MMA vs Tradition – Part 4
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This is “Part 4” and final article in the series titled, “MMA vs Tradition”, examining the contrast between the recently popular Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) phenomenon and Traditional Martial Arts. I hope this series has been stimulating and enlightening. Please leave a comment giving your feedback, questions, or opinions. I look forward to continued discussions.
And last, there is always the risk in any martial arts training that the “Master”, “trainer”, or “coach” will develop individuals with functional physical skills but without the value system that must rightly be followed if the practitioner is to “survive” in society after any potential physical confrontation. Remember that in a civilized society, there are legal and social repercussions after a physical confrontation.
Many “traditional” martial arts systems address this thoroughly and systematically. Unfortunately, many, so called, “mixed martial arts” systems fall quite short in this area.
While there are those individuals who already have strong moral values and character coming into such practice, there are many more who appear to be more focused on the “macho” (“I can kick anyone’s butt.”) mentality more akin to the “entertainment sport” of professional wrestling than in “martial arts”.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that any aspiring martial artist should consider developing a foundation of skills in one system to begin with. Although there are exceptions, this is a seminal process that typically takes 3-5 years of serious study and practice, assuming you have a legitimate teacher.
The time needed can be paralleled with the 4 years needed to achieve a “Bachelor Degree” in any academic field. It is amazing that our youth can attend a 4 year study in a legitimate college, finish with the recognition that they still have very limited practical work skills, yet seem to expect to have enough physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual skills in much less time to defend their very lives. WOW!
Along with the physical skills should be included a value system that goes beyond self centered, selfish ends. I believe that this level of discipline is indispensable for success on both personal defense and in everyday life. Anything short of this would designate a much more limited study of martial technique or martial science, not “martial arts”.
EXAMINE THE SOURCE
Further, particularly if that person is attracted to the more “progressive” and allegedly “practical” aspects of the martial arts then he/she should be cautioned to seek out instructors/Masters who have truly honed their arts. Qualification is not necessarily measured accurately by how many “trophies” or “titles’ they have won nor “war stories” of valorous “street fights”. These accolades should certainly be taken into account but with a grain of scrutiny (i.e. many such “Titles” are achieved within a much more limited framework than the “Title” sometimes suggests while many alleged “war stories” seem to “grow” significantly after the fact).
Not to take away from such real accomplishments, however, the real test is in observing the mentor’s own life, his overall successes as well as his failures. Both are valuable but be aware that sometimes more is learned from an occasional failure than from success. This history will be a much better barometer as to what to expect from any alleged “Master” or “professional coach”.
Further, it is also significant to distinguish between someone who is an excellent athlete and an excellent teacher (someone who has the skill set and dedication to develop the student into becoming an excellent and skilled practitioner). If one sincerely wishes to maximize their own development they should search for a “shepherd”, not a “wolf”. Remember that the shepherd is someone who protects and leads the sheep, someone who may put himself at risk to save the sheep. In contrast, a wolf is someone who preys on the sheep, hunts them down, and eats them!
This “shepherd” characteristic is a critical prerequisite in finding a legitimate Master teacher. He will have a history of putting the interests of his students ahead of his own. He will have a history of developing individuals who have the potential to surpass his own accomplishments, not be limited by them. He will have a balance between legitimate confidence and prudent humility. His instruction will be about student development, not primarily self aggrandizement.
It has been my finding and conclusion that it takes a much broader understanding of human development along with significant martial skills to function well as a martial arts “Master”. Such may well be a lifelong study and until then perhaps it is more beneficial to his/her students that such an “aspiring master” should continue his/her own study under the supervision and direction of someone who has been proven to achieve such experience, skill, and insight.
Measure the “Master” by the quality of the students. Measure not only the physical quality but also the students’ comprehension of principles and techniques, along with their appropriate emotional stability, and moral responsibility. Note that I stated: “students” not student.
Anyone by chance and good fortune might develop a physically talented or aggressive individual student. To achieve such quality with average students consistently is a more realistic indicator. The “Master” who can consistently develop excellent and balanced students out of the most average individuals, who can enhance those students’ characters, one who can selflessly point them toward a flexible blueprint for success in life is truly worthy of the term, “Martial Arts Master” and would likely be a worthy mentor.
Good luck in your quest.
“… AND THAT’S THE WAY I SEE IT”. ®