Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Paths Up The Same Mountain

There are countless discussions on various internet forums about which martial art is the best for defence against armed or unarmed attack.  I often read these exchanges, not to discover which art is considered best for the situation being envisaged, but to keep a watchful eye on an attitude that I find rather worrying.

I have often been tempted to join these discussions, and reiterate an old saying: the martial arts are all paths up the same mountain.  The problem with that particular idiom being used in the context of the discussion is that it is missing the point.  At the top of that mountain, you have reached the pinnacle of martial arts training, and the ability to fight is only one aspect of that.

I have known people who've trained in martial arts for decades, and their level of technical excellence is clear to see; some of them have clearly reached the peak of understanding.  Unfortunately, I have seen others who will never reach that level regardless of how long they train, or their technique is exemplary and yet they come across as a macho psychopath who only wants to fight.  The difference is that they have not been exposed to, or have taken little interest in, the philosophical aspects of their training.  To be honest, that is not always the fault of the practitioner: it may be that they were trained under the wrong teacher.

On the flip side, there are people whose fighting ability is not the best, and maybe their time in martial arts is limited compared to others, but they have the right attitude, or spirit, if you like.  So, why do some people reach the top of their game and only learn physical techniques?  Why do we have instructors of many years' experience who only see martial arts as a commodity or a way to develop fighting ability?  Remember that martial arts are paths up the same mountain, but each of those paths will be different.  The journey to the top has equal importance to the destination itself.  If you do not take note of what you see on your way to the peak, or you forget what you have seen, the view from the top loses some of its meaning.  Some will never understand the things they have seen on their journey, because they don't realise that the journey was the important part: without that experience, the view from the top loses much of its meaning.

There are instructors who neglect to teach the moral code or philosophy of their art; this is akin to leading their students up the mountain wearing a blindfold.  Worse still, there are a growing number of modern arts which have completely discarded the moral philosophy of the ancient arts.  I must give credit here to Krav Maga, in the form I have had contact with, for daring to have a moral code and philosophy in times when such things have become unfashionable.

I think that MMA/UFC/Cage Fighting is something other than martial arts.  If we take the analogy of the martial arts being paths up the same mountain, and there being something special at the top, I would regard MMA as the process of building a new mountain and stealing some of the foliage from the original.  Will you see the same thing when you reach the peak?  I'll leave that for the MMA fighters to debate. What I know is that, since the UFC and similar contests have been televised, the attitude towards violence, particularly amongst the younger generation, is particularly disturbing.

As evidence, I offer exhibit 1...

I'm pretty sure the video shows a situation that was set up for the sake of entertainment.  At the very least, the guy presenting the video has some part in creating this unfortunate spectacle.  When I consider that this "entertainment" is being watched by large numbers of young men, I worry for the future.  I also question the nature of the contest itself, which consists of two fighters brawling and beating each other to a pulp as a bloodthirsty crowd cheers them on.

I would be foolish to say that MMA, or any branch of combat arts, is technically inferior to another art: I am not qualified to do so.  What I will say is that it has lost something important.  Those involved may have studied classical arts, though I'm pretty sure they did not reach the top of their mountain, to return to the metaphor.  Maybe some never will.

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