Cross training is becoming more and more popular. Ask many people now what style they study and they will give you their root style and then a number of styles that they dabble in. I myself have trained in a number of different arts sometimes to work on a skill that I was lacking and sometimes because my situation required me to look to a certain style in order to continue training.
Cross training is sometimes seen as a newer idea that became popular after the advent of the UFC and other similar cage fighting events. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Take a look at the old masters’ martial resumes and you will see that many if not all have a number of styles in their past all of which contributed to the particular master’s system. This is especially clear in the Chinese styles, every master or teacher that I have ever met that studies a Chinese style has trained in some other styles. It is far from being a new concept in fact it is probably mainly due to the sporting aspects of modern day martial arts that have made people specialise and become exclusive, i.e. learning judo throws won’t help you win a taekwondo match.
To become a complete and well-rounded martial artist cross training is essential as no style, even those claiming to have taken the strongest techniques from traditional martial arts, has all the answers. Cross training is not as simple as joining every club in your area and training every night of the week however. To get the most out of your time and training it must be approaching with some thought and planning.
In my opinion there is a way to approach cross training that makes it an effective practice.
Before you begin cross training I think you should have a root art that you have spent some time in and gain a reasonable level in. the reason for this is many arts will give conflicting advice about small technical differences. Without a foundation you may be without the ability to assess different ways of doing things and choose which works best for you. In that way know a number of different ways of doing a side kick could be detrimental to your training.
Ask yourself why you are cross training. Are you looking to develop some skills that are either absent or not focused on in your current style? In which case do some research as to what styles would offer what you are looking for and what is available in your area. if you are just looking for something different or you feel that your current style isn’t working for you then it might be time to fully assess what you are getting out of your current training.
When you start cross training it is important that you go with an open mind. Every style has its own way of doing things and there might be some cross over in to what you currently do. It is best not to start over pedantic style arguments over small differences. Equally you shouldn’t completely change over to your new system just because it is new and novel. Every style has developed a standard way of doing things. It is up to you as the cross trainer to assess the difference and make up your own mind as to what works better for you.
You also need to find a way to organise and practice the techniques you are learning. Some way that makes sense to you, and helps you put the techniques together. If you study TKD and judo for example you would want to spend time blending the techniques of both. If you have nothing that connects the different pieces of what you train, then you run the risk of having a selection of techniques learnt from different arts with to bring them together in a workable way. i.e. you would either be doing TKD or Judo but never both together. A selection of techniques with no connection leads to a broken up art and makes things easy to forget.
The way that I organise the information that I receive from my teachers is the TKD patterns. Within the patterns I can fit techniques from as varied arts as aikido and krav maga. I can then lead from the techniques contianed in the patterns into training drills. This means that I remember more and have a way of recording the different principles and drills that I have been exposed to. Through this you can add skills and techniques to your base art in a good systematic way and help get the most out of your cross training.