Bujutsu: The Path made an interesting comment several months ago. From time to time it rattles around in my head.
We had been chatting about martial arts and the pros and cons of different styles and the effectiveness of some techniques we'd been working on, and how some people are critical or others or have strong theories of what will or will not work and who knows what else when he said, somewhat in passing:
"There's faster ways to learn how to fight"
That statement has bounced around in my mind since then. Any readers of this blog will know the emphasis I put on learning realistic techniques that can translate to the real world and work in dynamic stressful situations.
I have also met lots of people out there that are examining and exploring their martial art to gain a deeper understanding and to compare what they are learning to what they need to know to defend themselves, should the need arise.
Some enlightened artists are discarding some techniques. Others are discovering ways to apply a learned technique or are discovering deeper layers to their art which translates into real world usability. A few are abandoning what they study or are at least supplementing their training.
Many are moving towards the many Reality Based Systems out there, feeling that they strip away all that 'other stuff' and just teach pure technique.
All these things are good.
Two simple but important questions that you need to ask yourself:
# 1. What am I training for?
# 2. Is my training reflective of my goals (#1)
These are mental checks that should be done from time to time to make sure you're on track. It's a simple but effective way to keep yourself on the right path.
If your goal is purely self defense, and time is of the essence, perhaps a reality based system is right for you.
If however, you just like the fitness and camaraderie of it all, well, you don't need to be as selective.
Can you have different goals?
Yes, but they can't be conflicting goals. My main goal is learning a realistic effective flexible martial art that works on the street, under stress, every time.
My other goals are to improve myself, perfect my character, find inner peace and banish ego. These goals compliment each other, and often work in tandem. My main goal, however, is always my priority.
It is possible that as I continue my journey over the years, my focus may shift. If it does, it will likely be as a result of mastery of my primary goal. I believe that this is the process Morihei Ueshiba went through when he created Aikido. He moved towards the loftier goals of self improvement and harmony, but only after he had mastered several different disciplines and styles of martial arts.
If you feel your training is not reflective of your goals, you need to figure out why.
Most important, is your head in the game? Do you approach your own training in a serious manner? If you don't, it doesn't really matter what martial art you take.
It's rarely the martial art itself. Each art has strengths and weaknesses, it is the students and the teachers that are most often lacking.
My suggestion is to cross train. Take a reality based seminar. Try out a different art for a bit. See what's out there and if that training lines up with your goals. Don't abandon your art in favour of a 'quick fix', however. Most true martial arts are just that, martial systems that were proved in combat as some time.
I found that while taking some seminars, watching videos, experimenting in this and that and doing some reading, that I kept seeing Jiu Jitsu techniques. It confirmed that my style, and more importantly, my Sensei, was teaching a relevant and effective system.
Know yourself. What do you want to get out of training? Almost everyone you talk to who takes any martial arts will say they're in it for self defense. I believe that they believe that they are, but I suspect that for many, it is not their primary goal. Their approach, mindset and expectations don't always match up to their words.
This isn't always a bad thing. It's not wrong to put a priority on the social aspects of martial arts study. It can boost physical fitness, improve confidence and teach a few good techniques to almost anyone.
In fact, the true understanding of combat application may be unrealistic for some. Many people have never been in a real fight in their adult lives, and many never will. There's no frame of reference from which to measure training against real world violence. For those that have, or for those who's profession comes into contact with violence, it's a different story. So know what you want and need.
I read a thought provoking post over at the Chiron blog touching on this. Worthwhile reading.
One interesting thought that emerged for me as I was chewing on these topics is how difficult it is to know how well you are doing if you abandon an established system with a curriculum and grading system. If you focused solely on reality based seminars and courses, how would you know how you are doing? It's not like you typically get a black belt in a reality based system. A counter argument could be that a black belt in a martial art which isn't taught with a focus on real world application isn't an indicator of anything either (if your only goal is reality self defense).
What started as an innocent comment from J.C. sparked quite a bit of thought on my part. Sure, there are faster ways to learn how to fight, but I'm not sure there's necessarily better. I feel I could teach a seminar on reality self defense. I have taught new police recruits in restraint and control and arrest techniques with success. There are some pretty good crash courses out there for self defense. For many, this is enough. For me, I expect a little bit more from my training.
I guess at the moment, I'm majoring in combat, with a minor in self improvement and perfection of character.