Sunday, January 17, 2010

Traditional Martial Arts (TMA)

What is tradition in a martial art?

We often hear the term traditional martial art being bandied around within martial arts circles.

But what is traditional in a martial arts sense, people who practice traditional martial arts for example, shotokan don't refer to themselves as traditional, they simply refer to their art as karate or karate-do, they don't walk around saying i am traditional and practice traditional karate, or follow some tradition.

People that practice tae kwon do, jujistu, kung fu, muay thai, judo, wing chun etc etc dont walk around saying i'm traditional or practice a traditional martial art either.

So what makes a martial art traditional?

Is it the clothes worn during training, is it retaining the customs of the native country from which the martial art was derived, is it adhering to the masters training methods without change, is it keeping the master's philosophy and doctrines intact, is it putting the master or creator on a pedestal and worshiping like a demi god.

I don't think so, non of the above define traditional in a martial art.

Why you ask?

Because some or all of the above traits and practices can also be found in the so called eclectic martial arts, mixed martial arts and reality based martial arts, the reality is one set of rules and regulations is replaced with another, robbing Peter to pay Paul, Tit for Tat, six of one half a dozen of the other, well you get the picture.

Whether its freestyle, mma or rbsd, they also have a master who has a doctrine, who has a formulae who has a plan and expects certain things from his students in a certain way, it could be dress code, attitude, respect, manners etc etc. Different customs and practices to be sure but still customs and practices of another kind.

Does traditional mean not to add effective techniques into your arsenal from other martial arts? Like for example adding brazilian jujitsu to karate for the ground fighting aspect, well maybe, i will discuss this later on.

So are the so called traditional martial arts dying out in favour of the new ecletic arts like mma and rbsd systems which themselves bring new training methods, customs, doctrines, ideas, master worship, formulaes, and even the creation of styles (standard formulae for mma is brazilian jujitsu and Muay Thai) and all the other things that are suppose to be associated with the so called traditional martial arts.

In my opinion and from what I have seen in my local area traditional martial arts aren’t dying out.

Traditional styles like karate, muay thai, tae kwon do, judo, kung fu, jujitsu, aikido, pencat silat etc, still have relevance today, all of these arts are based on solid fundamental laws, principles and physics in relation to human anatomy, efficiency in movement, manipulation, co-ordination, power generation, mechanical advantage, leverage-fulcrum, focus, etc.

Traditional martial arts have evolved over a very long period of time and even though usually one person is credited with the development of a style in reality it has been a work in progress across a number of different generations, usually spanning hundreds of years.

For example Funakoshi sensei is generally credited with the karate style known as shotokan, but did he develop the whole thing from scratch? Or did he combine existing methods to form a new one? It would take more than one person and one life time to develop a complete art from scratch imo.
JuJitsu - grappling

These old masters like Funakoshi sensei, I liken to Sir Isaac Newton and his life work Principa Mathematica. At the celebration of Newton’s work in his speech he said, "If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants." Paying tribute to all the great people that have gone before him, for without their material in mathematics and physics he may not have achieved his life work.

Like Bruce Lee said unless people grow an extra arm and an extra leg there will only be one way of fighting, and the old masters even though they lived in a different time knew this very well, imo they explored every possible way a two handed and two legged creature like man can best utilize his attributes, to think less of the old masters would be naïve imo.

If we look at the Japanese arts of karate, judo, jujitsu, aikido all these methods are common to all the martial arts no matter which country they may have originated from and no matter which one came first eg. the Japanese, the Chinese, the Greeks, the Romans, the Martians.

You want to throw someone, or manipulate there joints, or tie someone up like a pretzel or sit someone on his behind from striking, then you will find these methods or derivates are employed.

Some mix the techniques and arts up and give them a new name and claim to have invented something new, but the bottom line is there are just so many ways to apply these techniques and methods, and most of these ways can be found in the traditional martial arts.

Some people say that traditional martial arts are caught in a time warp and that too much respect is shown for the old master and his ways.

What I like to say to these people is well then show me a better way to learn, train and apply a seoinage or a gyaka zuki or a kotegaeshi or a Uke Nagashi.

When you can show me better ways to learn, train and apply these techniques I will abandon the old masters ways and follow yours, but of course I'm still training in traditional martial arts and waiting on these people to show me a better way.

Then there are martial artists who say that traditional martial arts don’t evolve?

Do they need evolving well it depends what sort of evolving you’re talking about, if they provide one of the best ways to strike or throw in accordance with human anatomy what more can be done in this area? I’m not saying there perfect, there is always room for improvement but they dont need an overhaul either.

Karate - striking

Do for example the following martial arts need to evolve,

1. Judo
2. Muay Thai
3. Karate
4. Boxing
5. Aikido
6. Tai Chi
7. Wing Chun
8. Jujitsu etc, etc.

In my opinion the answer is NO, they provide certain skills that have been tried and tested over the long haul, they dont claim to have all the answers, but do claim certain qualities about them that millions of people around the world have come to know and appreciate.

Like the gentle health exercises and benefits of tai chi, or the combative throws of judo or the devasting strikes of karate or the close quarter combat of western boxing and wing chun or the joint manipulation of aikido and jujitsu.

Within all the martial arts there is evolution within the skill set they provide nothing remains static, for example judoka are always looking to refine their throws, karateka are always looking to improve their powerhouse techniques, aikidoka and jujistuka to improve their joint manipulation and grappling, just because these arts don't add techniques willy nilly from every other art in town it doesn't mean they are not in a state of evolution from within.
Aikido - joint manupulation

 From the begining there have always been certain martial artists who like to get the best of every martial art and mix it into their own system, since we are all individuals I don't have a problem with this, the annoying thing is when these very same martial artists turn around and start throwing accusations back at arts that specialise in certain areas.

When you want devasting throws and strikes judo and karate come to mind, when you want top quality grappling and manipulation aikido and jujitsu when you want close quarter combat boxing and wing chun etc etc.

So to all those who aren't content with TMA's, traditional martial arts specialise in their own area and thats what they are about, they dont claim to have all the answers like some of you do, but what they do claim they do well, since their whole focus is in the area of their expertise, be it striking, throwing or joint manipulation and grappling.

If you want to be in a constant state of evolution, metamorphous and evolve yourself and your art into whatever your heart desires, without trying to enforce your own personal views, ways and beliefs on others who dont hold the same perspective as you do.

For shotokan evolution in my opinion could be about bringing the whole art back into focus through kata and its striking and grappling methods instead of just using a small portion of shotokan as we do today we adopt the whole system as it was meant to be. I would certainely classify that as evolution.

If on the other hand you are suggesting that karate be mixed with Brazilian jujitsu, or that judoka incorporate boxing strikes into their Randori, or that muay thai matches also use western wrestling in the ring, then i don’t see this as a progression or an evolution of the traditional martial art in question but rather a dilution.

Traditional martials arts have substance and when something has substance in my opinion whether it’s in fad or not, it will not fade away.

Traditional martial arts are here to stay.

Judo throwing