When to Create Your Own Style, Part III

Blind Wrestler Mike Spriggs

Even if you don’t go out and create your own style with a different name, in one way or another you must adapt the style to make it fit you. When I was training in Yaw Yan in Cebu City one of the instructors told me I wasn’t kicking high enough. Well, regardless of my misgivings about the practicality of high kicks, I was in my 40’s, and not nearly as flexible as I was in my teens. I either had to adapt to lower kicks or find a different system.

Bill “Superfoot” Wallace had to adapt his system when he injured his leg. His unique style was born out of necessity, because he couldn’t support himself on his injured leg.

Bill “Superfoot” Wallace

When I was wrestling my coach told us of blind wrestlers. He warned us not to take them for granted, because there were some very good blind wrestlers. If you think about it, wrestling is one of the few sports or martial arts in which a blind person can be competitive. This is another example of adapting your style to your physical attributes.

Another factor is that certain techniques will simply “click” for an individual. Here I am not talking about someone who tries something once, finds it hard, and then gives up. Two people with similar experience and training will not be equally proficient at the same techniques. Rather than kick yourself over the techniques you don’t perform very well, recognize those techniques that you do well, and embrace those as the core of your particular style (even if you never open up your own school).

One’s interests and experiences also come into play. When Larry Hartsell started training with Bruce Lee, Hartsell was already a black belt in judo, with extensive grappling experience. What was he supposed to do, forget that experience completely and devote himself entirely to punching, kicking, and trapping? Of course not, and Bruce Lee encouraged him to develop and integrate his grappling skills.

Hartsell also had police and military experience, which also influenced his interests in training.

Going back to my baseball analogy, pitchers spend little time practicing their batting. It’s not because they can’t, but because they are better off prioritizing their practice time. Pitching is a more valuable skill for them. Likewise, I could learn the whip and add that to Big Stick Combat. But not only does the whip not fit into Big Stick Combat, but whip training would take away time that would be better spent working on those skills that are aligned with the Big Stick Combat system.

When I trained in Tapado, my interests were in the big stick. While many of the Tapado practitioners worked on farms where the short staff was the best choice of weapons, the 47 inch short staff wasn’t really practical for me.

The Maranga Clan

When I trained in Combat Eskrima Maranga, a close range Balintawak style, I was primarily interested in the big stick.

To the extent that I came up with my own system, it wasn’t so much a matter of me going off into the forest and coming up with my own system from scratch, but adapting what I was taught to my area of interest, the 36 inch stick. It wasn’t a matter of me doing my own thing, but of fully absorbing the lessons my teachers taught me.

A few questions:

What are my interests?: Japanese arts? Western arts? Submission techniques? Knife techniques?

What is my reality?: City dweller? Live in the country? Police or military? Bouncer in a bar or school teacher?

What are my physical strengths and limitations?


One Response to “When to Create Your Own Style, Part III”

  1. […] have written how Sifu Hartsell adapted Jeet Kune Do to both his physique and his skill set. I used to have Sifu Hartsell’s excellent book, “Jeet Kune Do: Entering to Trapping to […]

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