seen any part of it however if the basics are presented in a clear way and the techniques demonstrated have some martial effectiveness then what harm is it doing…?

My own practice with weapons has taken a varied and unconventional approach one that I would not seek to promote in any specific way all I can say is that it gives me pleasure and would i feel give me an advantage in an armed confrontation in my own home what more reason do I need ? would I call my practice a martial art yes I do and I would give myself a title and a dan grade (or whatever) but really does that impress anyone ? does it function as a measure of my personal skill ? does it mean I am better than anyone else in any way ?

No of course not but what it does do is mean something to me personally and that’s all that is really important as I seek nothing more than the attainment of personal goals any advancement I make is based on my own sense of self worth in advancing further than I did before and understanding myself and to an extent the weapons i make/use better, if that is not a worthwhile activity from another persons point of view then there mindset is flawed not mine.

Safety + Practicality

Safety first, then look to practical application of any action, then work that action into and around your present level of ability within your existing system, after you have practiced and perfected the action within your system, then if possible apply some artistic or for want of a better word cultural flair to the action that’s how my system has evolved I cannot speak for anyone else’s.

in closing i would just say that i have personally been using edged weapons of various types on a regular basis for over 20 years and have never had a serious injury as a result nor have i inflicted so much as a scratch on any one else....the only injuries i have sustained were as a result of accidents while training/sparring with martial artist of various disiplines some of the sparring was with practice weapons.

i practiced for over 1000 hours before making my own blunt sai sword to practice with and a further 1000 hours (At least) before i practiced with a sharp version i have as i said been using axes and large knives for many years in various activities including hunting shooting and forestry work and i am more than comfortable using any number of different edged weapons in less than ideal circumstances as indeed are many other people across the planet who would fair as well or indeed better than most traditional martial artists in any number of combat situations simply due to there natural abilty with an inumerable number of edged weapons and tools, and should some of them choose to incorperate there learned abilty into a more formalised martial system that is unsurprising and indeed expected as many martial arts have had there origins in just such activities.


Post by Guest » Sun May 01, 2005 1:58 pm

ive probally read al of the above, so im not going to do it again... so im sorry if i go over anything already covered....

you cannot, ever learn a martial art purely through a book, video, dvd, or any other print, or visual media. nor can you ever "learn by doing" theres a lot of reasons for this, but i'll use just one.

theres no feedback.

you can look at the pictures, copy them, get it wrong in some minor way... and theres no-one to tell you... so you continue, and work bad technique into your muscles.
this is especially the case in books... you go from one image to the next, and usually miss out all thats in between. the book in question is also pretty vauge in itself... using only basic drawings top depict human motion.

books (etc) can be used as great reference guides, to reference techniques already learnt. i use books, and videos myself to the same end (ive even started compiling a video archive of training sessions, and am starting to make reference vids for my classes)

the martial arts are a endless pursuit. if i were to take everything ive ever learnt, or been shown from my ju-jutsu (my longest standing art, of 10 years). and try to put it into book form for people to learn... it would take a thousand books, and many thousands of pictures, along with explanations....
this is also to say nothing of the things you cant teach, and the experence you get from training with people of equal skill. the feel you aquire, the traits you gain, and the abilities that no amount of reading can give you.

to even TRY to articulate those things, would take millions of pages.... and even then, they would fail horribly.

theres just just too much information for a media source to carry.... and again. you get no feedback.... from other students, from other techniqes, from teachers... and most importently, from a sensei.

if you dont understand the difference between a sensei, and a teacher, your already missing most of the jigsaw.

....i think that just about covers the point i was making... there are more, but thats enough for now, i recon.

theres was this, though....
martail artist are a funny bunch the self defense orientated ones are an interesting bunch...
colourfull choise of words.... and im almost inclined to agree. lol

if "funny" and "interesting" are meant to reflect passion, dedication, and truth in what we do.... i agree.

if those same words are to mean anything degrading (in the same way you'd call a drunk, in your local nightclub 'funny' or some bloke down the pub that never stops talking, and is convinced he's gods gift to everything, an 'interesting' bloke) then i dissagree.

none of the above means to irritate, etc... im just posting both sides of the coin, as generalising in such a broard way leaves a lot unsaid.

Martial Artists (on the whole, and not to be confused with people who partake in a martial art) do what no other book reader, dvd watcher, or net surfer ever does.... they train dilligently, and with purpose. we have opinions based on years of experence, and have worked hard to get those opinions (or at least the knowlage to make them worthwhile). we learn things that cant be tought, and have knowlege of things 'non-martial artists' dont.

so yes... we can be a 'funny' and 'interesting' bunch.

im not calling me, or others special... theres millions of martial artists to share that claim.

and in the same stroke, theres millions, upon millions that can do something, and have knowlage that i, or other Martial Artists could never gain.

as a quick parody...... you can never understand martial arts, unless you do them, wholeheartedly, and with no excuses. and you can never understand a mother/fathers love for their child... unless you have a baby boy/girl.
trying to learn martial arts from a book (etc) is like a man trying to experence childbirth through reading, or watching a DVD..... its just impossible.

