Martial Arts, Martial Combat Training, Martial Sport Training.

When I train an offense/counter offense skills I am training 2 out of the three, combat and sport.  I’ll come back to why not 3 out of three later.   I have little doubt that a trained boxer will outperform an untrained street fighter as far boxing in a street fight.  He trains a sport but that sport has substantial combat applications.  Individuals who take their military combat training seriously (oh yeah, there have been and will be slugs) are not people you want to tangle with in a bar, but may have no real sense of the sport aspect of their training, or the “art” of it all.

When I was in The Marine Corps decades ago, we used to joke about how little “Martial Arts” training we underwent, but that we were still bad asses.  Those half dozen or so moves we did train had a lot of body, heart, and soul into them.  We trained them for “KILL” mode and that counts for a lot.  I saw a supposed martial artist spin crescent kick a brig guard once, a decent kick too, only to get tackled and beat pretty good for that offense by a martially unsophisticated Corporal.

Yes, it’s not the martial art, but the martial artist that accounts for the quality of the art.  I’ve heard it, and said it as well.  But substitute “mode” here, martial mode not martial art, not yet, and what I’ve got to say may make more sense.

“Art” is really hard to train, says someone who went to art school (me).

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931...

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Museum of Modern Art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is not a mere matter of skillfulness.  We distinguish different modes and potential expressions of artistry such as visual arts, literary arts, musical arts, and movement arts such as martial arts, dance, or even gymnastics, but not every skillful expression in a particular mode is art.

The Art part, with a capital A, takes place in the invisible realms of life, of living, and of the soul.  I have learned visual modes of expressions and martial modes of expressions in the classroom.  I have learned the Arts of these in contemplative moments, in moments of personal challenge or crisis, through desire, fear, love, hate, confusion, weariness, and more, then repeat, then it infuses into your mode.  That’s when the mode becomes art.  The skillfulness may be higher or lower than another’s, but true artistry has no degrees.

It used to be said that kids could not be blackbelts because they lacked wider life experience, and the blackbelt was not just reflective of skill, but of wider ranging maturity.  I agree.  We can teach martial modes, or expressions such as Karate, Escrima, Kung Fu, but not every student will be a martial artist.  Even the skillful student may not be a martial artist, and that part is hard for the observer to determine at a glance. However, it seems we’ve tacitly agreed to acknowledge skillfulness over maturity, and adding youthful athleticism and resilience to the mix how can you not have an eight year old 2nd degree blackbelt?  Sarcasm here!

As martial arts instructors I think we train and teach 2 out of the three.  We train martial combat skills for fighting and self defense, and martial sport skills for the competitive individuals.  But the “Art” is not something we can give, it has to come from the student, and involves more than just skillful maneuvers.


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