children training martial arts drills

One of the fundamental principles behind Tao Te Kung Fu is that every technique we teach must be the best option in a given situation.  If a technique is beautiful but doesn’t work that well, teach it to a dancer.  If a technique works only for a minority of people; because they are big, strong, fit, supple, young, wearing loose trousers and trainers, it’s no good for us.  This explains why some things appear to be missing from the training. 

Let me use the most obvious examples to make the point; high kicks.  Bruce Lee’s comment that he would kick someone in the head when it seemed a good idea to punch them in the foot, is still a useful approach.  I have seen a few people try high kicks in real life.  I’ve yet to see one work well, or at least better than a punch would have done and I’ve a lot funny fails.  If you need five minutes of stretching before you can defend yourself – you’ll lose.  When you try to kick high with normal trousers or jeans, the momentum of the kicking leg pulls the standing leg out from under you, with the result that you end up on the floor.  Most shoes don’t have a great grip and again you‘re heading for the floor.  The only good reason to practice kicking high is that the enhanced flexibility ensures your lower kicks are easier for you.  Much like having a car that will do 100 means you can drive it at 60 without straining the engine.

While performing a high kick you are very vulnerable.  You have sacrificed good stability for a risky technique.  You might pull off the best side kick, catching your opponent right under the ear, you are in the splits yet your guard is up, your eyes on target; photographers are catching the moment for your stance to be used on top of trophies, but if his mate taps your standing leg out from under you – you still end up on the floor.  If your opponent steps aside and your kick misses, you’re just an idiot standing on one leg.  If he steps in with almost any strike, you are going down.  You do not want to be on the floor in a fight! 

Which brings me to ground work or grappling on the floor.  In Tao Te Kung Fu, once you can win most fights, then and only then will you learn some throws, locks, standing grappling and enough ground work to deal with a grappler, who trips you by surprise.  You’re best tactic when you find yourself on the ground is get you off the ground.  On the ground is a dangerous place.  In cage fighting, in ‘ultimate fighting’ competitions as well as some obvious martial art styles a lot of time is spent grappling on the floor, but you’ll notice that the floor is never strewn with broken glass and vomit, and neither competitor is permitted to have a mate stand at the side of the ring and jump on the other guys face or kick his head like a football.  Let me put it simply; if I gave you a melon or pumpkin and asked you to smash it, your easiest approach would be to put it on the floor and stamp on it.  Imagine how annoying it would be to have your opponent in a stunning, sure winning lock, you’ve got his arms tied up round his neck, he’s about to submit, then his mate stamps on your leg like he’s braking up kindling and your knee suddenly bends in new and unusual ways.  Again; you do not want to be on the floor in a fight!