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Practicality in Martial Arts

Martial Arts

I would like to open up this article by saying that, no, your martial art of choice does not have to be practical for you to enjoy it. I’ve worked in the martial arts industry for many years now and one topic that I’ve witnessed and taken part in ad nauseam, is the concept of practicality. There is always a holier-than-thou tone taken whenever an MMA fighter starts talking about fighting to, say, a Tae Kwon Do blackbelt. I’ve heard the same tone taken with a hardcore Krav Maga guy when talking to the MMA guy. It’s almost always a conversation that goes in circles with one critical point that always gets missed, the point that I believe is one of the most crucial in literally anything you do, regardless of how much passion you have, and that’s adherence. Simply put, if you don’t enjoy doing something, you won’t do it enough to become good at it.

One of the best benefits of working in the industry as long as I have is that I have made many amazing friends, one of those being a man named Rob Campbell. Rob owns a Kung Fu San Soo school in Oklahoma City where he has achieved the rank of master and is a fantastic follow on instagram. Rob eats, sleeps and breathes Kung Fu, so it's no surprise that the vast majority of his content is weaponry in the style of Kung Fu. The man is a master with the rope dart and the three sectioned staff. You can tell in the fluidity of his motions as well as the consistency of his posts that he has put lots and lots of time and energy into becoming great at those things. Because he loves doing them, if he didn’t, like I was saying earlier, he would never stick with it long enough. Every now and then however on one of his posts, you will see someone (who most likely trains nothing) make a comment about how “He’ll never get into a fight with a rope dart” or that his style is “All flash and no substance” and a few different variations on that, all of which are toxic, unconstructive and annoying. The first thing I would like to point out is that sure, all styles aren’t created equal but something compared to nothing will almost always win. So, even though Rob loves weapons, he could still handedly defend himself against the vast majority of untrained people out there. Because it all comes back to what he does almost every single day for years of his life.

Another amazing person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in my time in the industry is a man named Shaw Furukawa. Shaw not only owns his own Kendo School but is a 4th Dan and 6th Dan in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Seitokai Iaido. Something to keep in mind with all this Kendo talk is that unlike most martial arts, their tests have an extremely high fail rate. The rank of 8th Dan, has a pass rate of less than 1%. You are measured objectively by someone who does not know you, not your coach or your coach's coach. With 3 components necessary, written, kata and performance. Shaw has been able to achieve so much in his field because of the passion he has for the sport and for his culture. So again, he loves it enough to do it consistently over a long period of time. It's the only recipe to get great at anything in life. Does he carry around a katana in his corduroys, ready for a deathmatch outside of the local Starbucks? Absolutely not and he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s not training for the heavyweight championship of the world but his passion for Kendo runs deep and simply how cool it is just emanates from him when he speaks about it.

the warrior in you

Both of the men I talked about just now will, and have already accomplished more in martial arts than the vast majority of people out there. Including those that need to think whatever they spend their time doing is more important than what somebody else chooses to do or the egoist that needs to attempt to put somebody down to build themselves up. Anybody that trains consistently has my respect and I wish that would be the standard moving forward.

With all that being said, it would be remiss of me to not mention a few key, clarifying factors. I’m not going to start style shaming or anything like that but I would like to point out a few concepts that might prove useful in this conversation. One being that if there is no live sparring in the chosen style, it will never be able to come close to mimicking the intensity of hand-to-hand combat. Sparring can look different from style to style but if there is no way to test your techniques against someone at almost full resistance, there can’t be any more certainty in that technique compared to one that can. Any style that is primarily based on theoretical knowledge and passive drilling will always fall short in this discussion compared to a style that has the ability to test their techniques at a high pace. That doesn’t mean that if what you’ve chosen to train doesn’t have that component, then it's a waste of time. It just means that it will produce different martial artists, with different skills and abilities as its outcome. It all comes down to what you enjoy doing, so in turn you will do it long enough to become competent at it. Your martial art doesn’t have to be practical to be enjoyable and I hope in the future we can all be kinder to each other when talking about martial arts.

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