Sometimes people question the relevance of traditional martial arts training in our modern society, and compare them to modern martial arts which are often simpler and quicker to learn. I think it is healthy to ask these questions and think about what the strengths and weaknesses of your martial art are. If you understand the strengths you can make the most of them, and if you can identify the weaknesses you can find ways to overcome them.
Below are some of my thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of traditional martial arts.
- Traditional martial arts were generally developed for use in real fighting situations, where the combatants were really trying to hurt each other without the restrictions of rules or protective equipment as there are in sporting styles of martial arts. That means that if trained correctly, the techniques of traditional martial arts should be particularly effective for real world self defence.
- Another strength of traditional martial arts is that they often teach how to deal with weapons as these were a very real and common threat when these martial arts were developed. Often even unarmed techniques are developed in such a way as to help keep you safe from an armed attacker. This develops good habits which will serve you well if you ever have to defend yourself against a real weapon.
- Traditional martial arts have been tried and tested over long periods of time. This means that they have developed safe and effective ways for you train to get the results you want.
- These martial arts often contain deep principles that help you to understand your body and get the best results from it.
- Traditional martial arts as well as training the body also usually have a focus on mental or spiritual harmony and wellbeing as well. This focus will carry over into other areas of your life helping you to be a happier and more peaceful person.
- The techniques in traditional martial arts are designed to be as effective as possible against a real attacker. Effectiveness of techniques may mean that students find it difficult to practice them on opponents safely, leading to a theoretical understanding but not a practical one.
- Traditional martial arts often take a long time to learn. For many their lives depended on it, so they started training at a young age and aimed to attain a high level of skill. This can be a challenge for modern students who may not have the same amount of time to train or may have many distractions. But it can also be a positive thing as following this path develops focus and patience.
- Related to the previous point, some techniques in traditional martial arts are technically complex, and sometimes students become lost in that complexity.
- Our world has changed and so have our combat needs – people don’t often get attacked with swords any more – students may spend a lot of time on things that are no longer useful.
So there are advantages and disadvantages to training in a traditional martial art. I think that all of the disadvantages can be overcome though and it all comes down to how and who you train with. To overcome these weaknesses ideally your school will:
- Respects tradition and lessons from the past and while applying those lessons to the current environment
- Teach complex techniques and principles in a way that is simple and easy to understand
- Have a structured syllabus that helps you to see progress in your learning – help you stick with it and have patience
- Have a good group of students who you can trust and practice techniques safely with.
I think we have all those thing at Long White Cloud Kung Fu, and those are just some of the things that make our school a great place to train. What are your thoughts?