Wednesday, 26 August 2009

What are Traditional Martial Arts?

Traditional Martial Arts (TMA) are seen to be by some as old, useless for self defence, poor forms of physical exercise and a general waste of time. The explosion of MMA, to some, has waved in a new way of fighting, training and attitude towards martial arts. However, are the fighting and training methods displayed in MMA “modern” and every other martial art not associated with it “traditional”? What even is a traditional martial art?

Are TMA fighters ones who practise in a gi rather than shorts and a vest, or in a dojo rather than a gym. Do they kiai rather than grunt or breath heavily on the exhale, or maybe when they punch, their guarding hand is held open in front of there face rather than closed and held by there chin. Are these the reasons why some martial artists are called traditional and others are not? Hopefully not, because a gi or a vest is just clothing, a dojo or a gym is just a building, a kiai or a grunt is still a noise and an exhale of breath and where ever one’s guard is held when punching is done for the same purpose.

Maybe it is the different tournaments. Judo is seen as a TMA, where as most other grappling arts are not, but when watching a judo tournament or another grappling tournament, you instantly see that the objectives are very similar if not the same, which are to either score with a successful throw, to hold your opponent down on the mat for a certain length of time or to gain a submission victory. So why is Judo seen as traditional and other grappling arts not. The same can be said about tournaments from striking arts. For example, a karate gyaku zuki punch and a boxing reverse punch are the same. Anyone who has cross trained in the two arts should say the same. They use the same principles for power and speed, but one is thrown from a person wearing a gi and one is thrown from a person wearing shorts.

A lot of people now think that TMA are ones which do not feature in MMA. Well as mentioned many times, MMA is not a style of fighting but merely the name of a sport. The sport of Mixed Martial Arts is exactly that. A sport in which one may use a mixture of fighting techniques found in any martial art in order to win, as long as one fights by the rules of the MMA event. Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which are both fine arts, make up the majority of many MMA fighters training and the norm is now to think that MMA is a mixture of these two arts only, making every other art traditional and these two, modern martial arts. Well the truth is that Muay Thai has a long history and full of traditions and BJJ has also evolved from other much older arts. Because of this, it is impossible to say that they are modern and others are traditional.

Then there is subject of bowing, meditating and other practises which are found in arts of oriental descent. Many people think that any art that carries outs these methods is a TMA. However, how much different is a bow to a hand shake or a high five. These gestures simply allow practitioners of an art to show respect for each other or to greet one another and however they are carried out, they mean the same thing. Again, is meditation any more different to taking a bath or relaxing in a sauna? They are just simply different ways in which one can relax in a calming, soothing atmosphere without any distractions.

So called traditional and modern martial arts are simply names, given by people who do not really understand the arts they talk about. Close study will clearly show that all martial arts should produce the same outcome, which is a well trained person capable of being aggressive but constantly trying to connect mind and body in order to be a better human being. This is the constant purpose of all martial arts and this is what all martial artists should be constantly trying to strive for.


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Jim said...

I think the biggest difference between TMAs and other martial arts are the lack of full contact randori found in judo (usually not classified as a TMA in my experience), other grappling arts, boxing, and muay Thai. As a result, practitioners of, say, Wing Chun, usually don't know how to handle a fully resisting opponent, as the forms they practiced are hard to apply on the fly.

John W. Zimmer said...

Ok - we are all one world! You make some excellent points, why my favorite meditation is in my back yard above ground pool. We have it set up with some chili lights and during the summer months it is very relaxing... I can just let my mind empty and focus on nothing.

I like how you compared each practice and noted similarities. I think the most common definition is related to traditions - doing things the same way as your instructor's instructor. While that still works great – many modern MA's are more interested on one aspect of the MA (whatever they want out of it) and do not practice the rest.

I was at a seminar recently where Al Tracy pointed out that some kenpo stylists changed the techniques or stopped doing them altogether. His comment was they were no longer doing Kenpo at that point.

I think more like you seem to in this matter - why quibble about how we (martial artists) practice procedurally but rather understand and respect each others martial art.

Marc G. said...

A very good post. I agree completely with the point that all of your examples are training and are worthy of respect in their respective efforts. But, I do believe there is a difference between an MMA champion training purely for competition and a traditional karate-do practitioner training for self-defense. It is the REASON a person trains that defines what they do as a martial art or not, I think.

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