Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is there such a thing as a complete martial art?

Kano's early Judo included distinctive striking techniques (atemi waza), and training in many weapons, as well as throws, groundwork, and revival techniques, all distilled from multiple jiu-jitsu ryu.  When Funakoshi brought Karate to Japan from Okinawa there was cross-fertilization with Judo, similarly with Ueshiba's aikido (Tomiki, I believe, was ranked 9th dan in both arts).

So judo was an evolving composite, from which specialist streams have emerged.  You can see echoes of some of this stuff in the higher judo katas, but overall there seems to have been a loss of heritage, at least in mainstream Olympic Judo, due to multiple factors, including: optimization for a particular rule-set, with victory in competition as the main goal; popularization as a national physical exercise regime suitable for dissemination through high schools; and the banning of most martial arts practice in Japan following its defeat in WWII.

Similarly, chinese boxing (kung fu) styles have evolved, combined and recombined over the centuries.

There are broader and narrower martial arts.  Training in a broader martial art as a base has much to recommend it, if you're in it for the long term.


Anonymous said...

Is there such a thing as a complete martial art? Depends on what you mean by ‘complete’: obviously no single art contains everything, not even those techniques that are the most effective in one area or range. What one can and in my view should strive for is to create a personal system that combines elements, tactics and techniques from stand-up (distance and close-in), ground and weapons in a way that clicks for you and is suited to your personality and build. Take from the arts what works for you and what you feel most comfortable with. In the end mastery in the martial arts isn’t merely copying what your teacher did and mechanical learning: martial arts should be organic and grow. I think Bruce Lee said it best: “Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.” Train, experience, learn, think, enjoy, teach and live… Let many flowers bloom.

Dan Prager said...

The trouble I have with the statement "take what works for you" is that some things take longer to learn than the others. How do I know that something that hasn't worked for me today, won't work tomorrow?

I agree that one needs to make the art one's own and a certain degree of experimentation and creativity helps one to take ownership.

Of course, if one has short-term goals, pragmatic considerations must be factored in.