“Shaken or Stirred – Blended or Mixed”
What flavour Martial Art do you do?
Are modern Martial Arts signalling the end of an era? Are the days of the true Master numbered? Well probably not, but realistically the current direction so many martial artists are taking will have a large affect. The current trend is to Mix and Match styles, take what is useful and discard what is not, hmm where has that been said before? It seems every corner now has a Mixed Martial Arts school promoting the current trend. While there are most definitely some very good instructors who have chosen the MMA route it seems that everyone else has decided to jump on this band wagon.
The Martial Arts like so many other activities or hobbies goes through phases or trends, whether it was the Kung Fu years, the Ninja Time or the whole Cardio/Tai Bo Karate get fit period. So what makes the current MMA direction any different? In some ways it is far more powerful than those and truly far more dangerous as well.
MMA by itself is a positive idea, the general thought of ensuring that through your martial arts training you cover each of the ranges is positive. By that I mean having techniques which can include stand up, ground and in close fighting to cover all the possibilities of self defence. After all haven’t a number of the Martial Arts fathers in their own way done some of this when they created the mainstream martial arts we learn today? So where is the danger in the current trend?
The danger is in the loss of the true Master, the person who chooses to follow the path of his style over enough time to truly understand and master it. The person who lives their style, brings to it life and through years of experience adds in their own way to its uniqueness. If we lose these people, we lose so much more than just the history of a style, we also lose the future. So why is this happening?
The martial arts reflect society and its current drive to take the path of least resistance. Why study one style for 20, 30 or 40 years to mastery when you can learn 5 or 6 styles in a shorter period. It is common for instructors to start in one style, then grab a little bit of this and a little bit of that. A few seminars here and there, added to an intensive course and viola’ you are a MMA stylist. This might take 5-10 years and you now have some experience in each range or area of self defence. At this stage another path opens up, the instructor with his newly found skills chooses to create his own new MMA type style or system. So we end up with students leaving their original systems to create others without ever learning where they came from.
Now it was common in the past for Martial Artists to cross train and in Korea it was quite common for seniors to be ranked in a number of styles e.g. Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido and Judo. So how was that any different to today? Well if you look back at those very same seniors you will see that they still have a main style and most definitely a higher rank in that one. The other styles will be of a lower rank and regarded as not their main focus. This allows them to go on to Master their style while having had the experience of the others.
So if we look at the old ways and compare them to the new are they really that different? Well the focus today is more on purely stripping out of a style what works and discarding the rest, how can someone who does this ever truly master that style? The more this happens the more we end up with one singular blended or mixed system. Now from a pure Self Defence position this is a good thing, having defined what works and what doesn’t. However it is a sad day for the loss of the tradition, the loss of those attributes that make each individual style just that.
Are all Mixed Martial Artists doing this? No of course not there are some very well known MMA instructors who also have a very strong background in a single art or style. There are also those who have taken the MMA path as a means to simple self defence or for the competition aspects as well. The danger lies in those students/instructors who fail understand at least some core basics before blending or mixing what little they know with more. With the growth in popularity of the Mixed Martial Arts so to will be the longer term effects felt from the loss of those instructors who decided to change their path.
Only time will tell if the current trend to Blend or Mix will be a positive one or detrimental. However the respect for those martial artists who commit to their style, those who truly master a path will always be there. Learning different ideas and adding to your skill set is a positive direction to take, but why not do that from a solid background in one system. Take the path a little less trodden and possibly far greater rewards will come. Blended or Mixed, Shaken or Stirred it really comes to down to your taste, choose wisely.
Grandmaster Geoff J. Booth