06-26-2005, 09:42 #1
Why Do We Cut The Ends Off The Ham?
It’s Easter Day and Dad and the boys are watching the game while Grandma knits on the porch and Mom is showing the daughter the secrets of the kitchen. The daughter notices that Mom cuts the ends off the ham before putting it in the oven and asks “Why do you cut the ends off the ham?” Mom explains that was the way she has always prepared ham and that was the way her Mom taught her. If she wants to know why, go ask Grandma. So she does. Grandma replies that she really doesn't know. That was how she was taught by her Mom.
So they all gather around the phone and placed a call to the old country to wish Great-Grandma a happy Easter and ask her why do they cut the ends off the ham? Great-Grandma answers that the reason she cut the ends off was that her oven was too small and that was the only way the ham would fit. As professional martial artists, too many of us continue to cut the ends off the ham simply because that was the way we were taught.
The biggest challenge facing many martial artists is resistance to change. It’s fascinating to see truly talented martial artists in the 15th year of their school with only 100 students. They hem and haw when asked about their active student count and hide behind the phrase, “Well, we’re a traditional school.” My question is, traditionally what?
What we’re describing here has nothing to do with your martial arts style. It has to do with your teaching style. Is your teaching style congruent with your goals and values as a martial artist? Do you really believe that martial arts can have a powerfully positive impact on the lives your students? Did it have such an impact on you? If your answer to these questions is yes, then why on earth would you structure a program that chases people off?
James Michener in the book Sports in America, observes that most little league baseball programs don’t build strong character, they just eliminate the weak ones. That would be an accurate description of many martial arts schools. This is senseless because the less strong are the ones who could benefit the most from what we teach.
You do not need to lower your standards to help more people. The reality is that you must expand your standards to include people not interested in fighting hours at a time and breaking bricks with their heads. Is it fair or wise to hammer a mom whose only exercise for the past 20-years has been to raise a family? Is it fair or professional to make the 6-year old with an attention deficit disorder do push-ups on his knuckles for moving his eyes in the first month of his classes?
The medical profession says that most abusers were abused themselves. When I talk to instructors hiding behind the tough guy banner, it sounds just like that. I hear all of the “when I was a student” rhetoric. Just because they stuck it out in a program that dared anyone to even think about earning a black belt doesn’t mean that it was the right way to help people.
The purpose of this website is to provide you with the tools to break away from the unsafe practices of the past so you can operate and grow a modern martial arts center."Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." - Sun Tzu
06-28-2005, 16:07 #2
- Jeff Jaje
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I remember a story, which I believe was suppose to be a true story and it went something like this:
Winston Churchill was getting demonstration of British Artillary soldiers running their big guns. All of the people were doing a job, whether shuttling new shells, loading, aiming, firing... except for one person who stood at attention away from the weapon.
Churchill asked what this persons job was, and they replied they were doing it the way it had always been done. So the officers started investigating the process, and it turns out the job of the person standing at attention was to hold the horses. Not too terribly long before, horses were used to transport the artillary around, and someone would be there to keep them steady.
So sometimes you need to question why. This is true in our martial arts circles also. Sometimes people do their martial arts and katas and forget to ask why. After that, it is important to decide if change is necessary. If in your kata you perform a particular technique, say blocking a halberd, we need to ask ourselves, "What is the liklyhood of being attacked by a halberd?" and should leaders modify the kata. I'm sure traditionalists and contemporaries would have a different take on this siutation.The unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be avoided; but never hit softly. - Theodore Roosevelt
06-28-2005, 16:12 #3
I love that Easter story. There is so much of that going on around the world. I find it all the time in my field when trying to break through ideas that people have always held with respect to training and conditioning.
jasonFor now, more than ever before, being sincere and dedicated is not enough. We must also be right. - Walter Kroll. 1971
06-28-2005, 16:14 #4
Sometimes it is good to preserve tradition just for the sake of it. Often one can find a currently practical application for an ancient technique. If not, leave it alone. There's plenty more there. The Western, especially American, penchant for innovation and experimentation (as well as the huge Western ego) does not mix well with traditional Okinawan/Japanese arts or with the emphasis on submerging the ego that underpins much of Japanese philosophy and thought. Damn it...just do the kata and leave it alone. You ain't that good and you ain't been doin' it nearly long enough to go messing with it.
