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."