Saturday, 15 October 2011

Martial Artist v Black Belt

This is something that has been on my mind for a long time. I've wrote similar articles in the past but it's been awhile. I'm talking about the dumbing down of martial arts in this country until they are no longer martial.

There are too many dishonest people involved in what we do who are being dishonest with themselves if they don't believe that they are dishonest with the people around them. The divide between martial artists and black belts has gotten wider and wider as time has gone on and I feel the need to stand up and speak on it once again because I believe in what I do. Most of all I believe in the truth and I hate to see people being lied to and ripped off.

To get to the point right off let's look at the definition of the word Martial. Merriam-Webster defines martial as:

1: Of, relating to, or suited for war or a warrior;
2: Relating to an army or to military life;
3: Experienced in or inclined to war: warlike.

This is the meaning of the word martial. The word itself is Latin meaning from Mars (not the planet, the God of War). Yes people, that's right - it's not Asian and no, martial arts absolutely did not originate in Asia. Actually there is some evidence that there were no canonized arts in Asia at all until after the campaigns of Alexander the Great. That of course is up for debate and not relevant to this article. So we now know the word itself implies that the person is either in the military or they are basically a fighter in some form or at the very least prepared to fight.

I like to sit around sometimes and listen to the old timers talk about how martial arts used to be. They talk about how back in the old days people would spar bare knuckle and you had to be able to fight to get your ranks. Everyone earned everything they got.

I know on my way to my Judo black belt I won a heavyweight championship on a State level, got a shoulder dislocation and one good concussion to go with it. You bet I earned my rank. I didn't have it easy but if everyone could have something then it wouldn't be worth anything would it? I think you see where this is going.
As technical director for an international organization I’ve visited a lot of schools and seen a lot of programs. I don't visit a lot of those schools anymore because frankly I'm just disgusted. I saw schools doing techniques on the same level at black belt that weren't much better than the white belts were doing. I saw an instructor in Madison, AL once change an attack because the wrist lock he wanted to use wasn't working against a real attack. So instead of using the technique correctly or trying it a different way he changed the attack to something unrealistic.

I was helping another guy in the area once. I'd go in and show these techniques and better ways of training to produce better students. They'd all nod and talk about how great the techniques were and I'd feel like I got through somewhere. I'd go back the next week and they weren't implemented. I'd give them more time then bring it up. I'd hear something like umm yeah I remember we talked about that last week. Well you know talking doesn't fix anything.

I gave him a link to my articles and he read a few. This guy actually sent me an email back saying he agreed with what I was saying but he was just trying to teach these students how to defend themselves he wasn't trying to develop Navy SEALS. He couldn't understand that he wasn't really teaching his students anything and what I was telling him was the basic information they'd need to defend themselves at all.

You know I once went to a Jujitsu school that didn't teach nage waza because they were afraid it would scare potential students and run them off. Yes I'm serious that actually happened.

Most use the excuse that they are just trying to empower people and build good character. This is a load of crap and a complete insult to anyone's intelligence. They actually want us to believe that you have to lower the bar on quality to make someone feel better. Well you know, the US Military has made a lot of men out of boys, do you think they shy away from rough training?

The fact is they are lying to people. It's all about money plain and simple. Martial arts aren’t for everyone and should not be for everyone. Martial arts are for warriors. Teaching someone crap to make it easier to fill your schools is not about character it's about money so you need to stop lying to yourself and others.

What you are teaching is not martial arts and you are not a warrior; you’re just a fabric salesman. Yes that's right; there is a huge difference between a black belt and a martial artist. If you spend more time going to marketing seminars than you do working on your program to make it better then you are not a real martial artist. You’re just a low rent con artist that takes advantage of people and fills them with a false sense of security. You are not helping anyone but yourself and you are disgusting.
These jerks have people so brainwashed it's mind boggling. You go in and try to help them out and they just looking at you like you dropped a load of dung on their circle jerk. Some people just don't want the truth; they only want the perception of it.

They'll come after you too if you stand up and fight it. I've had them go to the Hanshi of the organization before and say bad things about me and they even held up my 6th dan promotion for a year in Jujutsu but I finally got it anyway. You know I'd rather actually be somebody than just look like somebody any day. People, use your common sense. If you do not have to work hard for something then you’re not getting anything. Now, building character is important, don't get me wrong, but that can be instilled with any program. I recently wrote an article called Don't Look at the Floor or You'll Soon Be On it which used boxing as a great metaphor for positive life lessons. Can you imagine the looks someone would get if they claimed they studied boxing but never sparred? That doesn't even sound right.

Some others use the excuse that they are standing by tradition. This is also wrong. These arts were originally developed in ancient times for military use. The fact is, like any military, if those techniques weren't working they'd change them. They aren't going to die on the battlefield for loyalty to some technique, but apparently some instructors think it's alright for their students to die for them now.

If martial arts doesn't deal with modern problems and modify and change over time then they become a stagnant museum piece. They are no longer a living art. No art deserves that fate. I'm not saying go in there and bash skulls every night but you have train people to develop the attributes of the art that can work in a very real way. You should always pressure test your techniques. Your loyalty should only be to the people that walk through your doors and put the faith in you that you can teach them how to reasonably defend themselves.

It's a sad development of our society. Teaching people that the bar will be lowered for them and they don't have to work for what they get is not a good lesson. We are living in tough times and need realism more than ever. We need warriors not pretenders.  A black belt is not necessarily a martial artist anymore. There are a lot of good instructors out there; it isn't just about money with everyone. Some of us are still out here living and breathing this stuff. My name is Paul Green and I'm proud to be a martial artist.

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