Greetings to my fellow Dragons and my martial art brethren. This is a letter to our fraternity but also to any and all that have made these arts either a way of life or an addition to their lives. A debate still rages between the traditional martial artists and the more modern and supposedly practical practitioners and also between the classical and eclectic stylists.
One thing that we need to take into consideration is that there is no one size fits all in the martial arts. If we are going to be realistic in our training we’ll have to recognize that people practice the martial arts for various reasons. The father in a challenged urban area will probably study a martial discipline for different reason than a seven year old in a children’s class. Our chosen art will probably be influenced by our personal needs and philosophies, our physical gifts and limitations and what is available where we live. The many various arts and instructors offer many aspects of the martial arts from sports and conditioning to self defense and combat. There are some that even practice the arts for self improvement, realization and self discovery. The one thing that we all have in common, whichever single or combination of these camps our practice falls into.
Old school martial arts were created strictly for combat. Generally only the master and his disciples knew the art in its entirety. Everyone didn’t need everything that a particular system taught. Jimmy Mc, one of our senior grandmasters teaches a traditional system should you have the time and desire (and masochistic nature) to want to study it but he spends more time teaching our military’s spec op and Special Forces types for the government. Several others in our ranks teach police officers and others in high risk professions. Those that they teach are taught a narrow aspect of the total art of the instructor geared to their needs. Very few of those individuals will dedicate more than a few weeks or even days to such training. The armed forces are called armed for a reason. The samurai were taught in various aspects of what we call jiu jitsu today but none of them would forgo their weapons training for unarmed combat.
The problem doesn’t arise because of these various arts and what they offer as it does because of the focus of the different instructors and students. Sports, combat, self defense and self realization require a different focus, methodologies and training methods but all that deals within any aspect or combination of these aspects of the arts is still a martial artist.
My own personal focus of the arts is combative. Many of my students were cops, worked in high risk professions or just lived in challenged urban areas or neighborhoods. This has changed what I teach how I go about teaching. Kata isn’t important to a homicide detective or a personal security specialist. That means that I don’t teach a lot of kata. I deal more with strategy and practical application than I do classical aspects of the arts. In my years in the arts I have taught different things to different individuals but these days I teach the traditional arts that I have studied to my ushi deshi or (closed door) personal students. Being the grandmaster of the system means I have a larger pool of techniques to draw from to address the needs of those that I teach.
Martial arts has always been political but since I started training in the mid to late fifties I have seen the arts go from being secretive to very public and from a brotherhood to a host of warring factions. There are any number of systems and organizations with any number of masters and grandmasters. Of these very few recognize many other organizations with different focus or philosophies than our own.
I feel that there is room in the martial art for all of these organizations and the system or systems that they represent. I don’t feel that one organization or art is superior to any other no more than dogs are superior to cats. They represent apples and oranges. If you want to limit your dietary input to apples that’s your business and your privilege but it doesn’t invalidate those that include oranges in their diets.
Of course I’m as much minister (and pastor) as I am martial art master. However inclusion, tolerance and brotherhood shouldn’t be restricted to the preacher. We should all strive for brotherhood in the arts. Who you trained with, how you came by your knowledge or ability, what you teach or train in or why you study the arts shouldn’t negate you from this brotherhood. Those holier than though individuals that consider themselves the martial art police should get off of their soap boxes and focus on training and/or teaching their students.
As for the validity of these various arts I feel that every pot must stand on its own bottom. The practicality of the art itself will eventually validate of invalidate it. I will suggest that those who teach or represent theses various schools practice honesty as to whom and what they are. Martial artists are especially prone to exaggeration and on occasion outright fabrication. I’m not here to cosign these claims or practices. With the transparency affected by the information age it’s hard to maintain such claims but again I’m not here to support or debunk any of those claims. The same personality problems that we’ll find amongst some of our numbers are no different than those to be found in the rest of humanity. Honesty and transparency is a good choice but it is a personal choice. Those who practice deception will have to answer to the choices that they make. However I refuse to be the judge in such matters. A structure that’s built without a real foundation will collapse under its own weight. None of us has to be the instrument of that destruction. Truth stands on its own and dishonest will sabotage a structure from the inside.
Peace , love and respect to you, my brothers and sisters,
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel ThD, PhD, Head of Family IFAA BDFS, Senior Grandmaster, BLMAA