How do you view your Karate or Martial Arts Practice?
As time passes, our views of the martial arts sometimes evolve, and sometimes we get stuck on a perspective that doesn't change for whatever reason. After 30+ years in the martial arts, here is a fun take on some common perspectives that I have experienced. As you read through, reflect on what your current position is, and let me know in the comments below what you think? Let's take a glance at the 6 common perspectives from my point of view.
1. Indiana Jones Lost Jewel/Treasure
We sometimes tend to idolize our masters, the founders, and the system itself. We are lead to believe, at times, that what we are learning is a historical artifcat, which in fact it is, but there is a tendancy to get lost in it, and overly idolize the entire practice, it's founders, and the organization that you belong to. It's kind of like a cult-ish type of behavior in some cases. Like Indiana Jones, from Raiders Of The Lost Ark, we are in search for that lost treasure, that sanctifying place of amazingness we call the dojo, that spiritual place of group activity which gives us a sense of peace and fulfilment. Our Karate is like a lost jewel and treasure, often sacred in our hearts.
2. The Time Capsule
Some feel the need to flash-freeze the techniques as the masters downloaded them upon us. We do our best to pass it down, untouched, shrink wrapped, and air tight, so we don't lose the authenticity from the art and/or masters. This is a personal choice from organizations and style leaders. Teaching the techniques as the masters once taught them is a way to ensure authenticity, and to legitimize your techniques back to a reputuble source. With this method, there is a level of comfort and confidence when you put techniques in this "time capsule" so to speak.
3. The Kaleidoscope
This is a martial arts view where there are many views exposed in your periphery! When you look at your Karate through a Kaleidoscope perspective, you see many "colorful" perspectives, and ever changing ideas that surmount in your mind. This is a view where you subject your practice to evolution, new ideas, different opinions of others, and integrate them back into your current training lense. Your training ends up looking like a layered "rainbow" where each layer is "colored" by the influences of new ideas from varying sources both inside and outside of your dojo/gym. You are open to varying colors of light, which represent influences from different martial arts and/or combat sports.
4. The Tool Box
Here, you adopt a more pragmatic approach, where you look at all your Karate techniques (Kihons and Kata) simply as tools. The wrench or the screwdriver, for example is represented by the various Kihons or techniques found in your Katas and you find varying ways to utilize them for specific offense and defensive jobs, situations, and/or purposes. This is an approach where you are not afraid to break apart the technique from it's Kata box, you are not afraid to experiment, and not afraid to manipulate the technique to suit your job. The Toolbox perspective assumes you will objectively take the technique out for a field day of testing, try it out on your opponent/partner, and make the necessary changes to the way you use it based on the situation that presents itself.
5. The Buffet
The Buffet approach is an approach where you are open to enjoying different kinds of martial "food". This is an approach where you are open to tasting/trying out new concepts, ideas, martial arts, and/or combat sports. You see where things fit into your game, you make the necessary decisions to add/change/delete to and from your current practice. Just like going to any buffet, you sample the food, if you like it, you eat more of it, and perhaps, you might even be open to adapting the recipe to your current cuisine menu. This is the cross-training approach. It's a very progessive and evolutionary approach that asserts a constant growth mindset. It has no place for the "picky eater". It's a place for someone who enjoys to try new things, sample new foods for thought. The practitioner who takes on The Buffet perspective, is not an isolated learner, he/she is someone who craves collaboration, seeks feedback, and is only temporarily satisfied with their current performance.
6. Pickled Olives
This is a martial arts approach, similar to the Timecapsule approach, but more stingent in the preservation process. Just like pickling olives in a preservative brine, you tend to preserve the techniques passed down by the masters and ensure everyone in your organization does the same. It's a stringent mass manufacturing, and quality control approach that's enforced in your organization/practice which keeps the product the same throughout the test of time. Everyone's techniques look the same and there is absolutely no room for movement blemishes whatsoever. So much so, that if there is a "rotten olive" in the jar, it's removed and replaced with another olive in the batch. Again, a personal preference, that I will leave it up to you to judge whether it's good or bad for you.
My Perspective On Karate and Martial Arts
So believe it or not, I actually embrace and incorporate bits of all of these 6 perspectives, with a heavy weighting on The Kaleidoscope, The Tool Box, and The Buffet approaches. I am grateful to my father and to all my teachers in the past, therefore, I treasure my practice like Indiana Jones would! I'd like to say that I have preserved the way masters have evolved their practice. Martial history shows us that teachers constantly evolved their game, they were heavy cross trainers looking for gains in their striking and grappling game for self-preservation. I constantly turn to combat sports and other arts for new and safe ways to practice and preserve this evolutionary thinking. Therefore, the "timecapsuling" and "picklejarring" my training as the masters once did, is something I am happy to say I actively do.
However, I hold a strong Kaleidoscope-Tool Box-Buffet approach. I have learned through decades of training that styles crystalize and separate us. As long as we have human limbs, martial arts are all the same at the biomechanical level. And so, it makes more sense at my age now, 53, to unify and collaborate with others. This is an optimal way to grow in your training by learning and sharing with others. Cross-training in other arts and combat sports will give you a Kaleidoscope of differing perspectives, give you many tools to choose from in your arsenal. Get out there and enjoy the training buffet fam! Hey if you can't beat them, join them right? Unity is the way to go for me. Check out this video below, it represents the unity concept, in my opinion quite nicely. It showcases how there are similarities in all styles and combat sports, the only difference being, context and purpose.
Anyway fam, I hope you enjoyed reading this. Once again, it was a fun take on 6 common perspectives and thinking patterns that I have come accross over the last 30-35 years in my training/teaching experience. I wanted to use some light humorous metaphors to elucidate my ideas respectfully, and I hope you understand that I embrace all 6 kinds of thinking. At the end of the day, you do what you need to do that makes you happy, that can help others, and that can help you carry on your art/sport to the ones you care about. All the best, and let me know how you view your Karate/Martial Art?