6 Tips For Tailoring Your Art

By Diane Ruth
Published on Apr 15th, 2011

Defined below, the principle of tailoring can be illustrated best in modern day Mixed Martial Arts matches. You’ll notice the best fighter’s try to dominate the fight utilizing their primary fighting strengths. For example: A strong grappler tries to get the submission, the boxer tries to get the knockout. Because a boxer will dominate in the boxing game and a grappler will dominate in the grappling game fighters strategize using his/her own strengths in order to win. Why wouldn’t we train this way in the dojo? It makes sense to adapt the fighter’s philosophy to our training to ensure our success. We can apply this logic to the traditions, strategies, tactics and basics that make up our Martial Art.

“Like a custom tailor who fits a suit to an individual, so should an Instructor fit the Art to the individual” ~ Ed Parker

TAILORING – This is one of the key principles of Kenpo. It entails two major aspects, (1) adjusting your physical, as well as, mental and emotional attitudes to fit each given situation; and (2) fitting moves to your body size, makeup, speed, and strength in order to maximize your physical efforts.

Mr. Parker, founder of American Kenpo Karate and author of the Infinite Insights book series, writes in Infinite Insights, Volume 1 Chapter 8, about the one arm man needing a self-defense program tailored to him just as he would need a suit tailored to his body. A man with one arm could not always use the same technique to defend himself. He would have to understand the principles and theories behind the technique and tailor that to his physical make-up.

As a student, I often wondered why I was forcing some technique models to work. Sometimes the self-defense logic was not evident to me, nor was the model taught as something I could tailor for myself. I knew I was not able to strike the prescribed target with enough power due to the extension of my arm or leg. I often had to reach past my physical limits to make contact. It was not effective and I knew it was not useful for me to practice this way. In order to make this technique model work on this larger attacker I would either need to alter the base sequence or, perhaps, insert a strike.

Mr. Parker states in Volume 5, Chapter 4 “One learns that it is the conceptual framework of the technique that constitutes the idea. The technique is not meant to be executed in perfect sequence, but rather represents an idea which one can develop individuality. As a student develops latitude and flexibility through practice, he can instinctively draw upon his ideas and tailor them to suit his needs. Individuality gives latitude and flexibility which in turn allows him to rearrange, modify, expand, condense or delete basics and still preserve maximum effectiveness. Students who are, therefore armed with a comprehensive vocabulary of movement can extemporaneously utilize their basics and be effective regardless of the situation:” Mr. Parker further stated, “They (students) should be more concerned with the consistent logic contained within the basic concepts involved and not be subjected to an unyielding commitment. Unyielding commitments only restrict instinctive tailoring.”

How to TAILOR your Art!

  1. Train the material the way it’s been presented to you (Ideal Phase) before training variations of the material.
  2. Analyze the material in different ways, using different attacks, different angles, etc.
  3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. This is a good time to come up with a list of issues, comments, questions or concerns for your instructor.
  4. Link the new material to something you are familiar with like sports, dance, fitness, or prior Martial Arts experiences, etc. You’ll notice some things will be the same. For example: Learning how important having a slight bend in your knees is whether you are dancing or lifting free weights may help you develop your Martial Arts stances.
  5. Observe how other Martial Artists perform the same exercise. What are the similarities? What are the differences? If you don’t have others locally to observe you can always check on YouTube. Don’t be fooled by titles or red tape on a Black Belt; Rank does not mean perfection.
  6. Reflect on your work before you draw your conclusions. Form your position on this material using the logic from your experience. At this time revisit your list of questions and see if they are still applicable.

As students we need to be aware of our personal strengths and weaknesses. We can develop our basics and skills while working with our strengths. This will allow us to expand our skill set. Try the 6 tips: Train, Analyze, Identify, Link, Observe and Reflect to help you develop your martial art to the fullest.

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: Diane Ruth

Diane started training in the Martial Arts in 1997 and received her Black Belt certification in 2003. For fifteen years Mrs. Ruth has trained in Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate exclusively. She is a professional instructor teaching both children and adults. Mrs. Ruth is a partner in M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club. M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club which is affiliated with The MALC and Kenpo2000. Diane's primary focus is developing a complete teaching strategy which incorporates Principle Based teaching.

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