Sunday, February 3, 2013

Where tradition meets reality

This post is inspired by a few things.  One is my recent introduction to a qualified instructor in traditional martial arts, Jiu Jitsu, Karate, sword and weapons. Another is my last post about understanding the traditional arts and another is from the comments left on that post.

Sue's comment on getting back to the 'roots' of Karate and Michele's comment on concepts of movement and Brett's on the intent of technique all got my brain working.

Now, all martial arts are based on traditional martial arts, in one way or another. It's your definition of what 'traditional' means that can have such as effect on whether or not you think traditional systems are superior to reality based systems or even mixed martial arts.

My definition of what traditional means is that they are based on true combat. The techniques were forged on the battlefield.  They were tried and true.  If they worked, they were passed on.  If they didn't, well, they weren't.  And you weren't there to do so.

They were also flexible and adaptable.  Although there is usually a syllabus to follow in a traditional martial arts school, the arts themselves were never stagnant.  They changed as the world changed around them.  They were, in essence, reality based systems as well.  

So traditional martial arts are (were?) reality based systems and reality based systems were (are?) based on traditional systems.  Hmmm...

Having these discussions can sometimes turn into a bit of a loop.  And that's good. Style to style, system to system, art to art, there's really not as much of a divide as some might think.

In many ways, we're all studying the same thing.

The human body only moves in certain ways.  There are not real 'new' kicks under the sun, no secret joint is as yet undiscovered that can be exploited.  The body is the body.  It's how you approach combat, self defense and fighting that separates us.

The issues and subsequent debates over one style or system being superior to another come not from the arts themselves, but from the people passing them down and their understanding of the 'roots' or core concepts of the art.  It is also very much in the intent of the student and the teacher.  No one can become proficient and be able to apply their art in a real violent encounter if they haven't prepared themselves mentally for the challenge.  

Rules, while good for competition and safety, can get in the way of being able to protect yourself during a real attack if you've never turned your head to fighting without them.  

You fight as you train.  And much of your training occurs inside yourself, not on the mats.

The title of my blog includes the line:

"The study of Japanese Jiu Jitsu as a reality based martial art"

This means more to me every day.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Great post, JM. And thanks for the plug!

    I agree, too, that there is far less that separates sport/traditional/self defense than people think. A large part of me believes that much of it is perpetuated by those who have monetary interest in defining what they teach by how they are different from what others teach.

  2. Agreed. Tough from a marketing perspective. Good point.

  3. Of course! What we refer to as traditional martial arts today would have been considered 'reality based' systems at the time, doh! Why didn't I think of that? A great insight Journeyman. The efficacy of karate as a self-defence art is comparable with other systems when it is taught that way, however the 'do' in karate-do suggests a whole lot of other reasons for training apart from self-defence....I feel a post coming on.....

  4. Sue,

    There's a lot more to the study of martial arts than just self defense. The 'do', the perfection of character, the self control and discipline to name just a few. These are all important parts, especially in times of peace. I strive for the 'do' but believe you can't truly achieve all of those things without a good working knowledge of the combat applications. I look forward to your post.