the martial arts theory of everything

Martial Arts
Martial Arts (Photo credit: Tom Gill.)

“The principle of strategy is having one thing, to know ten thousand things…”-Miyamoto Musashi

The topic a friend and I have been discussing around the coffee cup lately is the “ultimate purpose” of studying martial arts. What is the real purpose we spend our time and money in the dojo? Granted different people come to MA schools for different reasons; self-defense, self-improvement, fitness, art, etc. then there are some who desire to live a “martial lifestyle”, which I want to discuss here. In my definition, a “martial lifestyle” goes beyond mere physical technique.

Differences in size, strength, fitness, experience etc. make it virtually impossible for any style of martial art to guarantee success in a confrontation to any degree of certainty. Internal aspects of mindset, situational awareness and “fighting spirit” have as large a role in combat as technique. We all have probably met black belts who, while technically proficient, would probably get their @$$ kicked in a fight. I’ve seen some people, very good MA’ists, loose their “fighting spirit” the moment they caught a good shot to the face. Martial Arts is ultimately (IMHO) a way of thinking as much as it’s a physical exercise. Musashi states in the book of five rings (loosely) “The way is not found in pursuits such as tea, flower arranging or dancing. But when the way is understood it can be found in everything”. I interpret this to mean that once you have realized the “martial lifestyle” you begin to see MA’s in other pursuits and realize that other skills can enhance your martial arts practice. Not too long ago, Paul M. posted that his hockey playing crossed over into this. He began to see MA principles enhancing his play and the physical training/athletic mindset enhancing his MA.

The Samurai, one of the most proficient individual fighters in history studied many different weapons, skills and arts; sword, bow, spear, horseback riding, swimming, unarmed fighting, firearms, fortifications etc. Our modern elite warriors (SEAL/DELTA etc.) have to be trained in many skills other than fighting; communications, navigation, driving, climbing, rappelling, combat medicine, call for fire (arty/air support), demolitions, as well as weapon skills and CQB, to name a few. The question I have is why do many martial artists believe themselves to be “warriors” (I’ve seen what I believe to be misuse of that term often) just because they are trained in unarmed/contact weapon fighting? One of the things I like about the recent trend towards “combatives” is that it approaches fighting as the unarmed component of self-defense. An issue in this approach is where does the burden lie in training? Is it on the student to determine his/her course and find the training on his or her own? Should instructors be bringing in seminar instructors on various topics or network with various sources to make other skills available? (i.e. bringing in Red Cross first aid instructors, NRA firearms teachers to train firearm safety)

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