Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Vested Interest in the Status Quo?

This post from yesterday on MMA hostility toward Karate/TKD) raised a question: why would anyone be hostile to another art or trend in the martial arts? In other words, as the first commenter said, "who cares?" If I were an MMA competitor and a Capoeira student hit me with a somersault-roundoff-360-degree-inverted-snap-kick (before I choked him into unconsciousness), I'd want to know how he did it, and whether I could surprise someone with it. Conversely, as a student, and instructor of a number of "traditional" systems, I'd want to know what else is out there so I could use or counter it, integrating that knowledge into my portfolio. Who cares where the technique or tactic came from??? Only those with a vested interest in keeping the mythology of a single style being the best, or that they are the toughest or best instructor in the world will care, but not serious student of the martial arts. Don't most MMA fighters use Muay Thai and boxing technique for striking, and wrestling/BJJ for grappling and groundfighting?

The martial arts have experienced have experience many fads and trends. I look upon a fad as something like the Ninjutsu craze of the late 80s as a fad. How often do you hear a serious (adult) martial arts instructor or student talk about it? I remember how many students I got into my schools as a result of those turtles! That's not to denigrate Ninjutsu or anything about the system (for I know little about it), because it seems to have run its course, and now only those who are really seeking after that esoteric knowledge are training in it. The Power Ranger are also a fad - they are still around, but not at the same level of popularity that they were before. The Kung Fu craze of the 70s was much the same. I remember my brother and I debating whose butt Bruce Lee could kick and not kick, and hitting ourselves in the head with "chucks." Those are all fads. They haven't made a sustained change in the way we think about, teach, train in, or study the martial arts.

On the other hand, some things are trends: JKD/eclecticism, Filipino martial arts/weapon training in general, boxing, Muay Thai, and now BJJ/MMA. Bruce Lee was the one man to really challenge tradition as an end to itself, and to mainstream the question, "why?" Why do we stand like that? Will it work? He also made it acceptable to take a little from here and there and put it together with your base system to form something better. Others have done the same as new styles have formed, but Lee was the one who popularized a concept in training as opposed to a particular system. It was a fad, but the JKD legacy lives on in all of us whether we know it or not. As an offshoot, I think, of JKD, and due to the efforts of Inosanto and Presas, Filipino arts are with us today in one form or another. They are pervasive now in club and knife defenses taught everywhere, though they are not always given credit. Boxing later gained more credibility as martial artists entered the ring and found out that Western boxing was indispensable in the ring, and because of its "flow", was compatible with a number of styles. Muay Thai has become the mainstream stand-up style, along with boxing, in MMA and any other full-contact/kickboxing competition because of its effectiveness. It was a fad, but moved into everyone's training by popularizing the knee, elbow, and Thai kick. Now the Gracies and MMA have moved us into a new fad that is definitely a trend. It will soon eclipse boxing in popularity (if it hasn't already), and we will soon see MMA fighters' action figures in stores.

I raise this point to say that all of these things are complimentary to the "traditional" schools. I still marvel at the power and speed of a Shotokan fighter's punches, at Judo throws, and Aikido restraints. I realize that all of those things are "martial arts" to the kids today. I remember that we used to call everything Karate back in the old days, and every new fad brought the kids into the school. Bottom line is that kids will want it because it's cool, and "who cares" where they get the idea!

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2 comments:

mmabri said...

I remember those days. Can you believe we actaully wanted to be ninjas, and Paul wanted to be a Shaoline Priest?

Nathan Teodoro said...

Don't forget about Chuck Norris! You remember A Force of One and The Octagon, etc. My favorite was Code of Silence.
I think Caine was the one I wanted to be too.