I ran into a kung-fu guy that I hadn't seen in at least a year. He's young (around 30), strong -- and I asked where he had been. He moved to Chicago a while back and he told me he had started training with a martial artist who "trains real hard" with his students. He said that as if it was something to be proud of.
How's that going, I asked. He replied that they trained so hard, he had broken his foot and fractured several ribs.
He hasn't trained in over a year.
What? I mean, WHAT?????
There is a big segment of the population now -- the ones who would have been training in kung-fu, karate and TKD schools back in the 1970's -- who now believe that the only "real" martial arts are the MMA type that beat the crap out of you.
Let me make a point that I've made many times. You don't have to hurt someone, or be hurt yourself, to learn how to be a good fighter. It's a myth fueled by youth, testosterone, and frankly, being a dumbass.
That doesn't mean there isn't a certain amount of pain you have to go through. "Eating bitter" is a Chinese saying that means that you have to endure a certain level of discomfort if you want to build skills. And it's true that you just might come away with broken bones or torn ligaments if you really go toe-to-toe with talented Tai Chi fighters or others.
But if you think being pounded makes you a man, you'd better enjoy it while you're young, because repeated abuse will take its toll. Your foot might heal now, and you might get back out on the floor and be able to perform, but in 20 years, your middle-age will be greeted by arthritis and other ailments. You pay a price when you take abuse.
A few years ago, a former student came by the school to visit. He's a big guy and he was a good fighter. We padded up and started sparring. I walked right into a punch that should have knocked me out. I've never been hit that hard in my life.
I backed up, shook my head clear, and continued sparring. When we were done, I realized why I didn't need to be hit that hard every day to realize that I can take a punch. There's no doubt that I can take a good one and keep going. It also happened in the full-contact Toughman Contest I was in at age 38.
You get hit in the head like that often, you pay a heavy price after a while.
Not to mention, when you break bones, it has a big impact on your training. The young guy I was talking to from Chicago hadn't trained in over a year. Once you take a couple of months off to heal, it can snowball.
In my classes, we feel pain occasionally -- you HAVE to when you're doing chinna and takedowns. But I keep a control over the level of contact and abuse. It doesn't do me any good as a teacher if my students are broken and can't practice. And I've had students who have successfully used their martial arts in real life.
One more time. You don't have to be hurt, or hurt someone else, to be a great fighter.