Thursday, December 30, 2010

Studying Multiple Disciplines

This post inspired by a post at the Okinawan Fighting Art: Isshin Ryu blog by Charles James.  The post on Multiple Disciplines.

"Jack of all trades and master of none."  I have heard this quote many times.  I am not certain I agree with it.  In The Book of Five Rings by Musashi tells us, "Become acquainted with every art." as one of the key tenants to learning the Niten Ichi Ryu style of swordsmanship.  He includes that one should have at least a basic understanding of weapons other than the sword as well.

Fighting is not limited to a style any more than it is limited to a location or a time of day.  If your style of martial arts does not teach ground fighting then I am of the opinion that you need to look elsewhere to find those skills.  True, this can be a much harder road to travel.

What must be determined in order to decide what is best for each of us is that we need to decide on a context in which our training needs to take place.  That needs to happen before we ever decide if a single style is going to be enough for us.  The context can be sport, military, law enforcement/security, or even civilian.  When we take on the context of violence in the outside of the Dojo then styles become a very unimportant descriptor with no real meaning other than a social group we can belong to for part of our training.

If viewed in the right light I think a martial artist can be a student of all of the martial arts regardless of source or age of the style or of lineage.  Fighting is limited by a few things.  The main one being that the human form is going to be the same from one person to the next.  Weapons, although various, are going to work in one of a few models.  All the techniques taught by every martial art in the world are merely tools that must follow the same basic natural laws of physics and human physiology.  Styles are a method of organizing the tactics and strategies of how to apply the basic tools.  However, if we break the martial arts down to their most fundamental components, and punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.  Sure their are always subtleties from one school to the next but those can be sorted through and probably need to be by each individual.  What works for one might not be best for another.  I am six foot two inches and weight about 250 pounds.  I can kick to the head no problem but in a fight I think I would be a little too slow for this to realistic.  On the other hand I know a few martial artists whom I have seen kick others in the head during a non-dojo based confrontation.   

All that said I for one am fond of the schools/styles I teach.  However, to say that we cannot study multiple styles at the same time is not correct, in my opinion.  The practice of studying multiple styles might make advancing in rank much more difficult.  But rank is subjective and is relate-able only to the school in which it was issued.  Skill in fighting is difficult to quantify but if it is our goal than styles have little place in deciding how good we are in the end.