Collin Warder said...
"I don't feel that things with lethal potential can at all be called an art."
So the Japanese warriors who lived when their country was still wracked by civil wars by civil wars were not martial artists? Miamoto Musashi was not a martial artist? Kenjutsu is not a martial art?
You know, Don Draeger, the martial artist and respected writer on Asian fighting arts only considered those arts meant to actually train warriors for the activity of war to truly be martial (i.e., related to war) arts. While I consider his definition a too narrow for my personal taste, I find it even more hard to accept a definition of "martial arts" that excludes the fighting methods practiced by the samurai.
"ARTS like the traditional karate-do's and kung fu's are truly arts. There is much, much
more to them than simply self defense."
There is much more to real war arts than real self defense too. Logistics is a vital part of war. Leadership skills are vital, as is a respect for tradition, loyalty, and esprit de corps, among other things. There is also much more to styles focused on self defense (at least as I've seen) than just self defense. There is discipline, perseverance, conquering fear (or at least learning to live with it), learning to understand the nature of one's mortality (at least if you study knives), at least in some schools a greater respect and appreciation for life (since you are often reminded of its fragile nature), skills, and other "inner" qualities.
"I think I do not need to go into the depth of the beauty of well performed katas, nor do I need to discuss the spiritual insight that these arts provide."
Actually, I wouldn't mind another thread focusing on the "spiritual insights" you refer to. I wonder if they are any greater that the insights one might get elsewhere. Also, despite pr, I suspect that there is a very substantial (no fingers pointed here, so take no offense) number of skilled martial artists who are some combination of proud, stubborn, arrogant, narrow-minded, or otherwise not very spiritual. Certainly even my limited observations of, for example, the political infighting between different factions of the Wing Chun/Wing Tsun/Ving Tsun/etc and the various often mutually hostile styles of Aikido make me wonder how spiritual are even high ranking practicioners of arts you accept as "martial arts." Could at least some of these "spiritual insights" simply be a refection of someone's ego?
"If you take away these things, and move strictly to self defense, then you have lost the art. Again I state that maiming and killing is not art, at least not where I come from."
There is a difference between the art, and it s application. If I learn to swing a sword in a graceful and powerful manner, and in a manner which could easily kill, but I never kill, can I not be practicing an art?
Self defense techniques are designed to maim and kill.
Many self defense techniques are not designed to maim or to kill. I know a number of ways to pin someone (once they are down) that do not require me to maim or kill my target. Even chokes don't have to kill. Part of the skill involved in learning self defense applications can be (and is where I train) learning to control the amount of force one uses. Once again, there is a difference between the art (using my dictionary's "(any) other skill" definition) and the application.
"Techniques held within katas are expressed in ways such that the realities of the techniques and the situations in which they are to be applied are often hidden from the practioner.There is much beauty in this."
From what I have seen not all the styles you label as arts have these hidden applications. As far as I've seen, a Wing Chun eye jab is an eye jab, and the few dummy forms I have learned (and Bruce Lee did get some of his dummy forms straight out of Wing Chun) are pretty straightforward in respect to letting the practicioner realize what they are doing. Such a practicioner may be able to alter applications (i.e., be creative and modify techniques) if they choose, but as I understand it there are no "hidden techniques" concealed there by their creator(s).
"Curiously, what do you find beautiful about this training?"
This is an interesting question. I find many forms of movement beautiful, even many which are not part of something that is generally considered part of an art. For example, I do not follow sports, but I like to watch the downhill skiing in the Olympics, because when it is done well, I find it breathtakingly beautiful. I am not a football fan, but when I have seen a game (I've probably watched fewer than a dozen football games in my entire life) and see a great run, where the ball is carried far down the field, and the runner skillfully avoids tackles and scores, I find such movement beautiful.
I can find a skilled surfer's performance beautiful, though I don't surf, and dislike even getting into salt water. The grace and control of his movement, and his moving in harmony with the violent waves is to me an incredible and admirable visual treat. Wayne Gretsky played beautiful hockey, and I had the pleasure of seeing him live a few times. He was quick, smooth, subtly powerful, and had what seemed perfect timing and a perfect sense of distance.
I suppose that I'd say I find many sorts of movement done by a very highly skilled practicioner beautiful. For example, when I see a martial artist's hands or weapons move so fast that I can barely see them, and perhaps so fast that I can't even tell for certain what was done unless the action is repeated more slowly, and this action is done smooothly, and with precision, I find such movement beautiful. When I see incredible talent in movement that relects real mastery, I see it as a thing of beauty.