Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I Know You Think You Understand What You Thought I Meant ...
On Rory's blog, a spirited and interesting discussion on real violence on the street, versus martial arts. I feel I should speak to it here, rather than to continue to clog his comment column.
First, Rory is, according to a couple of martial artists I know, deadlier than box full of angry puff adders. Real world experience, even though he has a background in classical martial arts back along the line.
The gist of what he's been saying, as I read it, is that most martial arts don't work in real time, and that, in fact, they can do you more harm than good if your expectations don't match your actual ability.
I understand something of this, being that ole debbil Expectation has been dogging me most of my life.
Still, and all, while Rory's abilities to kick ass and take names from the dead guy's wallet later aren't in question here, his explanation of why what he does works, and why what I do probably won't? It leaves something to be desired.
Martial arts cover a wide spectrum these days, ranging from pure sport, spiritual paths, to stuff not so far from the jungle as to have gotten smoothed out.
Martial arts -- literally, the arts of war -- mostly came originally from folks who had occasion to use them to save their asses. In the case of a technique that worked, you kept it and passed it along. If it didn't and you got killed because it didn't, that one didn't get taught -- not by you, at least.
So, if an art was designed to go mano a mano on a street or a battlefield and you used it thus and it kept you alive, then it would seem to have a basis in real function.
Of course, the further away a teacher or student are from the guy who used it thus, the more apt it is to be watered-down, if for no other reason than getting altered in translation so that its real meaning gets fuzzed, or lost entirely.
Thou shall not kill is not the same as Thou shall not murder.
Me, I study under a guy who has had to use the stuff, and I'm one teacher away from his teacher, who used it a lot, including knives. Plus this art is the old-style, no-sport stuff that came out of the bushes and hasn't gotten particularly civilized compared to some that have been around a long time and had some of the sharper edges rounded off.
Yeah, I like it, and it certainly seems useful. And while it's theoretical for me, it isn't for the guy showing to me. I've never been to India, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.
Rory is saying that pure rote-learning can get you into trouble, and I buy that. That being able to react to a situation fluidly and without "right" moves that might get you tripped up crosswise is better than punch-comes-block-left-counter-punch-right. I'm okay with that, too.
That in real life, shit happens, and things don't always go neatly and cleanly, and when the wolf shows up, it's not the trained poodle puppy you've been wrasslin' with.
Still with him.
But: He hasn't explained in a way I can see, that, if experience is the the only real teacher, how somebody can pass along what he knows -- or how somebody can learn anything useful. Or what makes his moves work when mine seem doomed to fail, since in the end, we are working with the same basic architecture. Yeah, he might be driving a new Mercedes and me a rattletrap Chevy, but the basic transportation function surely seems the same. My ride might not get me there as quickly or in the same style, but it does have wheels and an engine.
I argue that physics are what they are; that bipeds at the bottom of the gravity well all have similar limitations, and so learning to move efficiently is better than not. (He also says that physics has failed him a couple times, and that one I'm having a little trouble buying; if not physics, then we are talking magic, and that's a whole other game.)
I'd be interested in some of the martially-educated taking a look at the recent threads and telling me where I am in error. Naturally, I don't believe that I am, but I have been wrong before and thought I wasn't, and the search for Truth must be ongoing. I'd rather find that than be smug in my belief that I already have it ...