Friday, October 16, 2009

Character development in Traditional martial arts (TMA)

Stan Schmidt sensei instructing JKA shotokan karate in South Africa Traditional Karate training builds confidence and character

The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat but in the perfection of the character of its participants - Gichin Funakoshi

The primary objective of most traditional martial arts (TMA) from the very start of their history was to blend the concepts, philosophy and traits of character development with austere physical training in the science of fighting technique to exercise both the ego and the body respectively.

This philosophy is still embedded in genuine TMA’s today, although it may take a while before you find a school that teaches your chosen martial art as the complete package.

Imo all martial arts have the potential to provide both character development and fighting technique side by side, whether a large world organisation or a one of corner store.

The genuine traditional martial arts (TMA) whether Muay Thai, Karate-do, Kung Fu, Judo etc. can all provide an environment where these traits are nurtured and encouraged provided that the organisation or school upholds these values.

I suppose the masters of old that developed TMA foresaw that setting loose cannons of into the community would not be such a great idea and would definitely be a big wrong, so imo character development and exercising the ego should also be apart of martial arts training.

Austere and genuine martial arts training should produce people of good character with morals and the ability to know right from wrong.

If training in the martial arts produces people with bad and negative attitudes towards everyone else what use are they to their community.

You don't need martial arts training to harness negative qualities, all you need is the right environment filled with negative characters starting from the top down.

Genuine martial arts training with character development should have the opposite effect on people, that is to give them a positive attitude towards all things in their life.

Giving people the ability to fight with bare hands or weapons also demands that they are mature & responsible for their actions and would not mindlessly use their fighting skills at the drop of a hat.

I think all genuine (TMA) foresaw this negative side effect and tried to counter it with character development.

There are bad apples in every basket even in TMA's I’m not saying that all TMA practitioners are angelic, you are born the person you were meant to be, but atmosphere/environment and the teachers you choose in your life can also have a big bearing on your attitude towards life.

Some great instructors in traditional martial arts, from left to right, Keith Geyer (JKA), Dolph Lundgren (Kyokushin), Stan Schmidt (JKA), Derrick Geyer (JKA)

One of the thing that sets TMA’s apart from the modern martial arts imo is traits like respect, humility, ego, character building, self control, these traits are not only dependant on the individual instructors within the organization but also the organization itself as a whole.

Generally TMA have a well established philosophy on all the above traits and how they should be nurtured, harnessed and applied in the character development of the student.

So whether you’re training in Melbourne Australia or Paris France there is a standard that is held on an international basis and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a star student or instructor or a novice white belt after a few months of training everyone starts to realize what is expected of them.

Just look at karate styles like Kyokushinkai and JKA shotokan as examples of the types of world standards that I’m talking about when it comes to fostering character development through fighting technique.

For the people that can’t handle this type of philosophy and discipline they generally dismiss it as a bunch of nonsense throwing out all sorts of reasons as to why.

Also the culture/ethos and philosophy within the organization on a world scale is what sets the standard for each and every individual instructor at their local dojo, it’s not up to the individual instructor at your local dojo to create his or her own set of standards and rules as they see fit, the standards are already in place.

There will always be individual TMA instructors who do break all the rules and don’t conform to the standard set by the organization that they are a part of, but these types while they may be around, once they are discovered don’t last too long and will be expelled.

John Will - Australian mma instructor

I’m sure there are also many mma instructors out there who stress and nurture more than just the physical side of martial arts and the discipline of turning up to training. John Will (Australian mma instructor) springs to mind as most of his articles that I have read always mention more than just the physical side of martial arts.

Discipline is a part of any long term endeavour and in my mind there is no doubt that mma athletes have discipline just like any other athlete that competes at the higher end of his or her sport, for without discipline they would not climb to the great heights that they have the potential to achieve.

This same type of discipline can be seen in Olympic athletes, footballers, basketball players, ballerinas, judoka, karateka etc etc, and even people that hold down a full time job for their entire lives etc, you get the picture, but this type of discipline on its own doesn’t advance the person's character and the human being he has the potential to be.

The way I look at it is having the discipline to go training is part of the equation but not all of it, that training itself builds character, I agree it does but you also have to have a philosophy, atmosphere and ethos-culture to go with the physical, otherwise we should just attend bar rooms with violent reputations and make them our dojo.

No genuine (TMA) instructor would want to be producing ratbag students that go out into their community and try to test their martial arts skills at the drop of a hat on some unsuspecting soul.

This is one of the big differences between genuine (TMA) training and martial arts training under some instructor and or organisation with loose scruples, who might even encourage his students to go looking for trouble.

The point I’m trying to make is that the genuine traditional martial arts (TMA's) do have an atmosphere/environment ethos-culture and philosophy that harnesses the traits of character development through martial technique.

Traditional martial arts can empower you with fighting ability and positive character development in life.