Martial Science: Practical Teach v Product Sales: Final Word ... or maybe not
The commonly used term “martial science” in today’s martial arts’ world has very little substance or resemblance compared to when the term was first brought into popularity some 25 years ago. I confidently make that statement since I was part of the original driving group that chose that specific term to describe a unique and logical study that could impact the future development of all martial arts. The greatest advantage we had at that time was that others in the Pressure Point Fighting world had started the ball rolling. People like Dillman, Montaigue, Oyata, Clark and a few others were the pioneers in this field and regardless of the validity of their teachings, they identified a genuine want and need among martial artists. And what exactly was that want and need?
Modern martial arts, practiced these last 150 years, have been heavily shrouded by an idea that any style is sacred and therefore outside of review or scrutiny by anyone. The most notable reason is linked back to ownership. Competitive karate, as one example, is key to maintaining global and national tenure requiring devotion to a style and competitive system. And with competition being the strongest market driver and the subsequent chief influence on what is taught in a majority of martial arts schools, there is little need to question the origins or future of the sport. As long as the youth or adult student is athletically inclined, their continued involvement is somewhat ensured. But what about the larger percentage of the population that is not so athletically inclined or has no interest in the competitive ring or is interested in something more?
Aside from competition, and even more interesting, is the never ending fascination to the pastwhen in the arts were practiced in mystery and secret by a select few masters with the ability to deliver a hidden secret death touch or strike resulting in delayed death. Most intriguing is the idea that it might actually exist. What all the early pressure point pioneers claimed was a connection to these mysterious few and that somehow they had been chosen to now openly express these deadly teachings to anyone willing to pay the seminar fee, purchase books and tapes or even join their organizations where the true secrets were kept for their members. Again let me state that not all the early PP proponents were created equal. There were one or two that actually offered something legitimate but once again ownership and notoriety took charge of the reigns.
Claims to secrets writings and trainings with obscure figures went unchallenged or were not confirmable. This fed into the glamour and enchantment of studying with these individuals and made for great PR for the main teacher, the organization and the individual school. Any questioning from within was squashed by the other members and seniors students as it would obviously infer question to all involved. Even though this new PP study was presented as individualistic and not bound by prescription, it was still subject to the same ownership confines that aligns with most martial arts and that: growth and sustainability is dependent on the top dog and that any probing is viewed as disrespectful and untrusting. Add to the idea that someone has written a book or even traveled to that part of the martial arts’ homeland somehow seems to legitimize a person above reproach.
Respective of all this, the world of PPs and martial science have seen the greatest slowing in interest and growth in the last 10 years. This is largely due to the intellect of the general adult martial artist and the popularity of MMA style fighting. While MMA is, in my opinion, one of the more realistic forms of systemized fighting, it still relies heavily on athleticism and cross training with MMA schools depending on champions to confirm their credibility. A majority of adults work in some realm of the professional world and cannot show up to the office with blood-swollen ears, blackened eyes and an array of facial stitches and bandaging. Similarly with competitive karate, all this limits who can train in such a gym. But that doesn’t mean that the general martial arts’ practitioner is any less devoted or not as tough. I have seen a white belt take out a guy in a bar fight and witnessed a seasoned tournament fighter get his clock cleaned on the street. So what does this have to do with the decline in PP and martial science studies?
Like competition karate, MMA relies on superb athleticism, a sound understanding of the rules and largely, the right coach. As in most sports, sports medicine, psychology and physiology are important to the success of the competitor but are more the responsibility of the coach. Again we return to this idea of ownership.
On the other side of the coin is the intelligence level of many adults. Adults who are not afraid to question, better traveled, have unlimited access to information and are a bit more discretionary in where and how they invest their dollars. With sports, it’s quite easy to understand and accept what would allow or limit a person’s involvement. However when it comes to those martial arts that include a more cerebral side, it is not as easy to fool the perspective student, new or seasoned.