Those who dissagree, simply dont understand..... or dont WANT to understand.

and to pre-empt the "but theres no classes by me" (which is number 1 arguement, it seems)

i travel an hour and a half to get to my sword dojo, by motorbike, and the same home.
and one of our ju-jutsu guys travels 12 miles on a pushbike to get to us. then trains hard, for 2 hours, then rides the 12 miles home.

and those are, by no means, isolated events. this is the type of thing i mean whan i say "unless you do them, wholeheartedly, and with no excuses."


Post by Guest » Sun May 01, 2005 2:23 pm

two other things i should point out....

firstly, nirvana. i went off on a 'rant' and forgot the part about a dojo being quite a journy for you.... my comments about not being bothered, and having excuses werent aimed at you at all... just comments to help me make my point.


when it comes too....
Those who dissagree, simply dont understand..... or dont WANT to understand.
how do i know? how can i be so sure?

its simple... i used to think that way, i used to believe the same things. i was 13 when i took an interest in martial arts, and for almost 2 years i foraged for little bits of info, got a stainless steel wallhanger, and played highlander, and cut things. i was told by many that i was wrong in what i did.... but what did they know? im inteligent, i can copy what i see, i can learn from what ive read.

by luck i was introduced to my sensei, and it still took me till i was about 17 to understand how wrong i was.

and at 17, i could see all the wannabes doing what i had.... saw the homemade experts come and go when they realised that hard work was involved. although some stayed, and now laugh at how silly they were.

and even now, i see it in my dojo. from kids, to grown men.... all wanting to believe they knew best... and never once stepping out of the relitive safty of their comfort zone.

so thats how i know.... it was me!

im not saying that this is anyone here, im not trying to start a fight... just explaining how ive gained my point of view.

and basicly, its been gained by living it, and watching it.... for over 10 years.

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Post by Nirvana » Sun May 01, 2005 6:55 pm

Thank you, the both of you, You really made me think of what I was doing from a different point-of-view and learn how foolish I was to try and learn from a book and not a trained master, I will be searching for a Dojo soon and hopefully learn the art the true way.


Post by Guest » Sun May 01, 2005 8:14 pm

under no circumstances was i trying to make you feel foolish. lol

about 95% of the martial artists i know started with books, or videos. some people take offence when i say... what i say. lol

real knowlage, is always gained when your "willing to put on a white belt" and forget what you KNOW (or think you know) and being willing to do this so readily shows a charicteristic that will serve you well in whatever martial art you decide to follow.

theres a little line i use to explain the way i think about book martial artists, and beginers.

"theres no shame in being born in the gutter... but theres a terrible shame in wanting to live there tomorrow"
theres nothing wrong with being a beginer, or wanting to start out with books... but i think that stopping there, is bad... and using books, videos, DVD's etc instead of finding a teacher, and making the effort, is just criminal. as is making excuses. (distance, money, time, etc)

everyone has a place to start... but its not where you start, or finish... its the journy.... most people never make it past reading a few books... having a few convo's on the net, or playing in their back garden.

....what type of journey is that for a martial art spanning centuries, and having years of heritage, and culture.... really?

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Re: Thought on book-taught Arts.

Post by darkhobo » Sun May 01, 2005 8:23 pm

Nirvana wrote: (Suburbs of chicago were I live)
me too :D

Just make sure that when you do find a dojo to go to...give it a chance.
It upsets me when people come into our dojo to try it out and see if they like it, they stay for 1-2 hours (one day of class) and then realize that it is actually going to take work to learn what they see masters do, they already get bored with the basics they have to learn, and they never come back.
You will learn if you stick with it for longer then one hour.

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Post by grimm » Mon May 02, 2005 6:43 am

my opinion:

if you're mature enough about it you can learn a lot from books and progress quite far. this would involve being highly disciplined though, something which most people simply can't do without a mentor or teacher to watch over them (hence why for 99% of people it would be best to seek out a dojo). i practised karate and fencing when i was in my teens and learned a lot from that which can apply to any other martial art (besides learning the techniques of course). much of what they teach at a dojo is the mindset and discipline behind a martial art (a lot of this involves doing something until it becomes second nature, then do it some more, then once you've earned the belt, rinse and repeat with something more advanced).

having said this, you may end up teaching yourself some bad technique and getting injured/injuring someone else.

my main point to sum it up is: people with some previous martial arts knowledge will be able to go further by use of books or other instructional media than someone who has never trained in any combat related discipline under instruction before. i wouldn't try anything too advanced though unless a) you are under instruction, b) you go at a much, MUCH slower pace than normal with the art, c) have a medical team standing by ;)

i wouldn't recommend anyone under the age of 18 pick up a sharpened sword outside a dojo either (even if your parents allow you to).

i personally won't hesitate to try to learn a sword art, but i won't be buying a functional blade for anything other than decoration for a long time yet (i have my own reasons for not attending any classes, though i would if i could!)


