Please let me qualify this post by saying that I have nothing whatsoever against traditional martial art styles. I spent the first maybe 10-odd years of my long martial arts odessey studying traditional martial arts: originally goju ryu karate, then choy lai fut kungfu, finally wing chun. (I give a special respect to Wing Chun, as it is what I consider one of the main bridges from classical to modern fighting methodology, not to mention my Wing Chun teacher back in LA was one tough mother-fucker!)
My perspective is not that traditional martial arts are without value. However, their value lies primarily in the health benefits and coordination skills they confer, the meditative state one often learns to attain in studying them, aesthetically (as a kind of performance art), and as living records of culture and history.
If one is studying a traditional martial art for these reasons, great! Down the road I will probably resume my own study for the same reasons.
However, I get annoyed when I hear practicioners of a traditional martial art say things like, “Oh, Brazilian jujitsu’s great as a competetive sport, but it’s not for real fighting.” Or worse, having seen how traditional martial arts fare in free competition (the UFC, Pride, King of the Cage) against modern fusion martial arts styles (without exception, they lose!), the traditional guys make excuses: There are too many rules! You can’t bite! You can’t eye-gouge! You can’t headbutt on the ground! It isn’t REAL!!!
This point of view is annoying enough when it’s held in begrudged, harmless isolation back in the various dojos where traditional martial arts teachers have got their students brain-washed into thinking they’re learning real combat skills. But recently, much like those infamous martial artists of old who thought their bodies could be hardened to deflect bullets, these traditional guys have been coming out of the woodwork to test their theories in the real “open market of ideas”.
With essentially the same result – they get hurt!
The most recent case in point was the last TFKC (the no-holds-barred competition bi-annually held at Warner Village). In it, a 58-year-old Taichi Master actually thought he could hold his own against a 30-something full-contact kickboxer/submission grappler. (I can imagine his students, typically brainwashed, saying, “Gee Sifu, why don’t you go in there and teach those heretics a lesson?”
Needless to say, he left in a strecher. It was just sad. Hopefully next time he’ll think before badmouthing Westernized, modernized “external” training methods!
Another instance was a guy who showed up to the last Brazilian jujitsu competition (held at Living Mall), all suited up in a kungfu uniform. Not that a uniform means anything, but the guy had the nerve to insist that he compete at the brown/black belt level! When dutifully warned that these belts were considered elite in jujitsu, he just shrugged. I’m sure his teacher had told him lots of propoganda about how useless these modern, “external” training methods are. (Much like Western medicine: how many times have you heard this one: “Western medicine only treats the symptom. Asian medicine treats the root cause.” But which kind of doctor would you go to if you got cancer?)
I hope the near broken elbow that guy received probably 10 seconds into the match was a wake-up call!
Now I’m sure if anyone bothers to respond to this post, it’ll be something about the unrealistic nature of having those pesky no-biting rules or fighting on mats. Or else it’ll be some moron, telling me, “Well dude, your modern martial art is gonna be pretty useless too - against my gun!”
Actually, these arguments contain basically the same flaw. When I hear the lame “gun” comment about why it’s useless to study martial arts, I always ask, “So where’s your gun now? May I see it? Do you even own one?” If you’re not packing, it’s pretty damn-well useless to you right now, isn’t it? And even if hypothetically you did happen to pick one up, what makes you think you could use it any better than I could? Or that I might not be packing, say, a rocket-launcher? See, martial arts training precludes neither the usage of nor ownership of modern weapons! It does, however, give one the advantage that, should those weapons not be present or fail to function, one can still engage the enemy!
It’s the same with the biting, eye-gouging, scrodum-sack ripping, what have you argument. Does any of those traditional martial artists out there actually bite, eye-gouge, mouth-hook, etc their training partners? Has any of them ever defended against such an attack? Has any of them ever done full-power throws and falls on concrete? Not likely. If so, they wouldn’t be training long. (Even their arts were, at some point, empirical enough to have found that out!) So what’s to make them think that a practicioner of a modern training method (which emphasizes empiricism over mysticism) is going to be any less able to bite, eye-gouge, or whatever nasty attack you can think up…
…while at the same time, employing a method of combat which is constantly evolving through the laboratory of open competition, rather than being stifled under the weight of centuries of cultism and dogma?
In conclusion, I’d like to repeat that I hold a deep-seated love of the traditional martial arts, probably stemming from romanticism and my particular background. I also like chess. However, I wouldn’t support a chess-player in thinking the strategies he learns in the game will help him kick someone’s ass, or protect him from having someone do so to him – particularly if that someone is a hardened veteran of real competition!
The same goes for traditional martial artists.