Monday, June 3, 2013

Training Philosophy 101: A-to-DBZ

Hello My Friends!

Our friend and comrade in physical culture, Benjamin Bergman, has been kind enough to yield the stage to me for the moment.  You might be asking who I am.  I shall not labor the introduction, but I tell you that I am a martial artist of nearly two decades, beginning my formal training in April of 1995, and a life long fan and mimic before that.  I have studied several arts, and it is through that study that I came into the world of physical culture.  Martial arts has little meaning without a vital body behind it.

So today, I would like to talk to you about this very connection between training for violence and training for vitality.  To aid me in this, I shall pass it through the lens of popular the popular anime Dragon Ball Z.

Let us first discuss the exemplary characters.  While the world of DBZ is populated by many characters, many noble, and many villainous, we shall focus on three:  Goku, Vegeta, and Piccolo.  It is true that Gohan, Goku's son, is technically the most powerful character in the series (for a time) and has the greatest potential, but because his training is sporadic, and usually forced upon him, we will exclude him from this discussion.  Without further ado, we shall briefly list Training, Fighting, and Characteristics of each character:

Goku:  Innocent and simple, he has an incredible natural talent for martial arts and physical training.  His training style varies depending on his teacher at the moment, everything from strongman type training to traditional martial arts training to intense spiritual training.  He is generally happy-go-lucky, but has an incredible battle joy, and an intense drive for constant personal development.  The quote that could define his attitude best comes from the first Dragonball series [Episode 59], Goku says, “This is great!  I'll be better at everything once I go up there.” To which his friend Upa replies, “Do not get your hopes up, my young friend, it may only be a legend.”  Goku contests, “Oh. I want to try it anyway.”  Upa protests, “But you're already strong.” And Goku has the final word, “I'm not the strongest, though, so it's still worth a chance.  Yeah.  It's definitely worth it. To be the best!”

Vegeta:  Pride and heritage drive him.  His was—IS--The prince of all Saiyans.  He is nearly as powerful as Goku, but grew up quite privileged.  It can be assumed that he is of average talent, but because of superior training early on, and being in constant battle since he was young, insisting on the hardest missions, being on the front lines, and having access to the best science and medicine of the Saiyan race (and beyond!) he was able to develop as only a privileged lord could.  He could never accept anyone being better than him at anything.  Greatness was his birthright.  He tends to be arrogant and extremely aggressive.  Prone to rage.  His training is the hardest, and self imposed.  He must constantly prove that he can do more, that he can do better than anyone else.  Competition and singularity drives him.  Very regimented and military in nature, always pushing for more, he is really Goku's antithesis.  The quote that describes him best is from Dragon Ball Z [Episode 214] “Imagine my shock, to see the undeniable proof, to discover no matter how hard I try, I would never be able to catch you.  A warrior-prince forever living in the shadow of a low level clown.  So that's when I secretly made up my mind...Yes, I saw the power of Babadi's magic at the World Martial Arts Tournament, those two henchmen he sent.  The people who had seen those fighters in the previous tournament couldn't understand how they had become so powerful.  But you and I know, don't we? It was Babadi's magic, and I knew what his magic had done for those fighters it could also do for me.  I knew that if I allowed myself to fall under his control, the difference in our power would disappear.  I'm quite pleased with the results.  Even if they do come at a price.  I'd say the end more than justifies the means...'cause I wanted him to reawaken the evil in my heart.  I wanted him to return me to the way I was before!  I was the perfect warrior; cold and ruthless.  I lived by my strength alone, uninhibited by foolish emotion.  But slowly, over the years, I became one of you.  My quest for greatness gradually giving way to this life of mediocrity.  I awoke one day to find that I had settled down, formed a family.  I had even grown quite fond of them.  Would you believe I was starting to think the Earth was a nice place to live?  Do you understand now, Kakkarot?  That's why I needed Babadi; to set me free by releasing the evil in my heart.  He has freed me of these petty attachments, and I'd have to say it feels pretty good.”

