<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Martial arts represent a never ending, yet ever changing and evolving continuum. That is, there is no clear cut Darwinian progression to their evolutions… However, the continuum of these disciplines stretches far and wide, with many stops along the way. And what is found in one combative culture is generally also found in another, and still another. Moreover, what was found to be useful on the battlefields of yesterday still holds true on the battlefields of today: the violent cities and streets we call home.
Martial arts, then, are not mere rigorous physical disciplines or cultural artifacts. They are "ways of life." As such, one can enjoy the very real combative aspects of the arts, the serene philosophical precepts, the intellectual study of history, the scientific breakdown of techniques, or the athletic appeal of physical fitness or sport. What is of value and interest to one may seem quite ridiculous to another. Yet, the martial arts and their many incarnations are here to stay, and they will continue to evolve, change, and come full circle many times.
With this in mind, we must not judge another's choice of involvement in the arts as better or worse than out own. Indeed, in the martial arts, as in the vast cultures around the world, there is neither better nor worse, only different. And it is in fact these very differences that make the arts so appealing to a vast audience. It is the perceived value and intended use of these arts by the people who embrace them that distinguishes one art from the next. And yet, almost every culture has practitioners involved in various aspects of the arts for any number of reasons.
As my dear friend Oscar Ratti has impressed upon me many times, the various systems of martial arts are not important, and one should strive to not become "stuck" on them. When we become blinded by the dogma of style and master, we are eventually no longer able to see "the forest through the trees." The arts are, then ethnographs of what Oscar calls the universal arts of combat -- "an expression of the ways diversified human beings confront and solved problems that arise from violent confrontations -- as well as the evolving ways of transcending them through the culture of movement."
Mark V. Wiley, editor, Afterword, Martial Arts Talk -- Conversations with Leading Authorities on the Martial Arts.