Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I wrote a post a while back called The Art of Living .... idea being that in dueling, there is little art in killing and less in dying, so ultimately the 'Art' in 'Martial Art' in concerned with getting away ....

The other day I was working out with a friend, and we started doing a cooperative flow drill, and after a few minutes when it seemed like we both were moving pretty well, I started to talk tactics and how doing what we were doing could evolve into part of an adversarial duel.
My friend said ... 'But I'm just interested in the 'art', seemingly implying he wanted to keep doing the drill and not get into the messy section about competitiveness, winning and losing.
We started a discussion, and I said that I considered all the pieces of the system that are considered 'art' inextricably connected to the ability to prevail, that you cannot practice the artistry without keeping the goal in mind. In fact the art is not art if it does not work.

I know there does not have to be any 'art' for something to be deemed 'martial', but there is a certain elegance, effortlessness and precision that can give some solutions to conflict a sense of being more, better ..... beautiful, even.
The artistry can be creative, inspired or unexpected, though of course it can be destructive too ... a thing of darkness, it can also be breathtakingly cold, stark and amoral. But regardless of which part of the spectrum the artistry falls, it still has to work.
The art really is not separate from the deed, you can't gain one without the other ... and oddly enough, it only really becomes true art once it has an audience, even if the audience is your opponent, and they have no idea of what just happened.


FSD said...

I feel like I need to get a Twitter or FB account just to mention all your posts Maija, because every one of them is super. :)

I have a series of books by Don Draeger...I think there are four of them, three of which if I remember correctly are:

Classical Bujutsu
Classical Budo
Modern Bujutsu and Budo

They're all three great books. But the third one was really enlightening...a long time ago when I read it at least...I should take a look at it again. Anyway, he writes about the transition from Bujutsu to Budo to what I think he called "modern martial sports" and even "modern martial ways"...modern Budo which isn't even like classical Budo.

The thesis as it relates to your post is: there used to be "martial arts"...Bujutsu. When Japan became peaceful these martial arts with techniques and training designed to "kill" where changed and adapted to "martial ways"...Budo. In that transition many of the more effective techniques and training methods were lost. Budo became less about "martial" and more about discipline and morals. This happened even to styles people think of today as martial arts, like "karate". But karate underwent a major transition from kara-te jutsu to kara-te do, switching from a martial art to a martial way.

I spent a couple of summers in Japan in the mid 90's, and I was on a hunt for more information about this. I showed some Japanese people I knew the different kanji for "kara-te jutsu" vs. "kara-te do". Because it turns out, even the kanji (and more importantly the meaning and purpose) for "kara" was changed, although it was pronounced the same.

Younger people in Japan didn't even know what the kanji for the old "kara" meant. Only a few older people I asked knew. So even in Japan, where this major change occurred, most Japanese don't know about it. They don't make a distinction between Bujutsu and Budo, or modern martial sports. Yet, there is a very significant difference.

And in America...people have no clue...most of them.

Point is, much of what people today consider martial arts are not martial arts at all, in the original sense. I think that's a big reason for the confusion.

Lots of what people call "martial arts" today would be better labeled as "cultural arts" or "foreign dance" or something like that.

We that look for what works may be in the minority, and many people won't even understand what we're talking about.

Unknown said...

Well said. Being in the FMA myself (Modern Arnis, Teovel's Balintawak and Atillo Balintawak), I'm all too aware of folks who think that "cooperative" drills will lead to combat proficiency. I tell them that once they get the pattern down, they must learn the principle/concept behind it and dissolve that pattern. Hopefully, they get what I mean. :-)