When you take a look at how martial arts came to be, you’ll find it to be a quite complex development. While martial arts has been linked to military training, it is also a product of groups of people having to defend themselves at some point, bringing about different fighting techniques associated with martial arts. As such, martial arts has successfully branched out into different styles, with each style having a unique history and technique passed on from one generation to another.
Martial Arts Evolution
In Asia, the teaching of martial arts takes on the traditional apprenticeship between the teacher and his disciple. A strict hierarchical system is followed, where students are trained by a master instructor. The instructor directly supervises the student, and the student, in turn, is expected to know the rules and training routines by heart.
If you trace the roots of martial arts in the West though, you’ll find that it was mainly done as part of vaudeville shows. This led to early perceptions of martial arts being a performance art, rather than something of value in combat. Eventually, martial arts found its way into the military, with a new fighting method called “Defendo”. This form of hand to hand combat also evolved into a different variation on a martial arts technique called “Combato”.
At present, martial arts is not just a form of entertainment or combat. Rather, it has also become renowned for being a popular sport. With professional fighters training and joining such competitions, it has only served to increase the popularity of martial arts all over the world.
Given the diverse nature and history of martial arts, it’s inevitable that people will compare one style to another. However, given the uniqueness of each style, why do we have to tear down one style in favor of another?
Complexity vs Simplicity
Infighting the division and showing superiority over another style is common but quite frankly – I’m sick of it! Yes – martial arts take on different styles and each style can take on a different substyle. But this constant need to create a substyle for every style of martial art actually weakens the parent style instead of reinforcing its techniques. Not to mention it also adds confusion not just for non-martial artists but even those who are already well-versed in the ins and outs of the art.
The creation of different divisions has also contributed to the increase in styles in martial arts. While the divisions aren’t really all that different from each other, some people see something that they have to do a little bit differently and come up with another style.
Looking back at what the founders of modern karate styles believed in, you’ll find that they didn’t really care about naming their style. There’s actually writing to back it up that they didn’t want their name associated with a specific style. Quite the opposite of how it is today!
I do respect the uniqueness of each style of karate but overdoing the substyles can hinder learning by having things restructured all the time. Without any form of structure, it’s easy to miss vital content for the technique and there’s a huge possibility of failing to ingrain the very core values and techniques of martial arts in your students.
Keeping it simple is key to learning and teaching martial arts effectively. By sticking to a single style, you can be a more effective martial artist and it makes it easier to teach other people as well. Mastering a technique takes time and skill and it’s best to focus on thing at a time instead of trying to learn different styles at once.
I would also love to see more martial artists lift each other up instead of tear each other down. It’s not uncommon to see one martial artist tear another down over different styles on social media and I try to jump in and counter that as often as possible. Not because I disagree with either of them but because it doesn’t matter and shouldn’t even be a point of contention.
As I said, each style is unique and you have to respect that. Martial arts has a very rich and diverse history and what matters most is that we practice what we preach. Martial arts is deeply rooted in respect and discipline so students and teachers alike should always conduct themselves in a befitting manner.