Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The "Craft"

I had an interesting discussion with Patrick after we went for a run that I thought I'd share with you guys.

One of the most historically heated topics of debate, even before the internet existed, is the supremacy of one martial art or sport over another.

Is Muay Thai better than Tae Kwon Do? Boxing? Judo?

One of the problems with the way most people tackle these debates is that they use a frame too small for the scope of the topic.

Most people compare isolated techniques: ie. Someone once said to me, "The TKD kick is better than the MT kick, because you can throw it faster or in higher volume".

The folly in this is that each technique does not define the craft itself. MT kicks may be, be definition, slower than TKD kicks. However, they aren't used the same way. Thai boxers may double or triple up on kicks, but the intention and usage of the kick is different.

The craft of Thai boxing itself "works more like a heavy sword than a pair of quick nunchuks" (Kru Clifton Brown).

Similarly, the craft of Tae Kwon do is not defined by it's snappy kicks. Those kicks are meant to be thrown in high volumes and combinations in comparison to the Muay Thai kick. The TKD kick may be weaker by definition, but it isn't meant to be used as a single power shot the way Yodsanklai throws his heavy body kicks. This is not to say you can't KO someone with one TKD kick, but it isn't generally used that way.

This also goes for the concept of "power". Think about punches. Muay Thai generates it's power from a solid "press". To generalize a bit, Boxing's power has been described as more of a "sprint". It is a different type of power. While the press is arguable stronger than the sprint, the sprint still has enough force to affect its target.

These punches are also different in their application (again, the craft itself determines the technique's effectiveness). Boxing is a hands only sport/system, and as such, the punches are thrown in much higher volume in order to score as well as set up the KO shot. Power, in this understanding, is relative.

This is also why certain foot works and body motions make sense in boxing, but are subject to punishment in a Muay Thai situation.

At the end of the day, the point we came to was: Comparing techniques amounts to little. The truth lies in the proficiency has in one's craft.

A good MT fighter can beat a crappy TKD fighter. A good boxer can beat a crappy MT fighter. These roles can be reversed as well. The veteran in one craft can defeat the novice in the other. Anything can be effective when it's used the way it's meant to be better than the opponent at hand.

The most important thing is to believe in your craft. As students of Muay Thai, you have to understand what you are doing and why. You have to be confident in the philosophy behind it.

Remember: the craft itself is not defined by a technique, but by the system that utilizes all of its techniques together.

Trust in your instructors to show you the way, and your own hard work will help carry you through it.

Don't get caught up in the inane martial arts conversations happening out there.

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