Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Putting the Art in Martial Art

Putting the Art in Martial Arts


Picassso's Science and Charity
    If you read any thing on the internet, you  find a lot of people who will say aikido doesn't work (other arts too, but for this point I'm concentrating on aikido).  They'll say it is not effective in a self-defense situation.  They'll say that "it wouldn't work in a real fight" and other such comments.  The overall idea of all of these comments is that aikido is not as realistic as, say Krav Maga, or MMA, or... what ever happens to be popular at that moment.  As a high school teacher, I like to make people think of their own answers.  My students complain to me that I never give them a straight answer, to which I reply "Don't I?"
No one will disagree that at least O-Sensei was a badass.

To the aikido detractors I usually have a conversation which goes something like this.

Me:  "Which is more realistic representation, photography or drawing?"

Detractor: "Photography"

Me: "Why do we still have drawing then?"

Detractor: "...?"

Me: "Why do we have drawing and painting?  Why do we have impressionism, or cubism, which look nothing like the original subjects?"

Picasso's Bullfight...Bullfight?
    Detractors usually can't come up with a good answer.  Yes cubist paintings don't look very much like their subjects, but we, as a society, still place a value on them.  There is an artistic value placed on interpretations.  Humans are complex beings who rely on complex ideas and symbolism to get ideas and emotions across.  Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso were both excellent "realistic" artists as well.  The were choosing to express themselves differently.  Martial arts do the same thing.
    Hoplology is the study of martial arts from a cultural point of view.  The idea is that it is as representative and worthwhile part of a culture as pottery, or music or any other traditionally interpreted art. Jujutsu is a great martial art, if you are on a battlefield of medieval Japan with armored people attacking you with arrow, spears, and swords.  It has a specific value in this specific application.  MMA wouldn't be very "realistic" in that arena.  In that same case, because of the armor, a Philipino knife fighter wouldn't do so well either.  But Arnis is still a great martial art.  All three martial arts are great for their specific application.  They have their own specific value both culturally, on the battlefield.  Some martial arts are concentrating more on their cultural aspect than they are their combative aspect.  In the end all martial arts can all be used in self defense situations as well.  Afterall, it's the martial artist, not the martial art.
    However, there gets to be a point in any art, where it looses its applicability and can only be appreciated by other artists who are of that type of art.  In the art world, abstract art tends to do that.  They go so far to the realm of artistic that there is nothing realistic in their art.  Martial arts can do this as well.  There are some arts that have lost all their realism to the point of being almost an exercise rather than a martial art.  Tae-bo, the super-soft aikido, and kickboxing fitness all exemplify this aspect.
    So in the end, make sure you have your art, but don't get so lost in it, that it looses its realism.

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