Calorie Counter

You are currently viewing the message boards in:

What is "Hard" - What is "Soft"

bwmalonebwmalone Posts: 2,072Member Member Posts: 2,072Member Member
Hey everyone,

I recently got into a great discussion with a long time BJJ practitioner on what constitutes "Hard" vs. "Soft" styles, and the relationship therein to each other - i.e. what are the key differences, and what, if any, are the crossovers between styles.

So.. from your perspective - what is the difference?

Replies

  • Dory_42Dory_42 Posts: 2,990Member Member Posts: 2,990Member Member
    I'm interested to read this discussion although I have little to add...
  • CSARdiverCSARdiver Posts: 6,187Member Member Posts: 6,187Member Member
    I believe the two styles generally refer to uses of energy - hard or internal styles (karate/kung fu) utilize your energy for defense. Soft or external styles (aikido/hapkido) utilize your opponent's energy against them.

    I've also heard of distinctions between striking linear styles to circular non-striking redirecting styles.

    Most teaching lines are becoming increasingly hybridized so the traditional lines are becoming increasingly blurred or non-existent.
  • Matt200goalMatt200goal Posts: 481Member Member Posts: 481Member Member
    Certainly way more complicated I'm sure, but

    Hard - meeting force with a greater counter force to overcome opponent

    Soft - redirecting opponent's force to attack from a different direction

    And the two can certainly be blended with a single style/system. Yin & Yang, if you will...
  • bwmalonebwmalone Posts: 2,072Member Member Posts: 2,072Member Member
    Thanks for the input! I think both above answers definitely touch on the subject.

    Taking the supposition that all martial arts have a primary goal of being "Martial" - or pertaining to defense of oneself in combat, then the hard/soft question is mostly expressed as "How do I achieve my goals in a fight?"

    For hard styles, I see it as a philosophy of "Direct action against one's opponent. Meet force with (superior) force. Strike hard, strike fast, until the threat is neutralized." - Linear technique and is a means to achieve this, but is not the only way. Circular technique can allow for greater mass involvement from the body (simple example - spin back fist.. the whole body turns into a rotational mass for increased mass and power behind the technique). Most striking arts fall into this category (MT, TKD, Karate, Kung Fu, etc)

    For soft styles, I see it as a philosophy of "Let your opponent do the hard work of moving. Use their momentum against them by redirecting it into a more useful direction/goal. " - This translates to redirection, minimal movement, relaxation through technique, circular movement, use of leverage against the opponent, preservation of momentum. Sensitivity to directional force is important, as is balance and control to achieving one's own sense of balance, and disrupting the opponents. Linear and striking technique has it's moments within the "soft" styles as well. An example being a BJJ practitioner who uses strikes/punches to create an opening for a takedown. Examples of this category: Judo, Jiu Jitsu (Japanese and Brazillian), Thai Chi.

    I am not trying to differentiate between "Internal" and "External" martial arts, which I feel is a much more challenging discussion - and one that I'm frankly ill prepared for, as I don't know nearly enough about internal martial arts to contrast and compare.

  • Matt200goalMatt200goal Posts: 481Member Member Posts: 481Member Member
    @bwmalone - I like your much more articulate expression than my brief thoughts.

    Noted that I'm a relative noob in a school/lineage that trains BJJ as a "complete fighting system" (striking, takedowns, grappling, "defense against surprise attacks"***, and an over-arching philosophy).

    ***the whole "street vs. sport" debate in some BJJ interwebz - which could be a thread unto itself, I find both fascinating and somewhat silly. But 100% agree that adding striking to grappling/TD, or conversely adding grappling/TD to striking does change the "game."
  • ttippie2000ttippie2000 Posts: 456Member, Premium Member Posts: 456Member, Premium Member
    Hard: 1. Training method which uses force vs force as a strategy and training method. Examples include Shotokan Karate. 2. A training method placing value a simple plan of attack, a small set of tools drilled to mastery and the use of muscle tension, including the recruitment of additional muscles beyond what are needed to perform a task.

    See also: Hardening. Transforming a part of the practitioner’s body into a durable weapon capable of smashing bones through a program of sustained microtrauma. An example would be to pound one’s fist on a log, telephone pole (etc) creating microfractures in your striking surface (such as hands, shins, forearms). Your body compensates by adding calcium deposits that will lead to increased bone density and mass in the effected area. Note: This produces early onset rheumatoid arthritis when practiced on joints, such as those found in your hand.

