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Thread: Article 12.03.06

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    Default Article 12.03.06

    Modern or Traditional?

    There lies much confusion among modern martial artists regarding the diverse training available to practitioners. Most have never actually experienced the “other side of the coin,” of true traditional training and its long-term benefits over ancillary conceptual business-first arts.

    The “Old School” American martial Artist of the fifties and sixties most likely would have landed in a traditional art in a YMCA Club, on a University Campus, or public recreation center for little money. Most would have been mature men with significantly life experience behind them ala the military, law enforcement, or hard knocks.

    Actual storefront schools were rare in both camps, and over time although the modern approach has naturally proliferated, the real traditional methods have all but disappeared and/or are difficult to identify and find.

    The approaches are driven by two diametrically opposed principles of learning the arts and sciences that cannot co-exist together. Modern Arts sometimes appear to be traditional by adding martial arts uniforms, titles, and endless martial rituals even the originators didn’t have. This too adds to the confusion of the uninformed, who mistake traditional accoutrements for traditional training.

    First, in the modern eclectic perspective, there is a required high degree of tailoring to be commercially successful. Students are given the bulk of the responsibility for the effectiveness of their training, and free interpretations of the dynamics of the study. Although there is a loose conceptual structure, the contents of the structure are loosely defined around conceptual and abstract themes. Unlike other methods, these interpretations have little or no defined physical basics, and are a conceptually driven vehicle. Stances are essentially non-existent, and although a great deal of conversation is given on the benefit of basics, few are actually defined or taught. Instead, the emphasis and focus is on the “street techniques” that form the basis for the selling of the product to customers who want to ‘defend themselves.’ Most of these customers aren’t interested in boring drills of stances, footwork, and consistent basics.

    These self-defense business schools are modeled after short duration female self-defense and rape prevention courses that began as abbreviated programs of the traditional arts taught at those same Recreation, and Community Centers.

    Usually taught in 1 day, they emphasized the rudimentary survival instinct mechanisms inherent in most people already. Things like foot stomps, groin smashes, along with eye gouges, were augmented with learning to execute knees, front kicks, backward elbows, and heel-palm strikes to the nose of an attacking male mugger. Keys placed between the fingers and loud exclamations of “no!” as a kiai were common.

    The best instructors of this perspective are usually converts of other traditional arts after many years of strict structure and defined basics they don’t pass on because of customer attrition, or time constraints. This is also, where many fraudulent practitioners begin. Many of those so-called teachers were wannabes presenting themselves as black belts or experts, teaching free as a “community service.” That practice too, is still quite common.

    These classes did not address a measured defense response, instead seeking to incapacitate an attacker quickly by maiming, blinding, or even killing the attacker. The inherent assumption in those courses, were built around a woman being attacked by a much larger and stronger male with possible deadly consequences. Therefore, a ‘measured response’ was unnecessary, and students were taught to be as vicious as they were capable of, even going so far as to kick and stomp mercilessly a downed attacker.

    This was socially acceptable because of the underlying assumption that someone’s mother, daughter, sister or wife was about to be seriously violated and/or killed. Who would object to that? This was carried over into the self-defense schools, and it is common to see ‘over-kill’ disguised as ‘over-skill.’ The reality being if you were truly highly skilled, you wouldn’t have to hit a guy 20 times, AND stick your fingers in his eyes when he is down on his back, AFTER you’ve already stomped his testicles.

    The alternative is the reality seen in the true traditional arts that says you must learn proper physical basics and be taught by a highly skilled, mature, and knowledgeable teacher. This method requires consistent, corrected, and focused learning not generally available in modern quick self-defense models. It does not allow variations based on personal preferences until such time you have mastered basic skills, and core principles of execution. Therefore, it is not generally suitable for a “karate-Lite” commercial business, but in fact can contain the information needed to make the intelligent decisions to begin the true tailoring process promoted prematurely and unsupported in the first camp.

    These are obviously major contradictions. One designed for commercial success, and supply a reasonable level of martial skills but only commensurate with the knowledge, skill, and commitment level of the teacher. The other is designed to take you to higher levels of skill and knowledge, but is initially restrictive in the learning process. Additionally, competent teachers are often difficult to find or reluctant to teach. The ‘average’ person does not have the commitment for the second, nor is it especially suitable intellectually for the children that drive the commercial market.

    Thus, many are caught in a dichotomy of philosophies. Those reared in the commercial market of the arts are often led to believe the commercial philosophy is the prevailing and best methodology, and in fact commercially, it is and it’s popularity confirms that.

    Nevertheless, the personal preferences of tailoring lead to a functional ceiling of skill and knowledge that is born and bred into its teachers, which is exacerbated through each succeeding generation of students. We all laugh at the old Chinese movies where the teacher corrects the smallest of details over, and over again. However this is actually how you must be taught if you wish to have the foundation that will allow you one day to make those tailoring decisions from a perspective of real knowledge, passed on from a real teacher.

    So actually, tailoring is good and in abundance in the traditional Chinese Arts, and that is where all the different ‘styles’ comes from. However tailoring is an old concept better left to those who know what they are doing after years of proper training under a mature knowledgeable teacher, and not some twenty-something high ranking ‘master.’

    The commercial arts in general allow everyone to do “their own thing” as long as the result seems positive and within a basic framework that allows the teachers to claim they taught you something.

    Bottom line though, you can’t have it both ways. The commercial arts, that includes all kinds of sport karate, commercial kenpo, Krav Maga, variations on JKD, and tons of other modern made up styles, is full of martial scholars who don’t have the knowledge to understand what they do. However, because of the lack of truly qualified teachers, most have no choice. It is essential under these circumstances to lower expectations of what the style you have chosen is capable of delivering, and ignore the criticism of all but the most qualified of teachers. Even then, ask for ‘physical’ verification of any idea or concepts.

    Most who are sincere and continue to train in these arts, will more likely look to other more traditional arts to fill in the holes, however this method too is flawed. Grafting various arts brings its positives and negatives. Unfortunately, it takes a knowledgeable teacher again to know which is which.

    It is no accident that modern eclectic artists either turn to more traditional arts to ‘enhance’ their training, or virtually abandon the modern approach for the comfort of strict structure. Sadly, statistically, most leave all of it for skateboarding, soccer, basketball, or girls. How could they?
    "Nothing is more dangerous than the conscientiously ignorant, or the sincerely stupid." - Martin Luther King Jr.

    "Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens." - Ed Parker Sr.

    "It's much easier to quote, than to know." - Ron Chapél


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    Default Re: Article 12.03.06

    How could you forget underwater basket weaving and matchbook origami?

    Great article, as usual, Doc!

    Dan

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    Default Re: Article 12.03.06

    Yet another thought provoking article for me to mull over.

    Thanks

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