Over on his blog, Steve VH brought up a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and I thought I'd take it out and play with it a little here.
In the dedication for The Musashi Flex, a novel that is centered around the creation of a dueling martial art, I wrote this: "And for the Eclectics, who have a point, but who also miss a larger one: Now and then, deep and narrow beats wide and shallow all to hell and gone, and you ignore this at your peril ..."
This was addressed generally, though there was a particular group, led by a well-known and supposedly bad-ass former streetfighter turned author, at which it was more specifically aimed. I won't mention his name here, but most of my martial arts readers know who he is. At one point, I was involved in a discussion with him and this fellow allowed flat-out as how monostyles did not work; that one needed to cross-train in many systems, and essentially, cherry-pick the best from each and discard the rest.
(He isn't the only guy to have made such claims. There are some other well-known and lowly-regarded "masters" whose rice bowls are filled selling this line: Hey, look here! I've taken this old.357 Magnum wheelgun, removed five of the bullets, and now it's a better weapon! Yeah. Right.)
I found it particular amusing that the BAFSTA to whom I refer who baldly stated that monostyles were worthless, spent a fair amount of money flying a well-known silat monostylist in to teach his group. And that this same fellow demonstrated no real skill when some of the students of the silat guy had a chance to move with him.
Talk the talk is not the same as walk the walk ...
The BAFSTA in question once told me that the silat guy he flew in was the deadliest fighter he'd ever seen, and that he wouldn't want to try him if he had a knife and the silat guy was bare. All those nasty, nasty elbows.
Um. I won't belabor the story, which is harder to follow without names, but the point is that the silat guy was narrow, but deep in his art, and that the bad-ass was wide and shallow, and that push come to shove, there was no question who would walk away, not in anybody's mind.
One of the problems with the eclectics approach is that they seem to believe that constantly re-inventing the wheel is both necessary and good.
They are wrong.
A punch to the temple does the same thing today it did ten thousand years ago. Human physiology hasn't changed, and while there are many broadly-educated fighters who have many more techniques from which to choose, five simple good ones are better than five hundred complicated ones. When push comes to shove for real, it's the simple stuff that will save your ass. When the hormones thrum, the fancy, tricky stuff goes away.
I also love it that while re-inventing things, they come up with "new" ideas that have been around forever. Here's one: Action is faster than reaction. If your gun is in the holster and the knifer is inside twenty feet, if he moves first, he can get to you before you can clear leather -- unless you are the reincarnation of John Wesley Hardin. If you just stand there and go for your piece, you can get sliced into hamburger.
Guy who moves first and hard has the edge. Guy who moves second is playing catch-up. Can this be overcome? Yeah -- you play a whole note and I respond with a triplet, I might get ahead. Simple. Not easy ...
People do need to be told stuff like action-beats-reaction, because some of them don't know it, but to claim you came up with the notion is, well, not so. There's an old Sundanese proverb, also quoted in the novel: "Batur arek uring enggeus." What this means is "When they get ready, we are already done."
If that isn't "Move first!" I don't know what is. And they knew it a long time ago.
I won't get into the purpose of martial arts and what they do and don't do generally -- read Rory's book, he offers a thoughtful, reasoned look at the subject. I will say, however, that because a thing is old, it isn't necessarily worthless. Look around and see which bottles of wine are the most expensive and considered the best by the experts in the field.
None of those wines were made yesterday ...