|Brian Joseph Johns|
One example of what I discuss in this article is the concepts and innovations of Rokas Sensei of AikidoSiauliai whose efforts in revitalizing Aikido of the original Bujutsu in the modern world, which was taught as part of the original Samurai curriculum. Hence the use of Weapons Kata that includes the Bō, Jō, Wakazashi and of course the Katana as part of the modern instruction curriculum for Aikido and Aikijutsu.
Also I would like to thank Shaolin Temple Quanfa, Aikido Tendokai Dojo (Yumi Sensei) and Eagle Tae Kwon Do Dojang, all in my home city of Toronto, with the last two being in my home area of Regent Park and to Renshi Morgan and Kyoshi Hind without all of whom I'd likely have a much less informed perspective. I am grateful for their Wisdom.
I'm not much for seeing martial arts used in the context of an exhibition for spilling blood or the kind of blood lust that seems to be quite common in many Mixed Martial Arts bouts and YouTube videos pitting MMA fighters against Traditional Martial Arts. It is so far from the intent of martial arts in the first place ironically despite their being focused on personal growth through the perfection of the body and mind through the expression of combat. Their application in history was typically on the battlefield during Southeast Asian history encompassing the whole region. So those techniques once again were proven on the field of battle in life or death combat with very practical weapons and unarmed techniques. If they had proven to be impractical or ineffective, then there would be no instructors of those traditional martial arts today. Its quite honestly that simple. Traditional martial arts has over time acquired very little practical experience in this way since the gun powder era and beyond due to the fact that melee combat was no longer strategically viable for the purposes of warfare.
In most formal martial arts, there only exists sparring or Kumité (in Japanese Martial Arts) as the only meaningful practice outside of real combat which for any martial artist should be avoided, as disagreements in society should be handled through meaningful discussion and the courts if necessary. "Might does not right make but rather might for right", to quote from the Arthurian legends.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect about these exhibition fights taking place in China recently is more so a reflection of China's history than most would care to examine or notice for that matter. The social revolutions that have begotten China since the Japanese occupation and their attempt to use the last Emperor of China (the Manchurian Emperor Pu Yi) as a puppet leader to reinstall country wide Imperial authority under the usurper guidance of the Generals of the time. This revolution sought to overthrow the hold of Confucianism and Imperial authority in Chinese society which often taught youth not to question the knowledge and experience of the elderly and authority.
Those wanting to see China grow successfully into the modern era, many of whom were students and youth that directly confronted the Confucian authoritative point of view and regimen which had stagnated the country's growth and prevented the embracing of new ideas such as trade, technology and socialist values that may or may not have been influenced by the Russian revolution of the prior half century. Regardless, this confrontation seems to have spawned a country and regime which seems to be benefiting from both their socialist program and their global trade. Perhaps the most transformative force will be reflected through their global trade, and by youth in a similar way confronting the comfort of Confucianism which sometimes tends to lead to stagnation despite the fact that there are many beneficial concepts within Confucianism. This is also not to say that the elderly are the enemy at all, and China certainly regards the elderly with the respect they deserve.
So putting the violence aside, this is a very clear indication that there is a growing movement to challenge the authority of the sage in favour of renewing a tradition by bringing it into the modern age and by taking what has been learnt through the furthering of other martial arts and their corresponding practical use as a means of expanding upon them so that they may both stand the test of time and actual application in combat. Of course one of the originators of mixed martial arts, Bruce Lee is responsible for this ever growing movement that may have taken many decades to finally be realized. Other traditional martial arts Masters of history too have taken the approach of growth and integration with their teachings, though as time progressed and it became less strategically viable to engage directly in melee combat as a result of the advancement of ranged weaponry and artillery on the field of battle.
So see this acceptance of exhibition matches between traditional martial arts Masters and MMA fighters as a sign of a micro-revolution seeking to challenge the authority of the traditional martial arts Masters for the purpose and benefit of growth. We all stand the risk of becoming too comfortable and confident with our experience and knowledge when it is not questioned. Hopefully such a movement will not discard the experience and knowledge of such Masters but instead work with them to integrate and transform modern martial arts as a whole like so many other Sifu and Sensei seem to be doing. Tae Kwon Do on the other hand has always had ties to competitive sports and has likely benefited from that in terms of their growth throughout history. That's not to say that its better, but it has been kept up to date in terms of application by its extensive use in competitive sports much like Thai boxing. Also another aspect that keeps it fresh that it shares in common with its counterparts in China and Japan, is that Dojangs in Tae Kwon Do, Dojos in Japanese martial arts and Temples in Chinese martial arts tend to be integral and unifying parts of any community in which they exist, as part of the progression in those martial arts requires participation in community and society for the better of the whole.
Perhaps the sign of the greatest Masters and Teachers is to instill the courage and motivation within their students to question what needs to be questioned to progress for the better. Even when it means questioning the teacher themselves for the purpose of progression and growth, and not for the one-up man ship lure of the ego.
Brian Joseph Johns