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The martial arts are changing

In my lifetime I have seen the outcome in training and school building that was brought about from the martial arts explosion from the sixties and seventies. This explosion has had both good and bad consequences. With so many new schools opening and the access to a wider array of styles, several important changes have evolved.

It is rare to find a long term student that has only taken one style of martial art or even only been involved in a single nationality pool. This widening of the students learning has been a great awaking in our skill level. For years I held the belief that you had to be from the native country of the style to be the best. That has changed. The students that our melting pot of a nation can produce can compete on any international level in both sport and combat. We are better off for having this high level of cross training. I will comment that it takes a dedicated student and one that is looking for self mastery, not the belt factory student.

All styles have strengths and weaknesses. It is our cultural ability to pull the finest skills and learning from whatever we do and combine them into a cohesive and working relationship that makes us unique. While the concept of only taking what we perceive to be the best of several styles and using them seems quick and easy, it has long term cause and effect relationships with our education and martial arts culture. A prime example is the overweight issue that the U.S. continues to support. If you theorize that 100 years from now the U.S. population will have solved its obesity problem and everyone will be back to a normal preindustrial body mass, how will that affect what needs to be trained and learned then as compared to today. This brings us to the question “Are martial arts organic in their evolutionary path?”

If your opinion follows this organic growth and change then we in the western world are the next hotbed for a martial arts evolutionary jump. If you believe that the arts are relatively stagnant and should be kept pure in present form, then you might consider this situation. What will help make the final break from the old world is that the large number of immigrant masters that came to the U.S. up into the 80’s now have their western raised children running their schools. The integration of other styles is being driven by this new crop of leaders and the break with the old word is actively progressing. The students from the older masters have already moved and been combining styles for years so their reservations about national loyalty have long been broken. It is the old masters children that are the final step in our developing national martial arts culture.

So… is this change good or bad? That is a question that will be argued for several more generations. What I can confirm is that the change is happening and happening faster than we ever imagined.

Just for fun, go ask your peers all the styles they have practiced and then ask them what they still consider important about each style. The answers will surprise you.