Sunday, April 06, 2008

What Are You Looking for in a Martial Art?

A bit more on the martial arts comment, and my experience with the fake Sifu all those years ago. As Brad and I were kicking it back and forth, I made a comment that bears, I think, repeating here.

What is important to me in a martial art teacher, at the core, comes to two things: 1) Does the teacher have that for which I am looking? and 2) Can he teach it to me?

This does not speak to the effectiveness of the art, vis a vis winning a tournament, streetfighting, getting into shape, or spiritual development -- or any of a bunch of other reasons why you might want to train. Not everybody wants to step into the octagon. Some people are looking for a cultural experience, a place to hang out socially with other folks interested in a style, or a sense of empowerment, which may or may not have anything to do with the ability to kick ass and take names. That's not what we are talking about here.

I got into a dojo originally because I was a skinny little kid who was afraid of getting beaten up. Primarily for self-defense, or maybe for the sense that I had an option and could do something if push came to shove. False confidence might be worse than no confidence, and I won't argue that, but feeling as if I could take care of myself went a long way to smoothing my path. (The few times I needed it, it did work, so I might be excused for feeling as if I got my money's worth.)

The art I wound up in, and have stayed in, called to me. I fell in love with it when I saw it. I think it offers as much as any, more than some I have played with, and I was looking for depth, of which I had none. I wanted to train and -- if not master a style -- feel as if I had taken a shot at learning it to the point that it became part of who I was.
Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck has what I want. I am in for the long haul, or until something breaks and I can't play any more.

I'm not going to be a bad-ass, hard-drinkin' streetfighter; never wanted that before, don't want it now. Nor am I going to slide into the ring on oily feet in my Speedos to roll with some guy who trains six hours a day and does a steroid-stack that will let him rage with WrestleMania players or shrunken-gonad pro bodybuilders. Not going to play in the tournaments to win trophies or cash prizes. No desire to walk into a room full of bad men and deck one and all if they get frisky. Not even particularly interested in teaching it, outside helping the newbies in my class along.

But the two questions I asked, those answers I believe I have found: I got a guy who has what I want, and I'm sure he can teach it to me.

Do I believe it works? Given what I have learned over years looking in other places, yes. I do believe that if push comes to shove, I'll have an option or two. I enjoy going, learning, and practicing it, and in the end, that's all I need.

Not to gainsay anybody else's experience in what works or doesn't work for them. I believe what I'm learning works for me, and in the end, that's what matters.

Your mileage may vary.

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