Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shallowness of Thought

"First of all, everyone fancies the insignificant principles of the martial arts, whether in knowing how to give the wrist a three to five inch advantage with the fingertips, or in understanding how to gain the victory by extending the forearm by handling a fan. Or again, by taking up a bamboo sword or something like it, all may study the simple advantage of speed and, in learning the functions of the hands and feet, specialize in the lesser advantages of alacrity."
Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings, 1645
Sadly, the no-nonsense warning issued centuries ago by the great fighter Miyamoto Musashi remains largely unheeded today. Many martial artists, traditional or otherwise, pride themselves on their debates over the advantages of circular vs. linear, hard vs. soft, punching vs. palm strikes, knowledge of "bunkai" (application), etc. This reveals shallowness of thought and fighting ability. Ignorant of the mechanics of generating power or the other realities of fighting, they are reduced to smugly debating these "lesser advantages". I was one of these "enlightened martial scholars" focusing on buzzwords rather than practical application. My goal was certainly practical application, but my entire mindset was incorrect, reflected by participating in these pointless debates so prevalent today. Many will claim to be in agreement with me, but most will not be intellectually honest with themselves. Now, I care little for the differences between linear and circular, nor do I obsess about grappling or being "soft" or "hard". All I know is strong or weak, effective or useless. As Musashi would say, "study this well."



t-bone said...

I've been reading your blog for awhile, and I'm in your former association. I agree with this, and sometimes am frustrated by exactly what Musashi is describing. I may be wrong, but it seems that "traditional" is sometimes used as a marketing tool rather than the touchstone it ought to be.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Very timely these days. I agree with your idea 100%. The art is learned in the dojo and in practice, not in debates on websites. I just found this blog and I will be keeping it in my watch list.


Bujutsu Blogger said...

It may be timely, but like Musashi indicates, it is something that was a problem even centuries ago. Part of my message was to criticize those who just "talk" martial arts, but the other part really was an emphasis on perspective. Even for those who do not spend many hours debating useless topics, if their training is focused on "soft vs. hard", "circular vs. linear", etc. I still think their understanding of martial arts is shallow.

Thank you for your responses.