This thread could really apply to a number of arts but I'm specifically posting this question to the FMA community and weapons practitioners to add a little diversity to the MA discussion here and give the FMA forum some traffic.
If you train a style that is a single weapon system, when do you train the off hand? For example, my FMA system is single stick based and the right hand is used to wield the weapon. I'm a lefty but when I started Balintawak I trained my right hand to become proficient with the baston. In the art we use the left (non weapon hand) to control the opponent and his weapon so it's not like the off hand is doing nothing. I've always done a little work with the left hand when training by myself mainly to switch things up a bit and to give my right arm a rest but keep my body moving. The same goes for class occasionally we'll do some left hand work but we are all at advanced levels in the art.
In my opinion i'd recommend a new student become proficient with one side before training the off side. What do you guys do/think? Train the off hand from the start or wait until you reached a higher level?
This also can apply to other arts like BJJ or Judo. In BJJ we train a new move on the right side. When pairing up to practice the move some guys want to work both sides equally and others focus on one side. Our teacher seems to advocate getting good at doing the move on one side rather than be mediocre at both. Input on this topic is welcome from all MA practitioners but I'm especially interested in weapons artists.
At Aikido class, we have always trained equally on both sides. Everything is done alternating once right hand, then left.
Since instructing more than training, this has reduced for me, as I most often show everything on my right side as it has to be half decent for those watching. That said, when called to do stuff on my left there isn't a notable quality difference. How much of that is transferred from right hand practice and how much is just the years of doing both in the past is anyones guess.
At our FMA (Kali) class, any single weapon work is done right handed. We are a small class and have no lefties, so I don't know if this is deliberate or we have defaulted to it.
Any off hand work is treated as a novelty. We'll do it during free practice sessions. Occasionally, If we've had a flat night covering loads of basics, we'll actually do it in normal class, but again just to wake people up a bit. There doesn't appear to be any plan to get people in any way proficient with the off hand.
We train offside single weapons maybe 75% as much as our strong hand, it is something Ama-Guro is very focused on, he is also as keen to point out our left hands (or right for the more sinister amongst us) suck!
I've been trying to train my left hand as much as my right hand with stick patterns. I do this so that I will hopefully be a proficient with the left hand as the right. But my training is very limited to basics, so I'm in a different league.
With grappling I believe in doing one side as much as the other side. You never know when a submission opporatunity will present itself and you want the muscle memory to be there regardless of the side you are on. I noticed at one point that my arm bars on the left were shitty. That was when I started training equally.
On the flip side, when doing kickboxing, I only train with the left foot forward. I never switch stances. Even when sparring if I end up in a left handed stance, it is very easy to switch back to normal stance instantly, so I never saw the point.
I've talked with a lot of Tai Chi players who are on both sides of the coin. I personally only do the form in one direction, but some people believe that it HAS to be practiced on both sides otherwise you are not going to get a full grasp of the form. But in the Tai Chi form I do(Chen Pan Ling 99) both sides are built into the form for a bunch of the moves.
In my style, the off hand is used to check, pass, reinforce etc, and training with the left as the weapon hand is somewhat common and introduced in the first 6 months of training. It's not done nearly as much as the right side though. We tend to do basic single stick grips and vary it up where one person has a left hand grip (underside), or where both people have an underside grip. We may also vary it up by changing the grip to a center grip (bayo) or reverse grip (baliktad). The idea is to have a good understanding of attack and defense from either hand in any grip, against the same. Basically we work on this by doing the same basic drills with the hand and grip choice changing.
Training the off side can also help in training new lines on the on side i.e. line familiarisation for strikes from the closed chamber instead of the open chamber.
I know that's confusing so the following video may help clear up what I mean (no need to watch the whole thing, just skip to the relevant parts):
0:00 single stick patterns on good side
(1:00 looking at each pattern a little closer on good side)
6:30 looking at same patterns on bad side
9:30 using the bad side to guide the closed chamber pattern on the good side
11:10 closed chamber patterns on good side
(12:45 closed chamber patterns on bad side)
(14:00 sinawali for some unremembered reason)
So doing the off side helped with learning some new strikes on the on side.