06-28-2005, 16:31 #5
Good story Jack! I have to seriously object to the blanket statement though. It assumes that everyone is dedicated to martial arts for the same reasons that you obviously are, and that's just not true. There are as many reasons to study the arts as there are people studying them. To help people and to teach kids is definitely some people's reason for study. It's not mine, nor is it a lot of other people's.
I have no problem with anyone's reasons for studying the arts. I do have problems with people that insist that nobody's reasons are as valid as theirs.Paul Smith
06-28-2005, 17:19 #6
The ham story is cute, but it is really a slick way of promoting innovation and poking fun at tradition. It is marketing pure and simple. Face it...traditional karate and other Japanese arts won't sell in their original form. A lot of "American" or "Modern" karate types use stuff like this all the time to excuse themselves from practicing kata (or giving themselves a rationale for changing them or making up their own), creating their own style, or just playing with karate. It is also a way of avoiding the traditional dojo atmosphere, traditional dress, and traditional language and etiquette. It has given us the spectacle of multi-colored gi, made up kata that make no sense, kata to music, toy swords, kata with toy swords, and sport oriented karate where every tournament is a flea market for ego freaks. It is also responsible for "karate as marketing" and "marketing as karate," McDojos across the land, and students who are hyperactive and ill-mannered and karate "studios" whose function is to baby sit the egos of kids and promote the egos of adolescents and their instructors. The "respect" they teach is a surface nod to good manners that is based upon the students being told constantly how good they are and how great they are doing (even if they aren't). It seems to me a very brittle kind of ego building and a truly obnoxious way to bring kids through the martial arts. It is Americana all the way...marketing, cheap thrills, trinkets, pseudo-philosophy and spiritualism, and watered down karate. That's why it sells. H.L. Mencken said it best,"No one ever went broke underestimating the bad taste of the American public."
06-28-2005, 17:33 #7
Last edited by CEB; 06-28-2005 at 17:36.
06-28-2005, 18:09 #8
While that may be true to a greater or lesser extent, I still see nothing wrong with it. It has no real effect upon our schools or our practice. Those that are involved in the modern stuff are not the same people that would bother with schools like ours. At the very least, it gets the kids doing something other than sitting and playing video games, and that's a GOOD thing!Paul Smith
06-28-2005, 18:32 #9
Paul, I appreciate what you say and your effort to see something positive in everything. You know the story of old Charlie the Optimist? He was always looking on the bright side. No matter what happened, old Charlie would always say, "Well, it could've been worse." One day he came to work and found all the guys huddled and sad and whispering quietly. "What's wrong?" Charlie asked. The guys said, "Man, haven't you heard? Old Joe went home last night and caught his wife in bed with another man. He took his shotgun and killed the other guy, killed his wife, and then killed himself!" Charlie said,"Well, it could've been worse." "What do you mean?" they asked. "How could anything be worse than that?" Charlie replied,"If he had come home ten minutes earlier, I'd be dead, too!"
06-28-2005, 18:38 #10
06-28-2005, 19:28 #11
Tradition and healthy childhood development be damned. Every one should approach and practice MA in a way that maximize my multiple streams of revenue.
Last edited by G Hendrix; 06-28-2005 at 19:30.
06-28-2005, 21:37 #12
06-29-2005, 10:24 #13
- Barry A. McConnell
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That ham story has been around for YEARS outside the martial arts world. I first heard it back in the 70s as a metaphor for thinking outside the box when problem solving.
It never hurts to ask why we do something. If the answer is, as Gene suggests, because we want to do it that way, that's fine. What would be wrong is to continue doing it that way if the answer was, because it does such and so, and that was shown to be incorrect. Change just for the sake of change is equally as wrong as blind adherence to tradition. There is room for both tradition and innovation in the martial arts; the real enemies are chaos and dogma.Barry McConnell
We, the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts - not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert the Constitution. - Abraham Lincoln
The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
- Thomas Jefferson
"That rifle on the wall of the labourer's cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there." - George Orwell
06-29-2005, 11:33 #14
Well put Barry!
Don't forget cultism! (is that a real word?) I've come across several "instructors" that were definitely trying to create a cult.Paul Smith