Because I like being diplomatic in my old age I’m going to try to say what I have to say without causing too much offense. However I’ll only take diplomacy so far before I take offense myself. I state my mind and speak what I believe to be the truth but if certain individuals don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it or maybe not. I still stand by the truths that I believe to be the reality and the present state of the martial arts in the twenty first century.
If you have to teach self defense techniques different from anything that your art implicates then your art isn’t combat effective.
First of all let me say something that will rub some traditionalists the wrong way. We are primarily Americans teaching American arts. The martial arts evolve according to the needs of the people who practice them. If your art hasn’t evolved to reflect the reality of the day then your art will have only limited effectiveness in its pure state. Try using rising blocks against the flurry of a skilled western boxer. If you do prepare to have your clock cleaned. Likewise try fighting a kick boxer with the traditional hand at the hip position. You’ll notice that MMA fighters and modern kick boxers fight with their hands up. In so doing they are bowing to the reality of modern combat. If you have to teach self defense techniques different from anything that your art implicates then your art isn’t combat effective.
I just finished talking to a Shotokan master who is considered too young for the rank that he carries. I find that amusing. While I believe in the concept of ‘time in grade’I also believe in evaluating on an individual basis. There are several general rules that govern advancement in the martial arts but in rare instances there are exceptions to those rules. Some of the individuals that scream bloody murder at the advancement of an exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable of a relatively young master will swear on a stack of bibles that Bruce Lee was the consummate master and the holy grail of the martial arts. They tend to forget that Bruce Lee was in his thirties when he passed. Likewise John Keehan. Both were talented individuals who left an indelible mark on the martial arts. Even at this late date there is the occasional prodigy.
A lot of the traditionalists criticize those of us who have opted for eclectic systems. The same individuals probably study eclectic systems themselves. Just because the original arts were blended to for the present art so many years ago doesn’t negate the fact that they are blended and therefore eclectic arts. By the same token some of the founders of the arts that we swear by today were low level black belts when they created their arts. Take for example Ed Parker. His art became what it was not because of his original rank but because he was innovative and a forward thinker. Few argued against the 10TH degree that he was awarded by his students and his organization.
I have more years in the arts than most. I’ve been involved in the martial arts for fifty nine years, longer than that if I take into consideration my father’s input in the WW II U.S. Marine combat judo that he tried to teach me way before I could grasp what he tried to show me. He was a marine M.P. stationed in Hawaii during most of the war and was well versed in military hand to hand combat. Most of my background and my rank in the arts were in classical or traditional systems. I accrued advanced rank in a couple of them, reached instructor level in a few others and studied the rest. I teach what I teach because I don’t teach any one of those arts separately. They blend together into one art that I teach according to the needs of those I teach.
On the rare occasion I am criticized by one traditionalist or another. No problem there. I can care less what they think and even less what they say. At sixty nine years old (this year) I am still active in training and teaching. I don’t teach on a commercial basis but I have a small select group of students. I also teach the occasional advanced practitioner. Many of the ‘would be’ masters at my age are sitting on the side lines criticizing those who still teach and train. Please understand that age doesn’t always translate into wisdom and time doesn’t always fashion a master. I believe in honoring my seniors and I applaud those who have paved the way and even more those that are still active. I offer my admiration for your longevity and your tenacity. It takes something to still be active into our winter years. I only ask that you do what you do and let other martial artists do what they do. If they are sound in their martial arts and their system works for them and their students the success of their creations speak for themselves.
God bless you, my brethren and my martial art family.
Rev. Dr. Donald (Papa D) Miskel, MA, PhD, ThD Judan Shodai Soke, BLMAA Patriarch and Head of Family, IFAA BDFS