Piccolo:  A loner and tactical genius.  He seems to train for personal development, and to explore the depths of his potential.  As a Namek, he enjoys a unique biological makeup, including a diet of solely water, size changing ability, regeneration, and high psychic potential.  He is very much a cerebral, calculating type.  He looks at all the evidence, and makes decisions based on data rather than gut feelings.  This, of course, leaves him feeling alien and cold much of the time, but without his keen sense of timing and leverage, the Z Fighters would have lost many battles, and many lives.  His training is mostly psychic/internal as his biology is so completely different.  The quote that best describes his training potential comes from Dragon Ball GT [Episode 44] (Yes, I know it's non-cannon, but it sums up his attitude nonetheless!), “The powers of a Namekian have many uncharted avenues.” (In response to why and how he went to Hell to help out Goku.)  And this followup in the following episode [Episode 45] after he got Goku out of Hell, “Well, as long as I'm stuck in this dump, I might as well get in some target practice.”

Now that you have an idea of the characters and their styles, we can discuss the benefits of each when training for Violence and Vitality.  We'll call Goku's method the “Natural”.  When training “Naturally” you tend to follow your whims.  Whatever seems to be bugging you.  A new skill, a dodgy rep, just a bit of fun, etc.  You may find yourself hefting stones one day, and walking on your hands the next.  This fractal kind of practice does a couple of things.  It keeps you from getting bored with static routines, and it constantly challenges you with something new, never letting you get too comfortable with anything.  Of course, all this self experimentation can lead to mistakes and imbalances.  But Goku's training wasn't always whimsical.  No, he studied under many masters who had him do repetitions of fundamental principles over and over again.  But then this is what amateurs and naturals do as well, now isn't it?  They go off in a focused manner just plugging away until they “get” it, and then they move on to the next thing.  This is, in fact, the beginning point, and the end point.  It is where space time curves around back on itself, and we realize after all those years of learning, we just want to play.  Some of the real-world established systems that work well with this are Strong Man competition, Parkour and MovNat, as well as fundamental, natural martial arts practice like Shaolin Kung Fu, or Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling.

Next we have what I'd like to call the “Professional”.  This is Vegeta.  He was born to it, and lived it as an occupation until he joined up with Goku and his lot, and then it was an obsession and a charitable need, as he helped save the Earth many times.  This professional attitude is like many athletes and soldiers.  They have coaches/drill instructors, and are fed their routines, nutrition, and recovery, and have access to the best medical and scientific advancements.  This regimented training can take someone less than average, and put them into the top 5% quickly.  The benefits of training like this is the utter focus.  You don't have to stress over anything but the next rep because it's all laid out for you, and you know you're in expert hands.  It also means there will be fewer mistakes along the way because of the constant supervision.  This is the path to glory, but rarely ever to autonomy.  Real-world examples of this type of training obviously are reflected in military training, but also in popular systems like Crossfit and TacFit.  More systematized martial arts, perhaps like Shotokan Karate or Brazilian Jiujitsu.

Finally, Piccolo's style we will call the “Scholar”.  The Scholar is a collector and studier of training information.  They gather all the data and make informed decisions.  They focus on form and and function, timing and leverage.  They are the academics of training.  Ever vigilant, looking for new data, new observations, testing theories, and eventually coaching others in their wisdom.  Of course, one cannot solely collect information without ever moving a muscle.  That would be devastating in the long term.  It can also lead to paralysis by analysis, meaning having to filter through too much information and delaying the decision to act.  Piccolo never had this problem, but then he's not human.  The accumulation of knowledge and the wisdom of how to apply it is quite obviously beneficial.  The real-world correlation is not in any particular program, but rather in researching all programs.  It is the journal articles, and coaching programs, the clinics, the certifications, the ranks, the titles and degrees.  One would be best served finding a mentor in an area of interest, and studying as a disciple.  Less that, there is a world of information available in the form of books, videos, and seminars.  Pick a few that sound interesting and follow along until you are satisfied.

In closing, you may find that one or another of these styles calls out to you, but each one carries a drawback.  The stability and focus of the Professional is appealing, but I like being autonomous.  I am certainly the Scholar, a collector of knowledge, with experience in a literal dozen martial arts, and nearly equal that in fitness regimens.  However, I have to be constantly aware of what path I am on, otherwise I start muddling my training into something less effective.  And of course, as a true kid at heart, I love to just play.  Playing the natural, and just doing whimsical activities here and there helps me stay sane and play with things that are left out of my advanced routines.  How about you?  What is your balance?  Listen, thank you all for sitting in on this discussion.  I now return the stage to Benjamin.  Feel free to look me up, wherever you may find The Black Sun Renaissance.  Good Journey.

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