    Soft: Training method which uses fighting strategies and/or training methods not based on force vs force. Redirection, yielding, avoiding and opponent’s force is emphasized. A soft style practitioner might spend time doing drills at a moderate speed to recognize and systematically shorten the response time to a tactile stimulus.

    What hard/soft doesn’t indicate: How hard you work, how much or how little you think, how well you fight, what kind of shape you are in.

    My own opinion, after 40 years in the martial arts, is that the hard/soft distinction is neither useful nor enlightening. Good fighters have elements that are both and sometimes neither. Consider the old Thai adage that translates to, “Be hard like diamond and soft like silk,” which is a poetic way or saying, “It’s complicated.” They harden their shins by kicking heavy bags many times (like >500 times per day). Hard style, right? Yet their footwork is beautifully relaxed. Their hitting mechanics are relaxed so they can hit with speed and power, and they learn to tighten up for the instant in which contact is made. And in the inside clinch game in which they seek to use their knees to break your ribs and collapse your lung, relaxation is highly valued, just like in judo. In the clinch, a guy who is tense up top is easy to sweep. A guy who is tense on the bottom is immobile and slow. And a guy who is tense all over is a target that will soon tire himself out.

    Western boxers, aren’t really either hard or soft either. In fact, if you asked at a lot of boxing gyms they would laugh at you and tell you, “Just shut up and put your @#$% on.” They specifically avoid damaging their hands by wrapping them, so soft style, right? Not really. Western boxers employ different styles, some based on evasion and mobility (such as Mohammed Ali) while others seek to work their way inside and put pressure on their opponent with a series of powerful body shots delivered at close range (Roberto Duran, Marvin Haggler, Mike Tyson, etc.) Then again you have some fighters who do both (Pacciao) and can switch strategies to frustrate and confound an opponent (Sugar Ray Leonard).

    Judo might be thought of as a soft style, but in Judo the hard/soft thing changes as people age. As a young competitor you start out using a ton of power and explosive force because that’s what young people excel at. As you age, however, you can’t take the falls as well because your bones aren’t as flexible. In addition, by the time you’re in your 30s and 40s you have your technique down so you can have what they call the ‘lever’, which is the ability to throw an opponent with minimal force. By the time you’re in your 50s you have to relearn your game because you are no longer so quick or so strong, but if you stay in the game that long you will have your technique and sensitivity (contact reflexes) down cold. As you get into your 60s and 70s your greatest opponent will be age itself. You practice because without it you will quickly grow old. But you have so much experience at that age that you can make everything look easy as if it is magic. And that’s actually the big secret. There is no magic. Only work, and perseverance and discipline.
  • bwmalonebwmalone Posts: 2,072Member Member Posts: 2,072Member Member
    @ttippie2000

    Thank you for the great input, sir!
    What hard/soft doesn’t indicate: How hard you work, how much or how little you think, how well you fight, what kind of shape you are in.
    Of course - your are 100% correct!
    My own opinion, after 40 years in the martial arts, is that the hard/soft distinction is neither useful nor enlightening.
    Respectfully, sir, I disagree - for two reasons:

    1 - It is important as a student, to understand the base philosophy of the art you are learning... And I dare say that all martial arts that I have encountered have a base philosophy. To discount it is to reduce the fundamental principals in which the movements were created. Sure, labels like "Hard" and "Soft" are just that.. meaningless labels that barely (if that) scratch the surface of the "method behind the movement" - However...

    This leads me to my 2nd reason.

    2 - They lead to discussions like this, where we can exchange ideas, and have a basis for learning.

    I believe that your Judo Montage is a fantastic example of the "morphism" from hard to soft, even within what I would classify as a "soft' style. That as one advances in technique, the lines become more blurred.

