Originally Posted by Alexandergreat3
You're right - it doesn't get that bad rep of "TMA." In addition, from my observation, it seems that when people speak of "TMA," Judo usually is not even on the list. It's always Karate, Kung Fu, and to a lesser extent, Tae Kwondo.
From what I have seen, people in general look at Judo as a "sport" rather than a "martial art," similarly to how people in general look at boxing, wrestling, and kickboxing as "sports."
I'm not aware of any South East Asian martial arts being treated like the stereotypical TMA of East Asia. Do you have some examples?
I have taken a Karate-Taekwondo hybrid as well as Kung Fu, and I can say that the goal/philosophy and application of the kata can totally make one martial art fancy or practical.
Kata is basically movements designed to train muscle memory. The practical idea behind it is no different than shadow boxing. The main difference is, in boxing and Muay Thai, the goal is to use proven techniques and repeat them over and over to program muscle memory for real fighting. Practical moves are used; impractical moves are tossed out.
The opposite is true for Karate, Tae Kwondo, and especially Kung Fu.
The Katas in these disciplines are made up of every single moves, passed down from generations to generations, including moves that are not practical for fighting (but looks nice for show), and the practitioners would spend a lot of time working on making the moves to look "nice" like a dancing routine. To make matter worse, there are a lot of competitions where the contestants are judged for "nice looking" kata routines - sort of like the TMA version of Dancing With the Stars.
In short, Karate, Kung Fu, and TKD put a lot of emphasis on the "Art" in martial arts, whereas Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, Judo, etc., focus on the "Martial" and not the artistic aspect.
From my limited understanding, modern Muay Thai originated from what's called Muay Boran, which supposedly has more "fancy" techniques (as seen in a Thai film named Ong Bak).
But even with Muay Boran, the "fancy" techniques are more like Anthony Pettis type of fancy - hard to pull off in a real fight but is doable by a high level fighter.
They're not "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" Kung Fu fancy, where there are those silly things like "animal styles" (usually seen with Shaolin Kung Fu), "drunken Kung Fu", "Tai Chi," etc.
The katas in TMA including Kung Fu include all useful movements. People just don't know what the movement means, it's purpose, or the technique or techniques being used. The practical idea behind kata is not the equivalent of shadow boxing. It only partially is.
Take basic form 1 in TKD for example. Front stance, punch with one hand, elbow backwards with the other. This exact movement would never be in a fight and neither would bench pressing but both are beneficial to an actual fight.
This movement is designed to increase your balance and strength with the stance...while simultaneously working on punching and elbowing harder. It combines 3 exercises in 1. Stances could be done by themselves but why not include 2 other useful tools for fighting. You can do katas or forms your whole life and almost never be injured doing them. They are a supplemental tool that increases your coordination for fighting movements. If something makes you a better fighter with little risk of injury then it is beneficial to do. They do train fighting as well but less than professional fighters or riskier martial arts. The longer you are in an art the more you are allowed or given the chance to spar with less rules. This all depends on what you are focused on getting out of practicing.
Kung Fu fighters don't bust out in X stances in the middle of a fight. They fight just like a kickboxer with illegal techniques added in. Kung Fu includes all ranges of fighting including grappling. The grappling is called Chin Na. Some of the movements in TMA are getting you ready for weapons and these movements look fancy. The stances are made to make your kicks and balance better. These stances are almost unparalleled at providing the strength, balance, and flexibility needed for kicks. They also protect the kicker from injuries related to over use of joints because they increase stability to the joint muscle, tendons, and ligaments.
The Masters tell you that this move is a certain technique for this purpose when it actually has a different purpose. This is just a form of traditional hazing commonly found in the military. The military is traditional. Deception and keeping secrets is a part of the military. TMA Masters feel this hazing makes the martial artist better. This hazing is why people think these old Chinese men teaching them martial arts don't know how to really fight. They can kick ass and if you get past the hazing you will be able to kick ass in the range you studied.
They want the hand movements to be positioned for muscle memory so that they will either protect the body or perform the necessary strike, weapon technique, anti-grappling technique, or grappling movement using certain angles.
The acrobatics part of katas and forms can be used in a real situation but rarely are. It is just like GSP training in gymnastics except it is tailored for martial arts. Some of these moves are found in forms. Being able to do these movements makes the simpler ones more powerful and effective. That is why they do these. They also do these movements for shows, movies, and demonstrations to wow onlookers and generate interest. Also the more acrobatic you are you have a better chance of fleeing, not getting hurt when you fall or get tripped or knocked down, and the ability to get back up quickly. This increases your ability to evade as well which is especially useful when you add weapons into the equation. You just can't afford to get hit with a weapon.
You state that they focus on the art rather than the martial aspect. This can seem true because of the time spent on making a wider variety of tools and techniques more powerful and precise. The traditional aspect of the martial art makes it more like the military actually although at first the student or onlooker won't see this or understand this. They think it's easy and not serious at first and then find out later how serious it is. The arts you mentioned above are more focused on fighting, especially without weapons but not necessarily the martial side. Military includes weapons and training in them. The military also trains "illegal" techniques.
Basically, some of the movements in katas or TMA won't be understood by the average onlooker or beginner. Some are for exercising your techniques or just making the body more coordinated and strong. They start with basic movements and end with more advanced movements. Some hostage and self defense scenarios involve the use of several techniques within a short span of time. Usually in order to get out of a self defense scenario you will have to employ 2 or 3 basic movements at the same time. Example being a reverse roundhouse kick to the knee with a push/ pull motion from a grab. At first each move is taught separately so the student becomes effective at that particular move. As you advance you are combining or slightly changing certain movements to be used in a real life self defense scenario. The movements seem useless in their basic form by themselves. They can also seem useless or fake if the practitioner never becomes powerful using them. Forms train your whole body's coordination to be quick and powerful for almost every movement the body can make.
Call it "Dancing with the Stars" for TMA if you want but the Masters judging these kata contests know that this motivates the student to become better at the kata. It also forces them to have certain arm positions become 2nd nature or almost instinct. If a technique is done without the arm at a certain angle it is useless. If a person is better at kata then they have the ability to be better fighters. They gain the ability to do more movements the more they advance and perfect kata.
I think everyone would agree that a flying side kick seems useless or is flashy and just for show. I wanted to provide a video or gif but haven't been able to find one. I remember the videos and gifs but can't locate them.
The flying side kick is a great tool for hostage situations.
Criminal has woman hostage with knife to the throat. He holds the knife there. Police come in with undercover as well as regular officers. They wait for the right moment when the criminal is holding the knife in a certain way that doesn't threaten the hostage. The criminal is distracted by police in regular clothes to look a certain way. One of the men near him that appears to be an onlooker takes a couple steps and does a flying side kick knocking criminal down and away from the hostage. The police then proceed with various weapons, disarm, and arrest the criminal.
This is actually a scenario I saw on tv. I just can't find the clip.
Not all techniques will be useful to every martial arts practitioner. You still need to know about them though. Once you decide what techniques work for you then you can throw out the ones that don't and keep the ones that do.