This blog post is written for people who are interested in studying the purest form of Martial Art. I commonly referred to this as True Martial Art because it is true to your inner spirit, it is a physically combative representation of ones internal beliefs and mentalities, an expression of the spirit. It is the expression of Martial Art that comes from within you and you alone, that is why it is so unique and rare. Every movement presents opportunity to observe your place in the world around you, in the Universe, then you will eventually realise that you are another part of the one whole, the one Tao, the one existence.
So you feel like True Martial Art is in your heart, thus you want to become a True Martial Artist, here's what you can do...
I recommend looking for a Martial Art school in your area, this is the first step. The stylised, systemised communal expression that you begin with will be very significant as it will influence (but will not determine) your overall development as a Martial Artist. This is the foundational stage, it is when you are developing your roots in this phenomenal practice, thus it will interestingly enough, influence many of your natural inclinations later on. These inclinations include the manner of how you may block, execute certain strikes and/or even the order of how you may conduct your training. Each stylised communal expressions have their differences on the surface, but their similarities far out way their differences. When I say differences, I am referring to the specific areas of the total physical development that dominates their focus. For example, Karate practitioners generally have a very good upper body strength, which aids in their simple, linear, devastating hand striking techniques. Aikido practitioners generally have a good understanding of the anatomy of human limbs, thus enabling them to specialise in joint manipulation and human biomechanics. Also how human movement is relative to the world around us, thus teaching the Tao, the (Aiki)DO, in its practice.
Styles are a very interesting topic to discuss and I will talk about them more but it must be done in future posts. As a beginner in Martial Art, finding a good teacher is far more important than the style of the school. You must always remember and never fall into the trap of believing that one style (communal expression) is better than another communal expression. Spending time arguing about this is like arguing about what brand of car is the best. They all do the same thing! The true power lies within you and how you can apply your stylised communal expression of practise to...
1) Maximise the effectiveness of your Fitness Training (Total Body Fitness Development.)
2) Become an Efficient Combatant (Theoretical Understanding and Practical Application of Combat.)
3) Effectively Enhance your Everyday Life (All areas of life outside the school.)
The teacher at a school is a far more important factor to consider than the style he/she teaches. A good Martial Art teacher should be firm but fair. He should be compassionate and very knowledgable about the communal expression practiced in the school and should have a good idea about how the tendencies of different age and gender demographics influence the overall quality of a students progress and their enjoyment of the curriculum (providing there is one). Ideally, Martial Art teaches should be COMPLETELY non competitive. In the world of perceived reality where people's minds place value on being above or below one another, thus maintaining an illusion, this ideal teacher may not be entirely possible to find. A good teacher should at least not force competition on you as a student and tournaments should not dominate their focus for a plethora of reasons, including the fact that the essence of competition goes against the harmony and unity of Tao, which Zen/Chan/Meditation will help you awaken to. Another reason why it may be relatively disadvantageous for you to have a competition focused instructor is that the combative training in class he/she teachers may be more geared towards the artificial rules and regulation of competition. This means that, although the techniques practiced in class might provide you with a good physical work out, they are often broken (as I like to say) from the viewpoint of practical application. For example, many Taekwondo schools tend to focus on Olympic sparring techniques that look cool and require a great deal of training and skill to execute, but the techniques that dominate their time lack kinetic energy that would otherwise make the techniques, well, practical for real combat. If your circumstances happen to be like this, and you are unable to physically access a school that may be more pure in intention to the timeless way of Martial Art, fear not; for we live in an age where information is easier to obtain than ever before!
The internet has changed many facets of life, including how Martial Artists can, and do, learn.
You can use internet sources to help you learn your communal expression in question. Watching tutorial videos on websites such as YouTube will help you learn to reiterate the "crystallisation of years of study and experiment of great passed masters" ("Masters" is referring to the founding pioneers of your system) - to paraphrase Wong Kiew Kit. For example, if you are studying the curriculum of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), all the Poomsae (forms) are there in instructional videos designed for comprehensive learning, made by the governing body of the WTF, the Kukkiwon. All the knowledge of this system and many other commercialised communal expressions are available to you on your phone if you know what to search for.
On the internet, just as in the commercial Martial Arts industry, you will find many, 'fakes' for want of a better word. This is why I feel your safest course of action is to learn from the material that the founders of your system themselves produced. The next safest source will generally be the information produced by the governing body of your systems. All of this may sound like it contradicts what I was saying earlier but self expression is the highest attainment and as a beginner, you will most likely benefit from a structured curriculum. You can use the Internet as a brilliant supplemental tool in addition to training in a full or part time school. Even if your school is of a 'sloppy caibelr', you will at least have access to it's training facilities and other practitioners to experiment with techniques on.
