Thursday, May 19, 2011

Martial Art Musing

Broad, sweeping, all-encompassing generalizations–including the one I am about to make–are, in my experience, wrong more often than not.

Here's the one under discussion today:

Martial arts don't work for self-defense.

I heard that one again recently, and I had to smile.

This is, not to put to fine a point on it, demonstrably horseshit. All anybody needs to is provide one example where a martial artist used his or her skills to survive an attack and the black and white statement is false. 

A swimming pool full of white paint becomes, however slight, gray when you add a cup full of black paint. 

Having used a martial art to defend myself, I can personally attest to the statement's invalidity.

Now, once you start ladling in the qualifiers, the statement changes. Some martial arts won't work some of the time. I'm good with that. (But not "most martial arts." That requires knowledge I don't have–I don't know most martial arts. And neither does anybody else, so that one ought not to be used.)

Perhaps somebody might say, "In my experience, I've never seen a martial art that works for self-defense." That I can buy.

But either/or needs an absolute level of certainty that doesn't exist when this argument gets trotted out. There may not be exceptions to every rule, but there are plenty such to be found here. Any one will do.

It is amusing that most of the time when you hear this statement, it is pronounced by somebody with a fairly deep background in martial arts. They learned something, took it onto the street, and it didn't work the way they expected. So they revised their technique, adjusted it, made it into something that would fly.

Which I read as, "My traditional martial art didn't work in that instance."

However, the repair is, by my measure, still a martial art; it's simply an improved version, and it's how martial arts came about in the first place, and how new ones have been created ever since.

Shift it enough, it's not traditional any more, but where does one draw that line? Three hundred years? Fifty? It's still walking and quacking like a duck, and calling it an eagle doesn''t make it so.

Hey, that block didn't work, I got a broken nose! But when I changed it, thus, now it does work, and next time somebody threw that punch, I didn't get a broken nose and I decked the sucker!

Serious folks who train and alter their stuff to improve it? More power to them. Sometimes they come up with ways that make things better. 

Sometimes, they are just cherry-pickers who think one from this art and two from that one are all they need, and such can be blended together without any worry about their underpinnings. Sometimes, they are probably right.

Sometimes they are simply wrong. Not everything can be isolated and kept functional. If you take the salt out of a bread recipe and put it on a plate, you don't have a different kind of bread, you have salt.

I'm not a bad-ass streetfighter. Never claimed to be, never was, never will be. Lot of guys out there who can take me out without raising their heartbeats. But I do know a bit about martial arts, and I'm here to tell you, sometimes they work just fine. If you are going to make claims, then don't overstate them. It just makes you look ignorant. 

1 comment:

  1. Didn't know this blog existed--nice discovery for today.
    For me, far more than any specific technique, MA has hard-wired into my DNA how to move.

    Even if I've been out of shape, not training--it has saved my bacon a few times.

    You see it coming.