Friday, August 12, 2011

Occidental Martial Arts

First, in case some of you didn't know.  Oriental essentially means "eastern".  The oriental people are people from the east.  Simple enough, right?  So we are looking at people from Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, etc... 

Occidental on the other hand is "western".  So Occidental people are us western types.  The America's, the U.K., etc... 

So, when I refer to occidental martial arts I am not talking about things like Viking axe techniques or fencing.  I am referring to people in the west who have made things like Karate their own.  There is a circle of "Pragmatic Martial Artists" that I have been studying specifically that I think really have some amazing talent in the arts.  The things they teach are thoroughly thought out and taught in a way and with a depth that is totally world class.  Their instruction is unparalleled. 

I have been fortunate enough to study with many of these guys in the last few years and every time I walk away with new insight into the martial arts, violence, and conflict management.  Many of them published authors as well they really offer a wealth on knowledge on these topics.   

The reason I bring these people up is this...I have been exposed over the years to the philosophy that in order to get any real instruction into the martial arts we need to go study in the east.  We have to find instructors in Japan or elsewhere or what we have learned is invalid or not useful.

Now I think that this perspective is not as common as it was a few years ago but I still hear it from people on occasion.  There are still some good schools in the east.  However, there are also several not so great schools. It is possible from what research I have done personally and via written materials that there are as many poor quality schools in the east as there are in the west.  In fact, given what I have seen I am beginning to think that the number of really good schools in the world is smaller than the number of schools that teach wrong things into their curricula.
I want to point out that this discussion is ignoring the concerns on the sport world.  Martial arts as they apply to the real world and not in a ring.  For that matter I suppose I am including the people who do not know the difference between these two contexts.

Believe me or not, some of you should rest easy knowing that it is possible that a western school can be world class.  That we do not have to go to some foreign or exotic location to learn something about the martial arts that we will never get at home.  I will try to publish soon a list of qualifications for a good school.  Perhaps even a list of these western instructors that you can watch for in your area.   

I would add in closing that there is a good chance that we could go to some of these exotic locations seeking a "master" with which to study and end up simply disappointed.