Monday, January 19, 2009

What’s new is old; and, what’s old is new again…

Traditions exist because there are individuals who find something, or some things, worthy of passing on to a future generation.

Traditional martial arts exist because there is something, or some things, a generation wants to have passed onto it.

The mindset on martial arts changed dramatically on November 12, 1993 – The premier of the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. Prior to this, visions of the “deadliest techniques” and the idea that “my fighting art is the best martial art” ran rampant in the minds of anyone who had ever formally learned to throw a punch or block a kick. In each of our respective training arenas, we were invincible. But for the most part, most of that was in theory – “If he does this, I’ll do this… and if he continues from there, I’ll do this… “
What I’ll do often defined what we trained; what he’ll do often determined how we trained. The problem was that what he’ll do was something that we all did because, typically, we trained in the same exact techniques since we went to the same school. And, anything different was what we imagined someone else would do from what we had heard, read, or seen at public demos about their styles.
That was just the way things were in a very traditional school.
Anyone who tells you any different has a very peculiar opinion not only about their traditional martial arts training, but more so, about reality.

Then, in 2006, YouTube exposed us to everything and anything – period. And again, it changed the way we looked at martial arts all around the world. At the click of a mouse, you had access to nearly every martial art ever created – a virtual library of qinna locks, triangle chokes, knife disarms…
every way possible to disable, maim, or make someone tap out.

To this day, the site is ever growing with demos, infomercials, and pirated footage of all of the above and more.

But in many ways, it still leaves you with a hollow feeling. Perhaps it’s information overload. Or, maybe it’s a sense that “I have access to it all already. So what?” Or, just, “It’s not that impressive.”

So it takes us back to where we started: traditional martial arts.

Is it for everyone? No, because no one is the same. Everyone’s wants and needs are different.
Quite honestly, if I were growing up today, MMA (mixed-martial arts) would be my thing simply because it’s what’s out there – right here and right now, the same way boxing, Judo, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, Ninjutsu, Aikido, and Brazilian Jiujutsu were there for those of us who grew up during those respective eras.

A traditional martial art humanizes us during these technologically-driven times. It offers an environment of customs and cultural heritage, fighting strategies and philosophical structures, stories of both inspiration and aspiration (whether true or highly exaggerated), protocols for a sense of civility and community, and most of all, a sense of self-awareness and personal growth. You not only acquire a set of physical fighting skills, but more so, you obtain the tools and mindset to prepare you for the biggest challenge of all – LIFE. Its comprehensive package addresses many of the “gaps” that we may experience on our martial quest. And as long as it provides you with a balance in your life, and doesn’t develop into a cultish mentality, it can be your spiritual salvation.

In this time of modern martial sports, enthusiasts and experts alike have gone to explore the vast possibilities of combative systems around the world, and the research and results have yielded one overwhelming response: There is no perfect martial art. It’s whatever works best for you.
But, having a traditional background can provide you with a strong foundation that will enable you to navigate through the negativity and uncooperative obstacles that you will encounter in the arts and even more so, in your life.

It’s ironic that over time, the culture of MMA will be considered “traditional” to a future generation of martial explorers.

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