As one of the originators of the study of martial science and still actively evolving and teaching martial science today, it has become increasingly important to understand that the study of martial science is not a single methodology but rather a collection and collaboration of Eastern and Western medical practices and functional sciences applied to everyday training and real life fighting applications and that these variances must be equally developed. It is also important to understand that there are some areas of study, like simple body mechanics, that can stand alone while areas like TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine to which acupuncture is one aspect) require a dependency on a sound foundational understanding of the mechanistic body to be genuinely effective. After all, the entire premise of combat is to destroy our opponent’s ability to defend himself and what easier way than to understand the physical and mental structure of man and to seek out inherent weaknesses. All the intellectual expertise is no match for a good, hard fighter. But take someone with average but solid fighting skills and functionally apply any of the multitude of martial science principles and the playing field shifts.
Sometimes it is easier to express what something is by illustrating what it is not. So what isn’t martial science? For one, it isn’t applying an ongoing list of ill-applied or irrelevant concepts to some untested or prescribed set of techniques. Martial science isn’t intended to provide the student with some self-defense techniques or fancy buzzwords. Martial science is not stagnant and invariable. Martial science is not untouchable or sacred. Martial science is not theoretical or theatrical. Martial science is not prepackaged and microwaveable. So what is martial science?
Martial science requires study, real study, and that study can be very superficial or very deep and wide. It all depends on the student. Martial science, at any level, provides for the ability to reverse engineer any technique or current training method and draw from a number of systems of analytics to identify any inherent flaws, both in the opponent’s attack and the student’s response. Through this exercise, the student will begin to recognize that there are more similarities between attacks and responses than differences. Like training with a good boxing coach, a complete and proper martial science system will develop an equally effective and balanced offense/defense, rather than just focusing on defensive responses. While some form of preset techniques may be used to transfer information and study intent, a majority of practice will become more dynamic and less dependent on pre-arranged drills. Martial science study should apply to the development of the student’s own physicality if not more than the development of any self-defense application against an attacker. Martial science is ever evolving and ever changing. Martial science like any science must be open to challenge and enquiry. Martial science is dependent on active physical and technical exchange. And though in the early stages of learning the student will be exposed to hundreds of medical and science based concepts and principles, the ultimate goal is simplicity, to know what is needed and when it is needed, and with as little wasted effort as possible.
It is important to recognize that the technology of the body and mind changes very little. What does change is man’s ability to assimilate old and new information, ingest that information and readily apply any output as needed. During a taped interview of two renowned Okinawan karate masters and life-long friends, Kazou Tajima and Noriaki Ikehara, they described how at age 16 they began karate training while in high school. Upon finishing high school, both joined the Nagamine dojo. They were told to continue their karate training but focus on completing their college education, finding a worthy job and raising a family, and once they retire to devote themselves to the development and discovery of karate. And at the youthful age of 72, their progression and development did and does not rely on being taught by others but by their own continued introspection and open exchange with others. And like the masters of old, they do not limit this exchange with only those from their style but train with practitioners of other styles. I can think of no better definition of martial science study than this.
As someone who thoroughly enjoys the practice of kata, there is no other area of my training that my martial science studies has had the strongest influence on kata. What I have come to realize in the last 10 years is that kata is not as it was expressed to me by my teachers, especially by my Okinawan and Japanese teachers. Kata, like the practice of individual techniques or kihon, is without color or substance. Kata is, in itself, is a contradiction in that by definition kata is set pattern of techniques of a particular teacher, style or school and understanding that definition is largely a modern design created to support a modern physical practice and sport. Unlike any other aspect of the student’s practice, martial science will personalize and elevate kata beyond what any coach or teacher can as it requires deep internal introspection and intuitiveness.
Martial science is to karate what computer technology is to cellular phones. Any martial arts style, like modern cell phones, simply provides a platform and delivery system for a multitude of apps. To function properly these apps need access to other functions on your phone like contacts, data files, pictures, etc. All these individual apps were designed specifically to work seamlessly with one another. Updating of one depends of the revision and updating of the all the others, including the hosting platform, to bring to fruition. Like computer technology and properly written language, martial science studies allows the student to become interactively connected requiring continual revision and updating. Unfortunately, man does not have access to a provider that provides free upgrades every year like Sprint or Verizon does for your cell phone.