There are other, more unofficial internet sources that you could go to for knowledge and guidance. Regardless of whether your training is predominantly formal or informal in nature, videos from Jake Mace will be great supplementation for you. This is because Jake Mace shares good health and fitness advise, effective combat tutorials, philosophy and spiritual training. His online tuition is comparatively holistic. There aren't many people on the internet that can provide you with a holistic education about Martial Art, but whoever is offering you 'the whole package' that you choose to learn from must, in my opinion, offer you the following points.
1) Effective fitness training and physical health advice.
2) Effective combat lessons, delivered in theory and practice.
3) Basic lessons on the spiritual development of the human being and philosophy of Zen and Tao.
Apart from the internet, books are amazing learning tools for practitioners that study formally and informally. Searching for books will be similar to Internet study. I recommend that you study text books from the founder/s of your formal art. If your training is informal to begin with, then I believe the best source to learn from are the works of Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee will teach you to be a self expressive Martial Artist from the very beginning. You will be provided with knowledge to build your foundation without being moulded into another reiterator of a crystallised system. It is perhaps more important that you study Bruce Lee's works or equivalent works from other sources if your foundation is structured around a formal system. This is because you must become self expressive to attain the purest form of Martial Art, as stated at the beginning of this post. Wong Kiew Kit is another author that I personally recommend studying. Bruce Lee's approach is very modern whilst Wong Kiew Kit displays a somewhat more classical approach. Wong Kiew Kit's publications will provide you with stories and wisdom from the times of old, valuable insights into the practicality of 'flowery forms' of which Bruce Lee displayed an apparent bias against, training programs, training methodologies for external and internal practice, the theory and practice of Zen or meditation and how it all relates to Tao. Wong Kiew Kit's works are a fair bit more advanced and in some ways more mature then that of Bruce Lee, thus it may be more advantageous for you to begin with Bruce Lee and then eventually overlap to Wong Kiew Kit. These are just two of the many inspirational figures you can learn from by reading books. There are many, many more you can learn from so I encourage you to go and find inspirational figures yourself. Good book publication companies that produce quality Martial Art content are Black Belt and Tuttle. These might be good places for you to start searching for reading material.
Your foundation may bare it's roots in what I consider to be a 'Martial Craft'. The knowledge provided by Martial Craft schools can be great forms of supplementation to you becoming a True Martial Artist because they bare relevance to Martial Art through practical combat and physical fitness training. Martial Crafts should provide you with a solid foundation, providing the school of which you choose is of decent to high quality. You will only find True Martial Art within yourself so you will never be able to find a school (external source) that teaches True Martial Art, guaranteed! A Martial Art school or even a Martial Craft school can act as a catalyst for you to attain this state of being. In fact , I know that some people find studying at Martial Craft schools far more useful then Martial Art schools. It really does come down to the instructor as an individual; his beliefs, his values and his willingness to help you excel. Common Martial Craft schools you may find study systems such as Boxing and Krav Mega. To learn more about Martial Arts and Crafts, click the following link.
"Every Bird must eventually leave the nest." I don't believe this statement should be taken literally in the context of Martial Art, however; the essence of this statement should be considered. My interpretation of the essence of this statement is that you will one day reach a point when you are no longer learning anything at your Martial Art/Craft school. Granted, this will happen years down the track, but it is a situation that will most likely occur, providing you stay with your school and/or communal expression for long enough. At this point what will you do? Well, once you have learnt everything you can from your system, that is when you must assent to the higher plane of expression. Your expression will start to come from within yourself, not strictly from documentation from years gone by. If the system you studied was Taekwondo for example, then you will no longer be strictly expressing Taekwondo in your practice. Although Taekwondo may have an influence in your expression (as your roots will most likely be part of your overall expression), your expression of Martial Art will become a physical manifestation of your inner beliefs and mentalities, making your expression true to your intrinsic self, your spirit. This is what, in my opinion of course, separates the greats from the everyday system reiterator.
It is important that you learn to paint your own picture and become an artist in your own right. However, this doesn't mean you should discard practicing painting someone else's beautiful picture. Sure keep their work alive, but don't let it "enslave" you as Bruce Lee would say. Do not let anyone else's art prevent you from producing your own, fresh, original and unique art. In my opinion, you should achieve a state when you know your system like the back of your hand. I for example, stay at my Taekwondo school after 7 years because at least half of what I do there now is teaching. I find joy in doing my best to help people reach high levels. However, to learn Taekwondo's advanced black belt forms, I require the aid of books an the internet. Once I have learned all 25 patterns, I will continue to practice them whilst creating my own forms at the same time. Once you are one with the way, teach others the way and inspire others to create their own ways! There is no higher divinity than this, especially since you and I most likely won't live long enough to achieve anything more. It is rare for people to reach this stage as not many people stay with Martial Art for long enough to reach such a high level. Not many people are enlightened to the fact that Martial Art is a metaphor for life right down to the molecular level, as is explained in the post below.