The Mad Brit's Belly
Got into a discussion about martial arts and how long it takes to learn one, and it jogged some thoughts loose ...
I'm not getting into the argument of what is real street fighting versus McDojo here, only the study and expression of my art.
First, there's a big difference between "useful" and "mastery." Our art is fairly simple, in that there aren't nine million motions. If I did every technique I've learned since I started, assuming I could remember them, I expect if I hurried, I could manage them all in an hour. Maybe two.
The djurus require all of three and a half minutes, if you are poking along. The barehanded defensive and offensive sambuts and sambutans together, maybe five more minutes if you limit them to one side and don't do the mirrors. Some drills -- trapping, pukulan, some knife stuff, rolling around on the ground, a kicking form, the core moments are not complex, nor are there a bunch of them.
Yes, there are myriad variations one can do using the basics, but they aren't root moves and can be learned on the fly, so to speak.
We liken this metaphorically to baking. If you have but eight ingredients -- flour, water, yeast, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, salt, there are thousands of things you can make by mixing these together in various proportions, bread, cake, pie, cookies, bagels, tortillas ...
If somebody wanted to hurry through the teaching of the curriculum, a diligent student could probably learn the gross movements in a year. That's not how we do it, but other branches of our art tend to teach the djurus quickly, and one teacher allows as how he taught an adept student ten djurus in one summer.
These aren't long and complicated dances. All of them together barely number as many moves as any one of the five long katas I learned in Okinawa-te, all of which I got in three years.
(As my correspondent who sparked this discussion pointed out, dancing is not fighting.)
If you spent another year, maybe too, assiduously practicing our silat, I suspect you could use what you learned well enough to protect yourself. Certainly after three or four years, I believed that I could do that.
Most of what you are likely to need in a simple one-on-one dust-up, we believe you can extract from the first two djurus. Nearly of the knife work we have been practicing of late comes right from those, combined with simple pukulan moves.
But being able to ride a bicycle to and from work without falling over or getting run down by a cotton-top in her Caddy is not the same as being Lance Armstrong.
How long does it take to master an art? Depends on the art, I expect, and I'll let you know if I ever master this one. I don't really expect to, but as the moves become more ingrained, I'm certainly more comfortable with expressing what I already have learned. Going to have to learn smaller circles pretty soon, though. Age creeps up on us all, and I'm the oldest guy in the room.
If it takes fifteen years for an art to become useful, that's too long. In most arts, you can learn enough in a few months, basic punches and kicks, to serve you in most situations. Look at Krav Maga. Brutal, to the point, as much as most people are likely to need most of the time. A grounding in Judo or boxing will probably give you the tools you are ever likely to use, if you don't make a practice of putting yourself into peril.
I've been doing Silat Sera for almost fifteen years. But I'm not showing up at class every week because I need to in order to be able to do basic defenses. Part of why has to do with that desire to get the fine details, to go deep and narrow as opposed to wide and shallow, which is what I did in previous arts. Part of it has to do with being able to play with peers, several of whom who have been at it as long as I have, or longer. I don't really need to go, but I need to go, if that makes any sense. And I want to keep doing it.
Just because I had lunch yesterday doesn't mean I don't want lunch today ...
At the risk of offending touchy silat players by not naming names, a small anecdote that happened a couple years after I started training.
One of our students got into an online discussion with a teacher from another branch of the family art. (Sort of. Too complicated to go into.) This teacher took umbrage at a lowly student daring to contradict him, and allowed as how he was going to drop round and teach him a hard and painful lesson.
Feeling somewhat perturbed by what was obviously a threat from somebody who sounded fairly unhinged in his expression of it, I mentioned to my teacher.
My teacher, speaking of my fellow student -- let's call him "Andy" -- smiled. "Don't worry," he said. "Andy can take care of himself."
I believe that his statement meant that even with much less training, the quality of what Andy knew was enough so that if push came to shove, he'd be okay.
And I believe he was right.