View Full Version : Martial Arts: Modern vs. Traditional

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006, 04:14 PM
All sorts of things are claimed today by those of Mixed Martial Arts, most notably how much the sport has “evolved” over the last decade. Now the myth is, perhaps promotional, that no way is better than the other, but what can be called “superior” is the mixed over traditional art. And this thinking also tends to come out of, if not directly linked to, the school of Bruce Lee who was himself a multiculturalist and adversary of all things traditional. Admittedly, it is true that Lee was a great fighter, but his philosophy placed emphasis on the wrong things. According to him, “No way is the way,” meaning that success of a fight relies on how well you adapt to your opponent’s technique. Well, this may be true, but it wasn’t by any means a new discovery when Bruce Lee first stated it. Rather I would say that it would be foolish to focus on one aspect of the art as key when really a great number of things must come together to produce the superior technique.

Now, once we emphasize the lunar liquid philosophy we are deemphasizing the solar philosophy. In my opinion it is the latter which is traditionally the major focal point of martial arts as a spiritual not merely physical doctrine. Hence, the key to our art, if there is to be one, is the mastering of the energy-force.

Additionally, one needs to realize that mixed martial arts as sport does not necessarily model real life. If anything the “sport” has “devolved” rather than “evolved.”

Instead, what tends to happen when martial arts becomes a sport, that is, when there are “rules and regulations” and when fighters act in a sense of sportsmanship rather than in a fight for life or death, the latter which was the true intent of the martial art, is that the lesser form is elevated to heights above the greater. We see this especially with the “ground and pound” or the submission specialist dominating the striker. And sometimes this is justified. But one does not go into a fight in real life where it is a matter of life or death and think, “I’m going to get this guy on the ground and submit him.” Almost as inevitable, by getting that close to your opponent in that fashion would be the end of you and possibly cost you your life. In actual warfare there are no rules or restrictions and the intent is not to survive the round or to make him submit or to knock him out but to eliminate or disable your enemy by any means necessary.

There is therefore a world of difference between martial art as sport and martial art as combat. Let us not fall into that trap of turning the intention of the art on its head and then declaring a “victory” of the modernization.

But let me say in closing that I think MMA is the best thing to hit the world of sports. I wish our people would obsess over martial arts rather than football and basketball. And it has been a long time for me wishing that some type of martial arts would reach the mainstream. So I am glad that outfits like the Ultimate Fighting Championships, Pride Fighting Championships, and the International Fight League have somewhat broken through.

But sport is sport and combat is combat. And where we see the original sports such as the ancient Olympics had indeed a spiritual character this is not so true in modern sports. The same distinction can be made with ancient and modern combat, where the modern has been entirely stripped of its spiritual character. War was never something to “lament” over. The ancient warrior would never lament over killing another warrior. Instead war was seen as a means by which the warrior might transcend his own nature through physical battle.

There is no doubt that if a higher spirituality could be infused into a tournament that we would witness a much greater and actual sport in its proper sense, but such spirituality cannot be faked, it can only be possessed by those who know.