I began this thread to stimulate conversation and point out what I perceive as a flaw in our approach to the modern martial arts. The thread has expanded and the conversation now focuses on the way to properly practice the martial arts in a non-martial world. I couldn't have hoped for a better opportunity to discuss this issue openly and to focus on my point in bringing up the "blocking?" thread in the first place.
Firstly, why is it that we do what we do? How can we explain the many hours, days, and years of dedicate training we commit to the study and practice of our respective disciplines?
The way I see it, we as martial artists are at a crossroads in defining our discipline. We are all trying to discover what exactly it means to be a martial artist in the 1990's... and it is very confusing.
Since about WWII, there has been a tremendous mental movement by the masses away from starting, participating in or ending conflicts of any type and for any reason. No one needs to be reminded of the tremendous energy our young people put into protesting conflict at the national or international level; and everyone has been instructed what to do if they suffer a conflict in their own personal lives. As you all know, if there is a problem, you should call the police or if it is a civil matter you should sue. Whatever you do, " don't take the law into your own hands - you take them to court." Our system is designed to let someone else take care of the problem for us. In fact, you are encouraged by our own government to blame others when things don't go your way. You are told that you are not responsible for any misfortune, and you are quickly remedied for any discomfort that this imperfect life may bring.
As a society, we have been conditioned to despise conflict.
On the contrary, as martial artists, we train in what the ancients have called the "path of the warrior". Warriors are defined by conflict - which in today's world makes us a terribly unpopular lot.
Remember, no matter how authentic we think we are in "the way of the warrior", the hard truth is that the popularization of the eastern martial arts worldwide had occured in the middle of this century and can be mostly credited to foreign servicemen who by chance discovered the arts as they served in post war Japan/Okinawa.
By that time however, the martial arts had already undergone a transformation from about nine hundred years of combat/ battlefield oriented tactics (justsu) to less than 100 years of (Do), a spiritual, traditional, posterity based martial system. In other words the martial artist had evolved and developed a new layer of consciousness that was far less martial and far more art based than many of us care to admit. Everything we know about combat/battle field eastern martial arts was already documented, fabled and rumoured in ancient texts by the time we got hold of it.
The change began in 1867, when the Shogun surrendered their governing authority to the emperor. Symbolically, the Japanese declared the end of the 'feudal era' and in doing so, unwittingly created a new precedence by which the martial arts would be continued to be taught and practiced within Japan.
The transformation from 'Jutsu' to 'DO' was a survival mechanism brought about by the combat teachers of that era . In an attempt to preserve their martial tradition, teachers formalized their battlefield arts into stylistic philosophies that would become the 'new' martial arts.
The purpose of practicing karate today is different than it was for the people who lived in a feudal society. Today we practice the martial arts for its own sake. Everything else - fitness, fighting skill, ego, comraderie - these are all by-products of practicing karate - not reasons. Most of us believe in the promise that if we do this karate thing, we will achieve better conditioning, greater aptitude in fighting, lasting relationships with our training partners, respect from our peers and all of the other great thing that come with being a "martial artist". But regardless, we must be content to train simply for the sake of training or we wil undoubtedly quit.It is too demanding a discipline, too time consuming, too much aggravation to be done for any lessor reason except the pure love of doing it for its own sake.
Then along come forums such as this where we sit and pontificate about combat and getting in touch with our ancient martial heritage. The questions pop up about how we should punch, or block or kick to be more effective fighters. All of these are great questions and deserve insightful answers but in order to properly address them, we must change gears and mentally operate within the proper context. Fighting is a different thing all together than Karate, Judo, Aikido, boxing etc. Though fighting is within our respective styles,it is not our style. Fighting must to be discussed as something unto itself - which is self contained. Our styles are merely the vehicles which brings us to the table to discuss these things with some level of intelligence and intuition.
I am for instance less inclined to discuss a Uechi block or a Shotokan block or a Goju block as being better or worse in regards to each other. These issues form the very top layer,and are independently important to their respective styles. They should all be taught and learned for their own sake to practitioners of their respective styles.As a stylist you never fear that your styles techniques are not applicable or are outdated. They are part of a much greater puzzle. Determining applicability is fundamentally based on the context of the discussion. In all styles even the smallest techniques have their purpose.
If we are to discuss combat, as Van Cannas forum is inclined to encourage, then the context changes and we have to look at a more esoteric approach to winning martial conflicts. Generalizations rather than stylistic argument is a more profound method of figuring out how to prevail in martial conflicts. We have to move beyond style and discuss stress, attitude, body positioning, posturing, submitting, and running away. We have to know about the bodies reaction to a "real encounter", the realistic parameters of human potential, the great "chemical cocktail" that you so often talk about. We have to discuss health, diet and coditioning.We have to include ethics, morals and faith. These are all part and parcel of what makes a warrior - one seeks out and thrives on conflict and stays ever mindful that above all else his/her lot in life is death.
Then,if we care to look at these things stylistically we have to rediscover the combat tactics implicit in our styles that are battle tested and historically proven. They are there if we look; but they are not obvious. In light of our world history, our empty hand tactics have been virtually obsolete for over one hundred years and they are buried under a century of reform.
By finding the atemi waza, the grappling, the shifting, the various strikes and other combat related com[ponents, we connect with pre-Meiji (1868)Japan and discover the deeper layer of our martial arts. We are brought back to the battlefield where all of these questions are answered in respect to the environment from which they were born
[This message has been edited by Roy Bedard (edited 11-07-99).]