Ive been thinking about traditional martial arts (TMA) compared to more modern systems for a while now and a thread on a forum today has sparked the matter for me. Like many older or less young martial artists and self protection practitioners, I trod my first steps on this pathway by joining a traditional martial art. It was a long process where I began at the back of the class in tracksuit pants and a t-shirt and gradually worked my way through the formation and ranks of the class up to the front where I was often the senior student there of about 40 students.
I still remember my first night there where the assistant instructor took me to the rear of the class and taught me how to make a fist, what knuckles to hit with and that my wrist and fist should be in line which makes it stronger to strike with. I loved it! I was learning how to defend myself!
When I first turned up, I had absolutely no idea and that realisation is what prompted me to join up as there were numerous school fights happening at the time and I didn't want to get caught up in one and lose. The loser of these school yard fights lost stature and sometimes friends where the winner was swarmed with new friends. I wanted to be the winner! As it turns out, I never did have to draw on my new amazing super fighting skills.
Way of the Warrior
It was a long gradual process during which I read books such as The Book of Five Rings, Hagakure, The Art of War, and The Unfettered Mind. These books were quite an influence on me and directly contributed to my outlook on the martial arts broadening and my behaviour gradually changing. I tried to emulate the people I read about and tried to develop myself into a 'warrior'.
I guess the youngish age contributed to me seriously aspiring to such heighty ideals. Although those goals were indeed large, it certainly kept me out of trouble where many of my friends were getting mixed up in illegal activities and getting caught. I really wanted to be good and DO good. The lessons coming out of those books meant a lot to me.
Change of Outlook
Today, my study of the martial arts is very different to what it was. I no longer practise a traditional martial art (TMA). As previous posts explain, I study systems which fundamentally develop ones ability to APPLY their techniques on a resisting opponent such as bjj, boxing and general MMA type systems as well as similarly structured weapons systems. I do this because fundamentally, the practise of martial arts aims to teach skills which give one the ability to successfully defend and counter any physical attack that may come their way. The systems I practise today focus on doing that for todays threat.
Different Threat Today
The threat we face on the streets today are very different than the threat faced in south east Asia hundreds or thousands of years ago which is what TMA were developed for and is still today, essentially, the focus of these systems. TMA is basically formal military training for a thousand year old battle field complete with formations, weapons of the era (swords, nunchuka, Sai etc.), uniforms, ranks and compliments to senior ranks (bowing).
Today, the threat doesn't attack with the above weapons or on horseback which is what flying kicks were developed for.
The Urban Threat
The threat today has had too much alcohol, uses violence and the shock of violence to his advantage, uses superior numbers, takes belongings at knife point, lurks in the dark in urban areas, carjacks, breaks into homes and in the extreme actively tries to kill other people for no real reason.
This list is not exhaustive. It is a very different threat environment to what the warriors faced in the past. We need to study systems that are geared up for todays threat.
A Journey along MMA?
However, the scene surrounding some of the modern systems can appear quite unsavoury. A famous world champion boxer biting the ear off his opponent in the ring, MMA fighters puffing up their ego in pre fight slagging matches and general character traits not becoming a warrior that is espoused in the classics. Does this have to always be the case? Can systems like MMA be practised for their physical benefits and still facilitate the development of the mental and spiritual journey? Do fighters only practise boxing and MMA etc. with the hope to compete, become champions and seek glory and fame? Are there people out there who train in these systems and others because they ARE so effective then go home and read Musashi?
Best of both Worlds
I feel that the more effective, proven, high percentage systems of bjj, thai boxing, wrestling, boxing, dogbrothers, kickboxing and judo can offer a lot to the serious TMA practitioner if only they can look past the bad light that is sometimes shone onto these systems and look deeper at the fundamental true beauty of them. There is a lot to learn and studying these systems doesn't mean you have to give up your beliefs and become a hot headed fighter. Some of the most polite, respectful people Ive met have been MMA practitioners and the study of these modern systems involves a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication which is quite a spiritual journey to undertake in and of itself.
Its my belief (and not just me), that the study of the classics, some of these listed above, combined with hard, effective training is actually a pinacle in the history of hand to hand or low tech combat and the way of life that follows. For the first time in history, the worlds martial arts are being tested against each other and they are mutating and combining where today, there have evolved certain systems which are 'specialists' in certain areas.
It is not just the martial arts that are changing. The self defence industry is evolving as well. We have self defence systems such as ISR Matrix, Red Zone and S.T.A.B. knife defence that use the latest training methods to quickly allow for them to train students up to a good standard very quickly. ISR Matrix even integrate the legal use of force in their progressive responses to the threats actions.
When these different specialists are combined they form extremely formidable systems which is contributing to a true renaissance in the combative arts today.
It is a great time to be alive to witness it. Dont deny it, embrace it.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.