I will let you know right up front that this is where my heart lies. Traditional Martial Arts holds a place near and dear to my heart. You now know where I stand on this matter. I assure you, I will do an objective job of explaining both pros and cons of martial arts. Let’s jump right in shall we?
In Mike Tyson v Bruce Lee: Fighting Systems, we talked about, and broke down, what fighting systems are. Here we do the same with martial arts, but I am talking about real martial arts. Those that have been around for some time and have been battle proven. Let’s look at the words individually; Martial: Relating to fighting or war – Oxford English Dictionary. Before we move on to art, let’s stay on martial for just a second. Consider the origin of martial arts. They were birthed from war. Professional warriors used these arts in combat, routinely. You are thinking, yeah right, I never saw anybody performing those fancy dance moves in combat. OK, so, those fancy dance moves are called kata; and your are right; kata are not performed in combat. However, each one has a purpose, but that is another article. Suffice it to say here, katas help the training process and memorization of skills. Trust me when I say the good systems have some very lethal knowledge.
Art as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: A skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice. That is the fourth definition provided, and the one I like the most as it fits the context. Arts are free flowing and malleable, allowing you to express your ideas and thoughts. When we combine the two words into Martial Arts we get this definition: A system of knowledge and way of life applied during combat and peace where violence and peace are reconciled. I could not find a definition I liked in any way, so I created that one just now; I am open to input where the definition is concerned by the way.
What martial arts are: A way of life. A martial artist is not one who practices battle, but one who practices peace. At times, violence is necessary in order to maintain peace. If you wish to get into martial arts in an effort to become a fighter, I suggest you look elsewhere. Will you become proficient in combative skills, if the system is a good one? Yes. But it will come after years and years of dedicated practice and study, not a couple weeks, or months. Martial arts will change your body and mind over time; becoming more flexible, stronger, having more control over your body as well as mental fortitude & resiliency, patience, and clarity are all components of what comes with the martial artist life.
What it is not: A fighting system. If you want to jump in and learn to fight, find a good boxing gym. Can you study both? Absolutely! I have for years, and you can too. Fighting systems and martial arts balance each other out. Fighting systems are the quick combat training, and martial arts are the long term investment, but both supplement and support the other, they do not replace the other. Do not go to a martial arts unless you are looking to start a new lifestyle. If you only plan on studying for a few months or to achieve a short goal, don’t bother. This logic equates to going to medical school and dropping out halfway through, so you can say you went to medical school; you and I both know that is dishonesty in the highest order, to you and to everyone else.
I want to cut the conversation a little short and take a minute to warn you about a popular trend. I have personally seen more guys than I care to admit teaching “Martial Arts”. Be wary of “Gary’s Martial Art System”… If Gary is not teaching a traditional martial art (or fighting system) with a proven track record and reputation he may just be after your money. Gary is fictional but the point is not. I have seen a lot of guys teaching stuff that is dangerous; this goes for fighting systems too. The majority of these guys are just after your money, they know how to work it so you keep coming back, and feel accomplished, until it comes times to truly test you skills. I do not blame you, you don’t know what you don’t know, and besides, these guys are more con-artists than martial artists. This is why I suggest you do homework. Find out what they are teaching and research it. Now a quick note here. I encounter new systems that are of quality, and are worth looking into often. New systems can be good if they are well designed and put together. Just don’t be taken advantage of, I don’t want that for you.
Look, martial arts are awesome, but they are not everything. They are a piece to a larger puzzle. If you read nothing else, read this: There is no singular system! Stay away from anyone who tells you otherwise! I have a black belt in Shaolin Do, it is comprehensive in comparison to some others, but it is not everything. There are many ways I regularly supplement my knowledge with other martial arts and fighting systems. Find something that works for you and give it everything you have! I leave you with this saying, sadly the author is unknown, however, the wisdom is profound. A student said to his master: you teach me fighting but speak of peace, how to do you reconcile the two? The master answered: It is better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in war…
What can we learn?
- Ancient martial arts were born out of combat and proven there too. Lousy ones didn’t survive the test of time. Those that used the lousy systems did not survive the combat to pass it on.
- Being a martial artist is a way of life, not a title
- Martial arts are not a short cut to fighting
- Before you commit to a martial art, please, please! do some homework. There are too many good masters and martial arts out there to get caught up in a con.
- There is no completely comprehensive system; in the words of Bruce Lee: Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own