Traditional to Modern Part 2 (2016)
Following on from Part 1, it is essential for traditional practitioners to not only learn from the forms they have been taught, but to move away from them to grow. Traditional forms or Katas, which are fixed patterns in which a practitioner moves in a set mould can be described as a summary of a book. You read the summary of the book to receive an outline of what happens within the book itself. If the book is not read and studied in depth, then one cannot claim full comprehension simply from reading the summary as many details will have been missed out. The same can be said for forms. The forms are a guideline to the move set within a style; some styles may have several forms involving specific techniques.
Many traditional practitioners swear by their forms and therefore do not deviate from them due to tradition. This unfortunately, limits and restricts one’s ability to transcend their skill set. Whilst it is important to uphold the history and culture of ancient movements and the rationale behind those movements, a practitioner cannot live in the past. The fact is, times are changing and new methods of training are available. If a form is compared to a sentence consisting of a few words, many may only practice that sentence thinking that they speak the entire language without realising that they can say the same thing but in different ways, expressions and languages. Traditional practitioners who have practiced their forms to the point where it is perfect, but have failed in physical confrontations can often be due to this misguided approach. The cognitive dissonance in this regard can be great due to the attitudes and beliefs being in conflict with reality.
The mind is very much like a parachute; it only works if it is open. This statement can be applied to very traditional and as well as egotistical practitioners who do not transcend the barriers of what they know due to the fear of having their weaknesses exposed, where they will also shroud themselves in mystery and lies. Such people have been around for many years and are detrimental to the Martial Arts and its practitioners.
Learn the form but seek the formless. If a form is taught to you, learn, practice it and perfect it. As you are doing this, understand the movements and their purpose. Practice them separately and try sparring with those movements but not in the order they are placed in from the form. Those who are able to do this have a far better and informed understanding of the discipline itself. Forms and fixed routines only work again and again if the conditions are the same. As the conditions are always subject to change, the routines should be used as a tool, but not the rule.
The practitioner should therefore learn the principles, not the rules. Generally speaking, principles guide and rules control. A style free practitioner who follows the principles will learn how the style moves and operates and how would apply to his current and developing understanding of the Martial Arts. A fixed set practitioner on the other hand who follows the rules of a style will only practice what has been taught and will develop bad habits. A shift in one’s approach can mean transcending restrictions and barriers to improvement. Learning the rules may involve one to practice movements in a particular sequence that only applies under a specific condition. 10 people learning the fixed rules of a style would yield 10 copies of the original; if continue to photocopy a copy, it will lose its quality and the same can be applied to this context. Learning the principles on the other hand, may allow him to for instance, practice movements from other styles to be applied to the principles of another style. With learning the principles, 10 people learning the same discipline would yield 10 separate and unique ways of moving, despite the similar move sets.
Due to the ever increasing popularity of Mixed Martial Arts, many practitioners have made the switch to learn more diverse skills. That being said, the more one learns with an open minded approach, the more he will realise there is to learn. Many MMA practitioners train in Boxing, Brazilian JuJitsu, Judo, Wrestling, Muay Thai Boxing. With the sheer amount of disciplines that exist, it would be ignorant to neglect them and their principles and efficacies. A Martial Artist’s development should never end. It is a lifestyle. The training should reflect and apply itself to that lifestyle. It is advisable for all practitioners to continue learning other forms of disciplines in order to develop a broader understanding of combat and the Martial Arts. Every individual is different and must find their own personality within the movements they have learned. It is like an art teacher who has presented a painting to his students; instead of demanding that his students copy exactly what he has done in the way he has done it, he simply asks that his students learn how he has done that painting to create their own.
If China had taken over the world, then learning other disciplines such as Boxing and JuJitsu from their respective origins would be regarded as learning Kung Fu. As traditional Martial Artists, it is so important to transcend the idea of where a style comes from and learn it for its merits to complement our own. If you are resistant to change, then it is not just your mind you need to open; your attitude must change also. The attitude is like a flat tyre; you can only move forwards if you change it.
So continuing with the analogy of the warriors and practitioners of old who travelled the land to increase their knowledge and expand on their own experience, be like an ancient Martial Artist; be a literal Mixed Martial Artist.