Should martial arts always keep changing or be kept in traditional ways?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by Sarute Uchizaki, Jul 17, 2019.

  1. Sarute Uchizaki

    Sarute Uchizaki Valued Member

    I'm a martial artist who was always fascinated by traditional practices until recently I realised that many martial arts have evolved or new styles have been derived. Is the value of tradition being overlooked and will vanish soon?

    Should all martial arts techniques and practitioners adapt to changing times? Should techniques have to be changed or eliminated in each decade?

    Or should martial arts practitioners keep traditional values?
  2. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    IMHO a traditional value has always been to evolve, adapt, improve , adopt, discard, create, etc etc.
    Without that process most arts wouldn't even exist in fact. There'd be no Judo, Aikido, karate styles, BJJ, JKD, etc etc.
    Keeping something preserved and unchanging is not the traditional way (aside from some ideas about koryu arts in japan or family styles of kung fu. That's a quasi-traditional view people have tried to enforce in trying to keep hold or possession of some mythical perfect super-art.
    IronMaiden1991 and Monkey_Magic like this.
  3. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    Even when people try their hardest to keep something static, they can't. It's impossible.

    The context in which a martial art finds itself will always shape it, and time will always play the telephone game with traditions (maybe video will change that in the future).
  4. Sarute Uchizaki

    Sarute Uchizaki Valued Member

    So...martial arts teachers have to modify their teachings. Right?
  5. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    They can do. Or not. Up to them.
    What I'm saying is that "keeping things the same" is no more a "traditional value" than "change some things". Both have their place and both have shaped martial arts over the years.
  6. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool Spes mea in nihil Deus MAP 2017 Moi Award

    The Japanese have the concept of shu ha ri,

    Shuhari - Wikipedia

    So first learn a skill, then modify the skill slightly and then modify the skill a lot, it's what all the old master did, as well as all the current MMA fighters etc.

    In terms of teaching others, I think there's value in learning just the old ways too, (My ability in BJJ got better via training in judo) but really that's the first stage out of the three. A good training environment will encourage all of it, at the right time for every student.
    Grond likes this.
  7. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    In traditional arts, I don't really think so. But I may be wrong.
    In some cases you see changing with the times, whilst retaining traditions of the school.

    I like and appluad this - the best of both worlds.
    Though to some extent this will most usually involve a little compromise on one side or other - perhaps a bit from both ends.

    Those practitioners that want to should.
    My view on technique is that there's a place for classical techniques of various kinds.
    But individually it will end up being personal choice.

    We are probably at a point where much is recorded on film for future generations, so the way back is not as murky as it once was when something get's lost.

    I'm sure most good martial arts and martial artists can't even find a way to throw away the staples of striking and wrestling grappling.
    There are so many techniques that worked 10 years ago and will work in 10 years time.

    Depends what they are and if they still matter to the current crop of teachers and students - though ultimately its the teachers that set the direction of schools and classes.
    In the end, there are no right and wrong answers and traditional/ non traditional is a fairly slippery distinction in of itself.

    It can depend what you really mean Re. values.
    I think in the past the MA class or school took on a bigger role in the East in terms of community and packaging a lifestyle that could often include morality, spiritual type practices and philosophy and all that business.

    Honestly as much as I love all that stuff, I can't help but think it's not really an appropriate union in the Western society or modern world anymore - where once it perhaps was appropriate to a particular culture, time and place etc.
  8. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    There's nothing wrong with keeping things around as a historical curio, like iaido for example. As for the rest, I think martial arts are a tool. No one sane would argue that we should equip law enforcement or soldiers with flintlocks. Martial arts are a tool. If I'm after historical curiosity I might make and use a stone axe while doing bushcraft, but if given a choice and a need to chop down a tree I'll take steel. Whether you're likely to use the skills or not I think you need to be aiming at effective skill otherwise there's no difference between what you're doing, and a dance class, and without feedback mechanisms it's entirely able to devolve into nonsense. Now there's also some place for isolated specialization to build specific skills, as in boxing or wrestling, but you still have to have sufficient feedback and be cognizant of exactly what skills you're building and where they fit contextually.
    Monkey_Magic likes this.
  9. Aegis

    Aegis River Guardian Admin Supporter

    You either study for the purpose of fighting or you don't. If the former, you change or you die out (or just die if you need it and it turns out to have been long since left behind!). If the latter, it really doesn't matter at all if you adapt to modern times, so you can try to learn the art as a historic exercise or just for fun.

