Weekly Reflections on the Traditional Martial Arts
from Hanshi Tony Annesi © 2017
My Nefarious Plan
Manny called me from Texas to order the new DVD. He mentioned that he loved the last set of DVDs (Transmutation, the Next Generation) and that he learned so much from each master class DVD, that he was now able to recognize not only his own mistakes, but also how to correct students.
“Ahhh,” I responded. “My nefarious plan is working!”
I cackled in my best sinister cackle. Then, in a less evil-wizard voice, explained.
For decades I have realized that one of my goals was to improve the martial arts so that generations after me would be more talented earlier than I had a chance to be. In the “old days” (not so old to me but to many others), there was no Internet. Not only did the arts not interact with each other, but the styles of a single art seldom interacted, except on the competition floor. I was the oddball studying three martial arts at once.
The study of one art allowed me to see things in the other arts that I might otherwise have missed. Eventually, everyone in Martial Arts Land got the idea (probably thanks to Bruce Lee). Then, the Internet opened access to arts we did not even know existed. Now nearly everyone is eclectic to some degree, even if they have practiced only one martial art for the last 50 years.
How did I plan to “improve martial arts” when people already seem to have no dearth of information available to them? It occurred to me that, although they can easily view many arts, styles, and techniques, they are not provided many instances of good explanations. So, they see Sensei Knute So Subtle doing a kata application on the Web and they imitate it, amazing their students or classmates with their marvelous analytical ability and insight into kata meaning. Unless it is rather simple and powerful, however, they cannot explain how it works nor can they troubleshoot anyone else’s inability to make it work. Notice that when they try to imitate a subtler, more minimal technique, they fail, badmouth the demonstrator on the website, and proclaim publically that it is all a hoax. If they cannot learn by imitation, obviously it's the technique’s fault.
Soke Don Angier (Yanagi-ryu Aiki-ju-jutsu) encouraged me to seek rational explanation for subtle “magical-looking” techniques. That kind of research inspired me look for easier, more elegant ways to accomplish other techniques—techniques people could already do, but could do only with speed and power. Having to use more speed and power is not getting technically better; rather, it is getting faster and stronger. It improves the result of your technique for a few years and then leaves your improvement in the same dark ditch as your understanding.
My nefarious plan wasn’t really wicked, it was just wicked subtle (to use a New Englandism). I intended to teach various seminars, commit them to video, and market them to the minority of martial artists that were ready to take the next step in their learning. I would not simply show new material, but rationally explain both old and new. Since I did not have a big federation and had not produced dozens of masters to continue my teaching, I tried to leave a record from which people could learn for decades after I was too addled to add any insight.
I didn't expect to get credit for it. In fact, I expected that the Internet addicts would buy a few DVDs, learn from them and pass the info off as their own. But in doing so, they would be benefiting martial artists, who, in the long run, would improve. Wicked, eh?
Hanshi Tony Annesi
• Advisory council, Nippon Kobudo Renmei (NKR)
• Steering Committee, International Society of Okinawan/Japanese Karate-do
• Member of 3 Martial Arts Halls of Fame
A martial artist since 1964
9th dan, Takeshin Aiki
8th dan, Takeshin Karate
6th Dan, Shotokan Karate
2nd dan, Judo
Hanshi, International Society of Okinawan/Japanese Karate-do