Tuesday, 25 August 2015

On the importance of attending seminars

Within the last 2 months I have had a pleasure of teaching firstly on the BAA Summer School Seminar, held over 2 days in Yorkshire; and secondly at the 1 day Introduction to Shinkendo Seminar held in Milton Keynes.  This has reminded me of the importance of attending such events.

The phrase martial arts is effectively made up to two words (rather self-evident).  The first is martial, which is defined in the dictionary as being “suitable for, or associated with war or the armed forces”.  The second is art, which is defined in the dictionary as being “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form”.

In the first instance the study or suitability of what we learn, specifically relating to “war” can only truly be learned in parallel with ours.  As we often explain, a martial art school, at its core, provides you with a platform to learn key skills whether that be distancing, timing, balance or power generation.  Many of the techniques taught are at their simplest, expressions of these ideas.  However, to truly understand and learn these principles a significant level of experience is required.  This experience must be gained in association with a training partner, and the more training partners you have the greater the width of the experience you gain.  People often ask me whether my martial art works?  This is often the wrong question.  The correct question should be, can I make my martial art work?  And for me to give an answer to this question would require a great breath of experience encompassing a wide variety of people, gained via first hand experience.  This is because if I can only make my techniques work on small skinny guys weaker than me then a question on whether I can really make it work, and whether it is in fact suitable are inevitable consequences of this.

The interesting thing about martial arts is the various breath of styles out there.  From Karate, Judo, Jujutsu, Hapkido, MMA, UFC to KungFu and Crane.  What becomes even more interesting is that even within those styles, such as Karate, these often break down further into system such as Shotokan, Wado-Ryu or Kempo.  Even further these styles break down again, from Soft to Hard styles to Competition Focused, Kata Focused or pure martial/street training.  Martial arts are just so wide and yet they cater for absolutely EVERYONE.  The reason people pick their martial art is often various, but the reason they stay is purely because that style offers them something that they are after, which is often very personal and distinct.  This is a key reason that the “my martial art is better than your martial art” is often a flawed argument.  Aikido is a key example of this.  I may be late aged, a little unfit, an office worker, and crave some social interaction.  The style that may appeal to me maybe very soft, focus a lot on internal/spiritual ideas, and may lack a high degree of martial elements (i.e. hard style training).  Whilst it may not be for everyone it does offer “me” what I am after and to that degree few can argue against that.  You may disagree with my choice but ultimately that is the benefit of consumer choice.  This idea ultimately relates back to the point raised prior of art being the “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”; i.e. the art I choose to study ultimately forms the basis of how I choose to express myself.  As I’m an individual my choice of expression is rarely likely to match that of yours.  For reference my own martial desire relate to high martial practicability, scientific biomechanics and pure logical efficiency - but that maybe a symptom of the way my brain is wired.

On the other completely opposite side of the spectrum is the reality that techniques evolve and change.  My martial experience may offer me a new insight, which allows me to be “creative” with what I have experienced through my training with others.  This hard earned wisdom may help me to develop or change my techniques in new directions, directions that I may deem to be more efficient, applicable or suitable.  It is arguable that as martial “artists” this creativity/imaginative element is our duty to learn and refine.  This ultimately is why we continue to train isn't it?  To become more effective and efficient at what we do?

So heres the crux of it all - seminars are just so important to attend because they directly feed into what it means to be a martial artist.  Firstly they offer you the opportunity to train with new people who you have never trained with before.  To put your metal to the test and see whether what you do is truly suitable when done against someone who is not your usual routine training partner.  Secondly they offer you an opportunity to see A) what others have in terms of their style (whats the differences between theirs and yours); and B) they give you an opportunity to see the “creativity” and “imagination” element of others and what wisdom their training has brought them that they might be able to share with you.  In some instances they may have gone down a completely different path from where you are, and thats okay.  In others they have be a little further along your path than you and may provide you with a small new insight that helps you progress just ever so much.  Ultimately I can’t stress the importance enough of just how important and beneficial it is for us as martial artists to attend these events with your fellow budoka should you get the opportunity.  The opportunities they offer you to grow cannot be espoused enough.

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