    Some arts fit both categories, e.g. HEMA - the goal of the art is to study the old methods of sword fighting, but interpretations change and develop as people test their theories of how best to interpret the old masters.
    Frodocious likes this.
  10. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    Many traditional aspects in various martial arts are antiquated or outright unviable by any modern measure. This isn't limited to martial arts traditions either. According to the Bible the world was created in 3761 BC, but archaeologists just found a city outside Jerusalem that dates to 7000 BCE. So much for that traditional concept. So even religious dogma, the most strict of traditional teachings, are subject to new information. Martial arts have it easy, they don't have to deal with archaeology :D

    Each martial art seems to have its own mythology even including more recent arts found in MMA. Techniques aside, the same archetypes like heroes and legends appear, and the material those people teach now would have correlated to the traditions passed on to this day from older arts. Boxing is as old as time, it's really not that modern, and honestly I doubt it's been improved upon since neolithic times when we were much less advanced. If anything has advanced its the training regime and technology available, not to mention the athletic opportunities. Once upon a time, you didn't box for sport, you did it for survival. Today you have the luxury of paying for the glory of boxing, and can go home to your BBQ grill and Netflix. (that's me in a nutshell).
  11. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    Pugilism is old, that is people striking each other. Boxing is modern. Modern technology gave rise to safer high pressure training which lead to significant increases in skill and technique. It's also where you see a divergence between arts which adopted that tech, ex. Muay Thai, and those which didn't, ex. most kung fu styles, and the significant difference in general effectiveness which resulted.
  12. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    I don't think HEMA fits both. It is a bit of a different duck though given that it's reconstruction, and that we lack the technology to get what I would call close to safely replicating really any approximation of its applications under real conditions, but while people strive for effectiveness within historical contexts those contexts are gone and any application to current fighting which can be gleaned is usually extremely limited and already covered elsewhere.

    Plus I don't think I've seen any HEMA competitions where wrestling is part of the ruleset which is sad given how important wrestling was and still is to weapon work, but also reflective of the fact that I think most HEMA practitioners want to develop sword skills more than historical fighting skills.
    David Harrison likes this.
  13. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    But the techniques and tactics of boxing have changed within a generation, let alone millennia.
  14. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    Mmmm I think it depends what you mean by traditional values? If you mean traditional techniques then its inevitable that they all change over time. Context and teachers all have an effect on emphasis being taught that inevitably reflect what they encounter. Harking back to the Shu Ha Ri, or as Bruce Lee called it "Lean the technique, master the technique, Dissolve the technique" (I think..) Its the dissolving the technique that brings the change as the martial artist breaks out and develops his own particular emphasis or approach to his art.

    The problem lies when you have to begin to teach your martial art. Your students personal journey of development will never be that of your own. If you have a good number of them you may have to fall back to the "master the technique" phase to impart your martial knowledge so that the basic structure that were taught to you can be taught to them. And its that basic structure/syllabus that ossifies over time that eventually become tradition. But time and your students experiences will eventually weather that structure.

    If you are talking traditional values - that is to say metaphysics (honour, courage, discipline, humility, mental balance...etc...) then yeah the 'art' in the martial art, that part that is about the formation of the individual can obviously stay. However even there the general internal culture of the art will undergo changes. Womens Olympic Sabre was only introduced in 2004 (!! - womens foil fencing goes back to 1924) When I was training in Italy in the 2000/2001 one of the old masters disagreed with its inclusion because he thought it 'unsettling' that women should fight sabre. Clearly it upset his traditional values of what weapons women should be taught!

