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What Makes a Martial Art? – Eidolon – Medium

How do we properly distinguish one method for hurting our fellow humans from the other?

Photo by Thao Le Hoang via Unsplash.

The question’s been on my mind ever since I watched Ramsey Dewey’s video on Taido. Taido is re-imagining of Karate that supposedly adapts it to better work in a modern era of fighting.

My knowledge of karate is too limited for me to determine how closely Taido abides by its principles, and having never experienced it I can’t vouch of its effectiveness— but I can, beyond a shadow of a doubt, confirm that watching a Karateka dark-souls roll their way into an opponent’s guard before sending them hurling back with a mule-kick looks metal as hell.

Having said that: Isn’t a martial art that’s supposed to be Karate, but more practical, just… Karate? After all, martial arts, regardless of how much “tradition” they’re rooted upon, are an ever evolving landscape: Just because the ~ancient scrolls~ of Karate or whatever don’t describe rolling as a Karateka-specific move, it doesn’t mean a Karateka can’t roll: It just means no one’s thought rolling to be necessary in Karate yet.

This illustrated a greater problem I have with the way we classify martial arts. I don’t like this whole idea of each school being seen as a strict, pre-defined set of moves, with anything that diverts from said set being considered an aberration. I mean, when did we decide it was time for Karate to stop progressing? And who makes that call, anyways? Can you imagine if we’d decided to stop improving upon boxing back in the 50’s? We’d probably still be using a chest-high guard and calling each other slurs for daring to slip punches.

Via Taido/Blog.

Rather, I think martial arts as different philosophies with which to approach fighting, and the ways those philosophies affect how we act. To continue the boxing analogy, I think of boxing as being the most direct, practical approach to fighting: Boxing teaches you to use your most accessible tool (your hands) to attack in the most direct way possible (straight) at your opponent’s most vulnerable, glaring weak-spot (their chin, mainly).

Boxing emphasizes speed, efficiency, and a good defense as being the must-have basics for every fighter. Look at any boxer, regardless of how outlandish their style might seem, and I guarantee you you’ll find these three fundamentals somehow present in the way they fight.

Contrast with kickboxing. Yeah, the two are similar (it’s right there in the name), but I’d argue kickboxing is more offensively-oriented: Used well, kicks can be deadly, but if you get your leg caught or lose your balance during one? That’s a good way to lose a fight, as well as your consciousness, real quick.

A traditional kickboxing stance is also more squared up, taller and often has a higher guard. This makes it better for both throwing and blocking kicks, but it also makes it easier for your opponent to target your body. A small price to pay, you could argue, for the incredible offensive capabilities of a well-placed roundhouse, but a price to be paid nonetheless.

By fightTIPS, via Youtube.

Take this framework and apply it to different martial arts (taekwondo, judo, hapkido, etc.) and you might start to see a pattern of what these styles are trying to do, and how their philosophy informs the ruleset they use for competition. Hell, you could very well argue that MMA itself is just its own philosophy with its own patterns and limitations — but that’s a conversation for another day.

Rather than thinking of martial arts as simply what you do, I’d encourage people of thinking of them as how you try to achieve your goal and why you try to achieve your goal in such a way. I find this is a much more compelling way to think about fighting, and it often leads to more creative approaches when it comes to building upon your own, personal style.

Stay safe, everyone. Happy training.
– Eidolon.


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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !

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