Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hero of the Month: Dan Djurdjevic

My hero this month (this is actually for January, as that's when I started writing the post) is a man I've never met and whose name I can't pronounce.  I know him only through his blog (and a single e-mail exchange of little consequence).

Mr. Djurdjevic writes a blog about karate, karate technique, and its relationship to the internal arts (which he also studies).  His blog is in a way the total opposite, or complement, to mine - it's about technique, fighting strategy, and martial arts lineages, while spending very little time on supplementary conditioning or workout tips (I don't mean to imply that he'd endorse my training methods, just that the focus of his blog is completely different from mine).

First of all, Dan's a pretty good guy, at least as far as I can tell from reading a lot of his writings.  He disagrees with a lot of people but always does so respectfully and politely.  In the one communication we shared he was very polite.  None of that makes him my hero, of course - there are plenty of nice people in the world.

Mr. Djurdjevic is my hero because he exhibits a few particular traits in his writing that I find both admirable and personally valuable.  In no particular order:

Mr. Djurdjevic is completely willing to challenge martial arts orthodoxy.  His take on hip use in kata, the meanings of various techniques, and sparring in karate are all very different from most karateka today, even very many high ranking and prominent presences.  He is polite and always thoroughly explains his disagreements, justifying his positions thoroughly.

Mr. Djurdjevic manages to analyse the internal martial arts - specifically xingyi and taiji - in a way that is completely un-mystical.  He contrasts those arts with karate based on patterns of footwork (things like which foot tends to land during strikes) and the timing of momentum shifts.  No references to supernatural powers or extrasensory perception.  He does so in a way that intrigues me, and I'm hugely skeptical of the internal arts, or at least I was.

Mr. Djurdjevic is very careful and consistent to place his analysis and writings in a very clear context.  He writes about karate as a system of civilian self defense - and he consistently writes that he's using that context.  He's not discussing cage fighting, prison guard tactics, or special forces training.  As such his criticisms are super clear and to the point - he'll often specifically mention the ways that boxing or ring fighting techniques differ from traditional karate but keep the criticism in context - a boxing technique might be appropriate for a rule-bound contest where people wear gloves in a way that it isn't for a civilian self defense scenario.

You may not agree with everything written in his blog, but I guarantee that reading through it and thinking about all of it will at the very least improve your understanding of your own karate.  I can't recommend the blog, the results of Mr. Djurdjevic's complex and contextually aware thinking about karate, highly enough.

I was going to put links to several of his posts in here, but I'd rather you just troll through his archives and see for yourself what treasures await.


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