    So yeah. Traditional values will eventually change to.
    David Harrison likes this.
  15. Aegis

    Aegis River Guardian Admin Supporter

    I'd argue that you don't have to recreate a martial art under its real conditions to train it traditionally, but instead you need to try to replicate the original training methods. In this case, using blunted steel with gloves, gambeson and head guard is broadly the same way that people trained to fight before going out and actually fighting. By then going to the source material and trying out the drills, you start to get a feel for how students of Fiore or Lichtenauer might have been taught. You then extend the drills, see what happens when you modify things, go beyond the scope of the original diagram, etc. You then start to grow your appreciation for how wide the art goes if you really want to keep exploring. Finally you spar or compete (or both) under varying rulesets to apply those skills, refine the whole system to work out what works for you. If anything, it's actually easier to train in the various HEMA styles now because you can actually spar at close to full contact with minimal risk of serious injury.

    No, we can't go and fight duels to test our systems, but the old masters didn't habitually do that either. I think Fiore says in one of his treatises that he only actually fought two duels, so most of the rest of his experience likely came from what he himself was taught and from drilling, sparring and refining his system.

    I'd agree with competitions, and personally think that's fine - competitions tend to become a lot more dangerous when you add grappling AND hard weapons. You can add mats to make it safer, but that can impact on footwork and it's a lot more expensive to host a competition.

    In sparring, though, it's very common to see grappling, both standing to tie up the sword or to disarm altogether and also with takedowns resulting in groundwork. How far this goes depends on who's training and what end point you've agreed for each pass.

    We also do sparring with daggers, sword and shield, spears, mismatches combinations, etc, none of which tend to find in organised competition. Then there's team melees with either matched or mismatched weapons. In short, HEMA is a hell of a lot more than just what you see in competitions.
    David Harrison likes this.
  16. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    That wasn't my point. My point was, as echoed by you, that we actually haven't really advanced in ability to simulate those types of combat. If we had the ability to better simulate combat you'd have a choice to make regarding whether to stick with old methods or not, as with the invention of modern boxing gloves in my previous example. As it is I think HEMA is kind of a unique third category where it's traditional but reconstructed, but also as I pointed out actually tends to avoid certain traditional aspects.

    Well this comes down to how traditional you want to be versus how much you're willing to pay and risk. I'd hazard a guess that very few HEMA clubs spend enough time on wrestling to achieve basic competency at even basic takedowns. I think that if competition rules were opened up to allow for it in all matches you'd have a similar situation to Judo where you'd have wrestlers gaining basic competency who would be able to make it a significant factor in competition.

    True but I think the litmus test of an art is what gets broadly pressure tested otherwise you don't have the same impetus for training, the same high level competitors doing it and spreading knowledge within and between clubs, etc. Saying an art does grappling is very different from having a competitive focus on it across schools because it's a component of competition. Not to say that only competition skills matter, but that competition skills will be what an art brings to highest level of skill and refinement.
  17. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    It all depends on what period you study, no?

    HEMA covers a large swathe of fighting techniques throughout history, and some of those include times where most students would not see battle or even have a duel. In that sense, someone training as close to original methods as possible would be in a similar position to someone of the time.
  18. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    Right but like I said, in that case the traditional versus progressive effectiveness dichotomy is a result of a lack of advancement in training methodologies not any actual choice. If you have a better training methodology than the historical one, for example going so far as full simulation a la the Star Trek holodeck, then that choice exists, but as pointed out the training methods haven't really advanced in any meaningful way.
  19. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    Do you see the contradiction in your own words?
  20. icefield

    icefield Valued Member

    There really isn't a contradiction boxing is a modern sport, the gloves, rules etc have all changed how the sport looks, from the guard used to the evasions used.

    Old school bare Knuckle as close to old pugilism as we can get, was different stances were more upright less rolling and bobbing as grappling and throwing was allowed, no gloves meant guards were thumbs up not down and less power punches where thrown more straights almost like wing chun punches with the thumbs up.

    More body shots where thrown and less power shots to the head and so on.

    Clinch work is different as you can't hold in modern boxing or throw which makes it different than if you did allow it and so on

    Boxing is a rule set which has changed and evolved along way from what two people punching each other with no rules would look like
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