Sunday, January 17, 2010

Culture in the martial arts

respecting each other

Every martial art whether Western or Asian along with its fighting strategy and techniques brings to the fore the culture of the nation from which it originated.

In karate and other Japanese martial arts we have the attributes associated with Japanese culture we dress in a gi and obi and we bow and say oss at the appropriate times, we have mokso to clear the mind of all the day’s activities as we prepare ourselves to train in the art of karate-do etc.

In muay thai we have the Wai Kru Ram Muay ceremony performed by the fighters in the ring before for the fight begins, this dance ceremony allows the fighters to pay respect to their trainers and opponents.

The fighters perform the Ram Muay ceremony wearing the mong kon on their heads, this signifies mastery of the art much like an obi in karate, and they also wear arm bands on their biceps called Prajead in the hope that this will ward of danger and evil spirits.

Wai Kru Ram Muay

In most Chinese kung fu kwoon's  there is the very famous salute-greeting of the left hand palm on the right hand fist (similar to first move of kata jion) representing masculinity.

In traditional wing chun kung fu the role of the hands is reversed representing femininity, wing chun being founded by a woman, and so on and so forth in most traditional martial arts you will find traits like courtesy, respect and honor.

Generally the martial arts have respect and etiquette built into their system and most martial arts have the general philosophy of being a self defence system that is they do not teach you how to fight so you can then go out into the general community to recklessly pick on unsuspecting victims.

With power comes responsibility, the masters and founders of most traditional martial arts in my opinion recognized that teaching fighting skills to individuals could back fire and they could be setting loose cannons into the community to reek havoc as they pleased.

This is why so many traditional martial arts have at the fore things like character building and self defence, even the old bare knuckle boxing coaches talk about self defence and being a gentlemen in society, only ever using your skills in the manly art for self defence situations.

So how do the traditional martial arts convey all these non fighting qualities in their system, well it’s through the culture of the country of origin.

In Asia bowing is like shaking hands in the West, it doesn’t mean that you become subservient if you bow.

I myself like the idea of experiencing new cultures and ideas, I certainly don’t mind experiencing and being apart of the Japanese culture during my training and certainly find that it’s a way of escaping the dreadlocks of daily life.

I have also met people in person and have read articles from very well known authors that are totally against retaining the culture that is found within any and all martial arts, their argument being that we are not Japanese, Chinese Filipino or whatever else.

How sad for this lot who are quite comfortable in their daily rut and if the world past them by they wouldn’t even blink.

The world is full of amazing people and cultures that are all worth exploring, after all isn't exploring customs and traditions of other nations one of the spices of life.

Kung fu salute