Conceptual Recycling

Conceptual Recycling

One area of training rarely considered is the recycling and ongoing evolution of existing knowledge and techniques into new patterns and applications.

Bear in mind that martial arts at their best provide a vehicle for self awareness and liberation. Awareness means confidence in who and what you are, and liberation leads to freedom of movement and thought wherein your skill becomes completely fluid, and your are free to fully integrate into every situation. It is this ability to integrate which represents the ultimate skill (and benefit). Every situation is familiar turf, as though you ve been there many times before.



Many schools lose sight of this very fundamental objective.

As we ve noted elsewhere, in many aspects martial arts parallels the study of music. There are diverse paths, and many competing focuses for your skills and attention. Avoid those programs which require you to be at conflict, take harbor in those which encourage you to be at one. If our art of Gun Fu were viewed as music, it would be improvisational jazz. Go to a club sometime, watch what the musicians are capable of doing once the clock approaches midnight. Witness as they push themselves to the place of their contentment.

As in music, basics remain supreme. In an interview at the height of his career, Miles Davis was asked what goal remained for him to accomplish. He is believed to have responded, I’d like to be able to play through the modes. The interviewer stared, puzzled,

‘But you can already do that,” to which Davis answered, “No, I mean to really be able to play through the modes.” They were talking about different things. The interviewer was talking about practice . Davis was talking about flying free, so that any note worked perfectly at any time, depending on his personal awareness and instinctsl.

So that’s the message. Use your knowledge to propel new discovery and growth. Work from the known into the unknown. Avoid re-starting from scratch wherever possible,

The Principle

Skills already developed are the foundation of skills to be acquired, either through evolution, modification, experimentation or new discovery.

Let s say you re interested in exploring this in your own training. Try focusing on the following modes of experimentation:


Phase 1. Working from known drills;

Phase 2. Working from known forms or Kata;

Phase 3. Improvisational experiments

Phase 1 -Working From Known Drills:

Every system has its favored drills, usually seen regularly in the course of practice, particularly as their repetitive nature reinforces perfection of basics. As an example, let s consider two drills common to Isshinryu Karate. They are the Punching Standard, and the Kicking Standard.  Once they are intimately familiarized, why not experiment? One method might be to string the sequences together. Start with the Punching Standard, go to Kicking Standard, end with Punching Standard (We refer to this combination as Standard #1).   Why not Kicking Standard, Punching Standard, then Kicking Standard (Standard #2)?

Punching and Kicking Basic Drills


Standards 1 & 2


Standard 3 and Closing Thoughts


If a sequence starts on the left side, doesn t it make sense to also start it in turn on the right side. At first the drills are linear. Why not break them up into different angles, or even do them in a circle.

Now, add a few wrinkles for the advancement of evolution! Let s revisit Punching Standard and exploit what we already know from the sequence, to set up the same pattern, but this time using Tonfa, Middle Sticks, and Kama.

We apologize for the poor quality of the video below.  This has been extracted from dated archives which were degraded and of poor quality.  Currently, it is the best available  In the spirit of sharing we believe it better to show what we have rather than nothing at all.

With Tonfa, Sticks & Kama

With Tonfa, Sticks & Kama


Works perfectly doesn t it? Can you see the value of the emerging training path?

How about with Sai?

I’ll leave that experiment to your own devices.

Once you get comfortable, try experimenting for yourself, vary the routine into angles, and circles, try with a Bo (Yes it can!), a Short Stick, or anything else you can come up with.

Phase 2 - Working From Known Forms or Kata:

Use a form with which you have familiarity as the architecture for something completely different.

The late Master J. Cui Brocka understood this completely when he extracted from Shotokan (Takiyoku Kata) to create the form architecture for his system of Combat Arnis (Anyo Uno (#1) & Anyo Dos (#2)).   Let’s start by having a look at Takiyoku.

Takiyoku (Basic Architecture)



The advantage is relatively straightforward, if not intuitive. The existing framework provides an already sound basis for general movement and direction. To that established platform of familiarity, new movement is superimposed. Recognizing the compatibility, Master Brocka grafted the twelve basic blocks and strikes of Combat Arnis to Takiyoku, to yield Anyo Uno, then did the same with the twelve basic blocks and disarmimg techniques, to produce Anyo Dos. Clearly, even a basic framework allows for development of more advanced techniques.

Stick Form #1 (Anyo Uno)


Anyo Uno (Full Detail)


Stick Form #2 (Anyo Dos)


Stick Basics to Form #2


There is no end to the possibilities.  Click here to see the same concept extended to creating drills for mastering basic tonfa techniques in a dynamic flow.


Phase 3 - Improvisational Experiments:

Elsewhere on the website we discuss flow in considerable detail. It would be worthwhile to take a few minutes to visit that page (click here to visit), as it will connect some of the dots in how our current concept of using what is already known and familiar, becomes the catalyst for acquiring and mastering more complex technique. Picking up where that article left off, one can take any of the aforementioned forms or drills and apply them to new situations, varying the lines, angles, adding weapons, etc.

Again, possibilities are limitless. On your own, try applying the same Takiyoku to improvised Sai, and then to Bo. You really can t go wrong, the underlying coordination of eye, foot and hand is preserved and attaches to the new movement. In the alternative, look within your style, or your realm of experience and pick out a form, pattern or routine, and see where you can take it.

Never lose site of the objective. The art must become you, and everything you undertake must lead to that end. It is within each of you to fully actualize a complete martial art, and way of life, unique to your personal talents. Don t sell yourself short, and don t become dependent on others to provide answers to questions which can only be resolved by you getting off your duff and solving them for yourself.

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