PS lol at the horrible form, especially the weak-ass first strikes in the arcos/twirls/doblos
PPS 11:35 is probably the funniest part
Under my original instructor, Datu Manny Nitullama, we learned everything weak side first. We weren't allowed to switch to strong side training for a particular technique until we had it down on our weak side. I still think that's why I'm comfortable switching to lefty when fighting at the Gatherings. You'll also find your transition to strong side is much easier and you'll pick it up very quickly after having learned it weak side.
Of course, in Dog Brothers Martial Arts, there is a very heavy emphasis on bilateral ability. In the first tape series, Top Dog was very emphatic that if your weak side is not up to par, take a week (I think a month would be even better) and just train weak side. At the very least, it will do wonders for your double stick game.
I will admit that from about 2001-2003, I did get very lazy and rarely trained weak side. But that corrected itself when I needed shoulder surgery in '03, and could only train lefty for about 3-4 months. In fact, my first Gathering after that surgery, I started all my fights lefty and didn't get crushed.
I heartily recommend training off-side ("complementary side" in Dog Brothers terminology) at least as much as strong side ("dominant side").
As with most things, this is just my $0.02.
As mentioned i'm a lefty. When I started FMA I trained my right hand. When we occasionally do left handed stuff in class naturally i'm much more comfortable than others, but i'm still awkward with the left hand. Lately i've been doing a lot of striking on tires and the "BOB" my grip with the left hand feels much stronger but my speed and coordination of strikes still need to catch up to the right side.
My teacher's son is actually left handed but he does at least as much work with his left hand. Unlike most people, when he switches hands to the left hand he's actually even better.
My philosophy has always been to teach someone to be proficient at one side first, then develop the other. If your goal is to be able to utilize what you are learning (in self-defense or a competition) working both sides equally means it takes that much longer to get good enough with one side to use it, especially with the off-hand slowing the process down (if you use progress, and not equal time with both sides, as how to devise your training).
Now, once basic proficiency is established, you should definitely train both sides. It may not be as good as your dominant side, but it should be decent. That, however, is a skill that is useful when dealing with more difficult opposition where you may need (or be forced) to use your off-side. Worry about that once your dominant side no longer sucks.
^What SifuJason said pretty much sums up my thoughts on training the off side. I'll note that SifuJason just said train one side first to become proficient than focus on the other side. I also like what Poidog said about training the weak side first then train the strong side later. In Balintawak the core of the art is the counter to counter drill which is done single stick with the right hand because most people are right handed. Since I am left handed I was forced to train my weak side(right) first, as a result I found it rather easy to switch to my left. We play around doing the drill left handed and left vs right handed ect. but a lot of it has to be modified if players are using different hands, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
We train everything both left- and right-handed, starting any drill with our non-dominant (or as Crafty Dog calls it, "complimentary") hand, and then the dominant.
Not only does it help when it comes to wielding two weapons, but if our goal is to be able to use both hands intelligently and independently, then they each have to take turns leading.
And I really like the idea of using the complimentary/non-dominant hand first. If you're a righty, and you learn a drill right-handed, you will of course suck when you switch. However, if you start the drill as a lefty, and then switch, you'll feel like a rock star at the continued improvement in performance.
I find that with two sticks, I tend to use a different guard/game depending on which is leading. With a right lead, I like to have a chambered stance or modified boxing style stance, but with the left lead, I like a right overhead cover with the left one held across ready to witik. I think this has to do with my comfort level with my right vs left hand. The strategies and angles I use in either lead are still somewhat right-side dominant either way (right lead with conventional shuffles, left lead stepping through counters after defending with the right roof).
We work on using dominant side and offside.
I've been trying to focus on the off side more, just to see where I stand, and I notice that with my left hand, I am significantly slower than the right hand. Also when defending against incoming strikes I am slower when I have the left hand forward. This is kind of funny, because that is actually my boxing stance which I only use in boxing! I think the issue is that I am doing more thinking when my left hand is forward because I'm not as comfortable with it.
I find that with two sticks, I tend to use a different guard/game depending on which is leading.
Yes, me too - funny, eh?
I don't think I could list what I do differently left- vs. right-lead, but there are differences, all the way down to footwork.