I'd like to think that anyone who learned swordplay from me would have a better chance of defending themselves if they ever had to fight for real with swords, than someone who had not.
It seems ethical, despite the lack of necessity in our modern age, to give as worthy advice as possible that would hold true if tested 'for real'.
It's the point of martial arts after all, isn't it? It's meant to have some basis in stuff that really happened, and is meant to be something that folks who had experience back then wanted to pass on to those that might need it in the future.
Obviously, this 'reality' is bounded by historical context, geographical context, and cultural context. Most martial arts were created to solve specific problems, whether they were designed for the individual, the group, the battlefield, the deserted alley, for entertainment and gambling, for particular terrain, sometimes for limited access to weaponry, and often as ways to bolster group identity and loyalty.
But still, the 'what' to do of most systems seems pretty easy to grasp - In a duel, for instance, the ways to draw blood remain as constant today as they did a 1000 years ago - Our anatomy has not really changed, and neither have the laws of physics
So if the 'what' is relatively straightforward, why is there so much controversy and debate regarding 'the truth'? I suspect it is because of the HOW to do the 'what', and also the WHEN to do the 'what'.
Turns out that how to make stuff actually work is a complex field full of individuals, their motivations, the immediate environment, and the emotional moments they live in. It is not that easy to navigate, and because of this most systems of knowledge fall short - Just too many variables to calculate, and too many innate human glitches, like our love of patterns for instance, that can create misunderstanding.
And really, how would you know if you could actually 'make stuff work'? ... Unless you actually had to make it work!?
I guess you could challenge someone to a duel ......
And then, how do you know if you were just lucky/unlucky in your single sampling?
Answer of course is that you don't .. and can't.
SO how do you choose how to learn something arcane that grabs your fancy? How do you pick a teacher to teach you things there is no real formula for, and no 'real' way of testing how you and 'it' work together? Can you be happy just learning the 'whats'?
If so, there is no need to test anything ... But a couple criteria come to mind if you do want more:
- After training with your teacher, when you test out their ideas in friendly, or not so friendly swordplay, you 'die' less often than you did before.
- You can't beat your teacher.
These parameters also give the relationship meaning (I want what you do), and it keeps true to the idea that the knowledge is FOR something (prevailing against your opponent).
Any other ideas?