    I am reminded of a Kung fu Sifu who once told me "In linear styles, advanced techniques are circular. In circular styles, advanced techniques are linear." - which to me is yet another example of how we are all climbing the same mountain.
    edited July 2017
  • Matt200goalMatt200goal Posts: 481Member Member Posts: 481Member Member


    A third reason, sounding somewhat flippant but not intended that way - it's useful when having a discussion with the layperson/buddy you're trying to get to start training with you/friend or family member that says, "You still doing that [insert style] (South American Ground Karate, in my case)? Is that anything like the [insert another style] that my niece/nephew/someone else they know does?"
    edited July 2017
  • ttippie2000ttippie2000 Posts: 456Member, Premium Member Posts: 456Member, Premium Member
    bwmalone wrote: »
    @ttippie2000

    Thank you for the great input, sir!
    What hard/soft doesn’t indicate: How hard you work, how much or how little you think, how well you fight, what kind of shape you are in.
    Of course - your are 100% correct!
    My own opinion, after 40 years in the martial arts, is that the hard/soft distinction is neither useful nor enlightening.
    Respectfully, sir, I disagree - for two reasons:

    1 - It is important as a student, to understand the base philosophy of the art you are learning... And I dare say that all martial arts that I have encountered have a base philosophy. To discount it is to reduce the fundamental principals in which the movements were created. Sure, labels like "Hard" and "Soft" are just that.. meaningless labels that barely (if that) scratch the surface of the "method behind the movement" - However...

    I had intended to share a perspective that came out of my experience, but my writing didn't make that point clearly. Your experience may differ. I did not mean to represent my experience as something that negates yours. If I did, I'm sorry. Let me take another shot at it.

    My journey started out in hard style training but ventured away from being concerned with hard/soft at all. This is probably a function of the people I studied with, which can be grouped into three categories: 1) World War II soldiers, intelligence officers and commandos, 2) professional boxers and Thai boxers, and 3) people who fought duels (in certain parts of Southeast Asia, challenges are a fact of life). They didn't lead with philosophy, they lead with experience and wisdom, and wisdom sometimes leaves a mark. This is not to say that they weren't philosophical, but the entry point is physical.

    As an example, once while Thai boxing I had a teacher ask me, "What are you thinking?"
    When I stopped to think..."Um," he immediately punched me in the face and bellowed, "Stop thinking! AND START MOVING!!"
    Then he extended his hand to help me off the ground. When I took it he jerked it hard and placed his shin bone in the back of my neck. "Always get up by yourself. Don't use your hands. Keep 'em up."

    Later after I was around for a while and had learned to hold my own, they might open the door a bit to the philosophical side. But many of them weren't literate, and some didn't speak English well at all. Some were just men of a few words. Some were hard to extract information from because they just wouldn't hold still. And with a few of them I learned to be cautious about asking questions:

    "Manong Cacoy," I inquired, "What would you do if he..."
    "Grab de stick. Attack me."
    "Ow!" I said, rubbing my head. That's gonna leave a mark.
    "Yes," he laughed as his eyes twinkled with humor. "You are learning de Christmas spirit. It is better to give than to receive."
  • bwmalonebwmalone Posts: 2,072Member Member Posts: 2,072Member Member
    @ttippie2000 No apologies requested, nor needed, sir - your experience is welcome to this discussion! Any disagreement I have is made with respect and only to counterpoint from a different perspective.

    It sounds like you have had the privelege with learning from some very unique instructors and training methods! I cannot claim anything quite so colorful as this, though I have trained with many over the years... though I can definitely relate to the language barrier!

    My favorite:- "Your blocks are much better now"!
    Me: (while rubbing the side of my head) - "Thank you, sir..?"
    GM: "Especially your Face block!"

    (took me a while to figure out that he was referring to me blocking his kick with my face... not protecting it) :smiley:
  • ttippie2000ttippie2000 Posts: 456Member, Premium Member Posts: 456Member, Premium Member
    Yeah, I hear you about the face block thing. LoL. Say, one of the hard style concepts I use is creating full body muscle tension, in particular in my supplemental sport of Powerlifting. The major lifts in powerlifting are all full body exercises and pretty technical. I have had to work at creating the right kind of muscle tension, and hard style visualization and breathing helps with that.
  • bwmalonebwmalone Posts: 2,072Member Member Posts: 2,072Member Member
    @ttippie2000 Muscle tension - oh how I love/hate that concept... Relax here, tighten there.. pulse relax pulse... full relax until impact... many concepts to master there, and sometimes very challenging to get it right, which is why I love/hate it so much.

    I hate it, because it's hard, and I'm not always good at it - that every time I think I've got it, I discover something new ... but that's what makes me love it, because it's all part of the never ending journey.
Sign In or Register to comment.