Post by Guest » Mon May 02, 2005 8:40 am

i can kinda see your point.

previous training will help you if you wish to use books. but only because you would have already learnt movements, or techniques that are similar to the book/vid.

so doing judo, would help you learn ju-jutsu from a book
learning karate, would help you learn TQD, etc.

but the problem still lies with no feedback, and the amount of information.

as you've said, you may very well instill mistakes, and have no-one to correct you. plus you have safty issues concerning combative techniques. even in un-armed martial arts, there are hundreds of techniques, that are potentially life threataning if you make a LITTLE mistake. and all the techniques can seriously injure.

and before anyone says "but if your carefull, you'll be ok"

simply "NO!"

every thow, every lock, every strike, every, EVERYTHING. is immencely dangerous, if its cocked up... hell, its even more dangerous if its done correctly. lol

its easily possible for a bodged throw to put someone in a coma.
.....why doesnt this happen every training session?

that bit is simple...
trained people all around to make sure it doesnt.
trained people all around to show the right technique in the first place.
trained people all around to correct you.

and if it ever WERE to happen? (and i have seen a LOT of injuries even with all this training, and supervision)

well... trained people to help you. with medical experence, and in a position to help because they will know HOW you got hurt.

this brings me to the actuall level of training you get in books... ALL books.

its non-existent....i can see a technique ive already been tought, and reference it in a book, but i cant learn a new technique... even with all my training. why? because pictures and words just dont cut it.

i was thinking about this last night... so i took a scrap of paper, and worked out how to teach a beginer, one of our beginers techniques, via a book.

id need 7 pages of normal size print, on a A4 piece of paper (i used microsoft works, on a blank page, and size 10 text), and over 30 pictures (another 9 pages). and even then, i could see a myrid of mistakes coming up, that id need to correct. the same mistakes every beginer makes with this technique... but impossible for me to cover, in a book.... imposible for ANYONE to cover.
ive seen only a couple good books on martial arts technique.... they all had a maximum of 5 techniques in them. all of the 250+ pages were taken up with just 5 techniques!

learning similar arts is possible.... but your level of training would have to be 3 times that of a normal student, and you'd still be lacking against anyone (ever) who has been properly trained for a similar amount of time.

also, to gain the knowlage of someone training for (lets say....) 3 years. you'd need about 200 books, 20ish vids, and 10 years of training. and even with all that, you might be getting things wrong, and you'll never aquire the 'feel' of martial arts.

feel, is what makes martial arts so fluent, and effective. theres only one way, on earth to aquire that 'feel' for what you doing.... and thats other martial artists, and feedback.

its just that simple. books cannot, ever be used to learn a martial art.

they can help, they can be used as reference, they can inspire... and a whole host of other things... but you cannot learn a martial art through a book... period.

this is sadly a fact, and theres no possible way for me to explain my point further.

and this is only really 1 point, with a few sidebars. ive not even touched on safty issues, importence of proper technique, experience, equiptment, social circles, exploration, and things like variation.

and under no circumstances, have i touched on the importence of a Sensei.

and thankfully, thats a perfect end to a debate about "Books vs Training"

book, and vids dont ever give you a Sensei.

those who understand will agree, those who dont will make excuses, find exceptions... and do all the other things they can to rationalise their want for martial arts skill, when all they ever managed to do is play in a garden, and visit a bookshop!

like ive said... ive seen it, ive done it, and i continue to see it, and see it done..... its sad, but un-avoidable. and even worse... can only be understood from the other side of the fence!

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Post by darksun_uk » Mon May 02, 2005 6:41 pm

Wraith wrote:
martail artist are a funny bunch the self defense orientated ones are an interesting bunch...

none of the above means to irritate, etc... im just posting both sides of the coin, as generalising in such a broard way leaves a lot unsaid.
yes i was generalising from the point of view of an outsider, as the definition of self defense and a formally taught martial art that may well have a history going back decades if not longer is a little wide is it not ?, as wide a gap as say one between someone taught a knife fighting course over a 2 week period (british army) and someone who has spent say 20 years with a knife or machete in there hand for 4-8 hours a day....

reaction time , muscle memory, edge and point awareness etc etc all learned over time not in a formal setting perhaps but thats not the point is it.

the point is made for the sake of clarity (wider perspective) nothing more.

