Balance of Simplicity and Complexity in Your Fighting Method
Simplicity is a common slogan that many self-defense systems automatically use to promote their fighting method. While simplicity is certainly valuable in the sense that what you do needs to be directly applicable in the real combat environment, being overly simple is as detrimental as being overly complex.
The Tang Wei Fighting Method admittedly has a rather large curriculum, which those training in the system appreciate but which at times has been a point of criticism from others. Those who have studied the system recently upon our having completed the task of bridging the system recognize that while we have hundreds of items of curriculum in the system, that they are all centered around developing a limited number of essential core skills.
One philosophy in the Tang Wei System is the idea of combining opposites rather than dividing them. The first example we use is the grappling vs striking argument. We have never understood arguing which is better but rather have taken the stance that both have strengths and weaknesses and are better combined than divided and pitted against each other. This is what we refer to as Yin-Yang Unity of opposites.
Similarly complexity and simplicity are usually thought of as opposites where various martial practitioners argue the merit of each approach (mostly arguing for simplicity as superior). Certainly an overly complex system is disadvantaged as it is burdened by technique thinking where they want to use one technique when the opponent throws a right punch versus another technique when they throw a left punch, etc. This type of thinking is useless because you won’t be able to confirm what the enemy is attacking with until you experience it. These type of overly complex martial arts are often disqualified by outsiders through comments such as, “I don’t fear the man that has thrown 1000 different strikes one time, I fear the man that has thrown one strike 1000 times,” etc.
On the other hand, many schools on the market today teach a highly motion limited overly simplified seemingly primitive approach. Many will say that it is too dangerous to let yourself lean with your torso out of you base and that it is too dangerous to let your legs cross over, many will say that you don’t want to know too many strikes, or holds, etc. Reflecting this limited closed minded thinking, their training then is reduced to having their students practice striking and kicking pads with a very small percentage of the attacks which the human body can actually use and then engaging in cardio and calisthenics training alternating with hitting pads or doing techniques on compliant opponents. They conduct this rigorous training upon the principle of making students determined and able to continue when exhausted. They also do this citing the need to try to simulate the “stress” of combat.
While I certainly agree that endurance training needs to be included and that the never-quit attitude needs to be ingrained, you also need SKILL. You have to train to work smarter not just harder. What these overly simplified systems end up with is an approach which yields little to no advantage for their students over what the students would have had to use in a fight prior to training. After a year of training they do not strike with a markedly improved amount of power or devastation, they do not know how to bypass and neutralize attacks to get to enemy targets and they often know little about how to read a fight in advance and when needed to implement strategy to give them an advantage before a fight begins.
The Tang Wei Approach is a blend of simplicity and complexity. Simplicity in our intent and skill sets, complexity in the sense of collecting many different drill vehicles to promote the development of our core skill sets. Thus the formal name of the tang wei system is 5 Extremes Martial Method to reflect the 5 core skill sets/attributes which are the end product of all training activities.
The core skill sets used in fighting are explained simply in the acronym END. Engage, Neutralize and Dominate. Everything we learn about fighting, when applied comes down to the ability to have a mindset and plan prior to a fight that gives us as much advantage as possible (Engage). Then how to stay out of harm’s way and get past the enemy defenses to get access to targets (neutralization) and then how to appropriately down the enemy by accessing effective targets (dominate).
Tom Garriga in the past has responded to complaints for example about the Tang Wei System having too many power concepts and drills (we have over 150 different drills). Some critics felt that was too much and that they could never possibly be ingrained.
The Tang Wei answer is that, when you get into a fight, you are simply going to have the intent to attack with as much power and force as you can. This intent will be carried out subconsciously. The enemy will be doing the same thing. If all you know about power is to tense your muscles and try to hit through the target, then the fight will come down to who is stronger and larger. If the outcome of your fight is still going to come down to those strength and size, then WHY TRAIN IN THE FIRST PLACE. Can you ever really have enough power output? When it comes to exchanging blows, can you really ever know enough about which tactics help you to make the enemy miss and you to hit them?
The more experience you have with power concepts for example the more that seeps into your subconscious habits of striking, kicking, and grappling. Thus your training is still simple in terms of intent since you simply move to attack when you have an opportunity, but your simple intent is enriched from the complexity of advanced concepts which you have been exposed to. Thus when you try to hit as hard as you can and the enemy does the same, your training can yield an advantage for you.
An overly simplified system can also make you increase in confidence beyond the skill that is developed. Since you are exhausted and you are pushing through in drills, it gives the sense of accomplishment and the confidence that you can overcome whatever you have to. While I am apt to like such a mindset as I love determination, it can also be your undoing if determination makes you feel you can walk over an equally determined foe who has superior strategy and tactics.
The Tang Wei Fighting Method is also large in curriculum volume as we anticipate that people should have enough to learn that they can engage in continuous learning. Combat skills like shooting are perishable skills. You can learn the majority of what you need in a relatively short amount of time, but it requires continued maintenance. What is the value of learning something that has no more depth to share after one year and which then cannot be maintained and grown steadily throughout the years of your life where you need to be capable of protecting yourself and your family?
In summary, don’t get stuck in an overly complex or overly simplistic paradigm of training. Unite the opposites by opening your mind to a complex world of countless drills and techniques and motion patterns and concepts, but then compartmentalize all that is learned into the natural and simple intent that you would have had as a natural human animal fighting with no formal training. Easier said than done.
Tang Wei Martial Arts Association
Live With Honor