1.learned natural ability with edged weapons (forestry, farming, gamekeeping, etc etc)

2.formally taught martial arts that have a long and valued tradition and history attached to them (some would argue that the history and dojo setting are all that some people are really intersested in)

3.self defense courses(military as well)are taught as a basic set of moves designed to be easy to learn and to have more effect and focus than simply flailing away at an attacker or freezing in panic.

4.someone who has never picked an edged weapon up before or thrown a punch in anger or indeed in a sparring bout picking up a book and a "sword" and swinging and praying.

a very very wide spectrum indeed between points 1 and 4 and backwards and in any other configuration you desire, one point that has to be made is that anyone willing to sell there time to teach something has to have that something have value in a seemingly objective sense or its not worth as much as they are saying it is, is it ? it is all about definition and intent what you want out of an activity versus what benifit you will get form it (on whatever level) some activites have elements of others as has been pointed out already.

kind regards


Post by Guest » Mon May 02, 2005 8:37 pm

LMFAO..... is the only responce i can seem to come up with, at the moment. and it pretty much sums up any responce i might make.

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Post by darksun_uk » Mon May 02, 2005 11:07 pm

Wraith wrote:LMFAO..... is the only responce i can seem to come up with, at the moment. and it pretty much sums up any responce i might make.
what was funny the content or the lack of my opinion on it i was posting a very simplified spectrum to highlight the issue not actually discussing it (and i was certainly not advancing point number 4 as an acceptable scenario lol) so i fail to see what you find amusing.

funadmentally i agree with what your saying, however if the weapon in question is not of japanese origin are your points more or less valid or are they just frames of reference within your system and not in fact universal truth as you would seem to make out.

my main point as i have made before several times you have never replied to, i wonder why, im sure yu remember it the one about the gurka and the raw recruit,formal vrs natural.

why are there not stories of thousands of mained and dead natives of nepal with all those kukris being used without formal training, there weapons after all are they not ?

a formal japanese sword art and self defense training with edged weapons are not the same thing you said it yourself in your own post while one art may prove usefull when training with another they are not the same thing.

thats the point im making differnent not one or the other just different

like championship air rifle shooting and clay pigeon shooting totally differnent sports but they share a lot in common all im asking you to admit is that natural skill and common sense are as valid to some people as formal and learned/

kind regards

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Post by grimm » Tue May 03, 2005 4:54 am

this is really a never ending debate, and to be honest i'v seen pretty much the same posts made by the same people on this forum without any real resolution coming about. i agree with some parts of what wraith says, and the majority of what darksun says, although at times it does just seem like wraith wants to enforce his opinion on everyone else. one example of this is that there are ALWAYS individual variations on techniques which are perfectly safe (you see a lot of this technique variation in EVERY sport).

if i were talking to kids when i said this then i'd definitely advise going to a dojo and learning from a master though, and in that sense i can see where wraith is coming from. in terms of sword arts though most of the techniques such as cutting and sword drawing/sheathing can be learned and practised safely and outside a dojo as long as you take your time and don't use live blades too soon. if i was going to talk about something which specifically required a lot of sparring to learn then a dojo is the best place.

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Post by Nirvana » Tue May 03, 2005 5:12 am

What I have done is practiced with a Bokken then an unsharpened blade for the Katas, I never spar against a live person, everything is done alone and make sure not to cut things I know I won't be able to get through.

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Post by darksun_uk » Tue May 03, 2005 11:34 am

all thats happening is people are confusing (some on purpose some not) with regards to swords specifically, the desire to cut things, the abilty to cut things, and the abilty to cut things with specific technique correctly, ability at a certain specific technique with a sword within an established sword art with be virtually impossible (i agree with wraith) to attain or progress in if you dont get instructed by a master IN THAT SYSTEM.....

i understand wraiths points about training i have trained long and hard to have developed the limited skill i have over thousands of hours calling it a martial art, is according to wraith incorrect and i actually agree with him on that point, my point however is that self defense and military training are NOT MARTIAL ARTS either, using his definitions and therefore huge portions of the worlds population are labouring under a false pretense.

they are not, wraith is pushing an agenda (imho), you decide.

it might be better wraith tobe honest if you just say that anyone that is not a regonised master/teacher of an art and who does not pratice or teach for 8 hours a day is not a martial artist merely someone who practices martial arts.

or like in the military someone who has been given a "toolbox" of skills, are you saying that soldiers are not martial artists ?

is there not a toolbox of sword skills ?

does the army in fact not teach there toolbox in a two week course ?

confused yet ?

is someone who juggles razor sharp knives and chainsaws any less "skilled" than someone that can swing a sword in a very specific way my point is that "skill" and "training" are not universal concepts they are relative to the specific activity in question.

kind regards