Innovation in Martial Arts
Innovation in the Martial arts is not a modern phenomenon. Contrary to popular misconception, innovation did not begin and end with Bruce Lee. Although Bruce Lee was one of our foremost contemporary innovators, innovation is an old as the Martial arts. in fact, many of traditional arts are the product of innovation. The annals are full of example, Dr.Jigaro Kano(Judo), Morihei Ueshiba(Aikido) are but a few.
Although Martial innovation is nothing new, there is there is a troublesome trend developing among many of today's practitioners. It is a tendency to launch cavalierly off to proclaim new styles of combat, supposedly each one better then the last. In fact, far to many of these so called innovators are motivated for all the wrong reasons. Some seek ego gratification money or fame, while others simply lack the discipline to preserve in a particular style.
Many practitioners are unaware of the inherent complexity, responsibility and sacrifice of valid innovation. They fail to realize that innovation is a evolutionary process of modification refinement, rather than revolutionary product rendered out of whole cloth. It takes serious intellectual analysis and research, not to mention strategic experimentation. Motivation must come from deep within the soul, heart and mind. The search for martial truth must an obsession.
An intellectual overview of the foundation, premise and research necessary for valid innovation. The actual intellectual and creative work must come form the mind and soul of the particular innovator.
It is absurd to think of founding a new style without an extensive foundation or background in the Martial arts. A knowledgeable can be built only on consistent training and extensive study. All great innovators were obsessed with training and study, and each had an extensive foundation before considering innovation.
A strong foundation established the physical, mental and spiritual attributes of the true martial artist. Extensive physical training develops and refines the attributes of combat.(i.e. power, accuracy, timing, speed, fluidity, balance etc.). A broad intellectual grasp of the various arts and strategic concepts is critical to any effort to modify and refine. Theoretical and conceptual analysis are touchstones of innovation. Finally, a sound foundation will begin to open the practitioner's inner self to the spiritual component of the martial arts. An innovator must live practice "the martial way of life".
There are no short-cuts. Every innovator starts at the bottom and work his way up. The greatest were once beginners. If you are unprepared to embrace the rudiments, forget rushing ahead to modify or create. An architect does not necessarily have to know how to lay bricks, but a martial innovator can only succeed with a deep comprehension of the various tools and elements of the arts. Form basic to the most advanced. Innovation truly requires that you learn to walk before you run.
Research is a continuous and painstaking process of gathering, analyzing, testing and documenting information relevant to the innovator's premise. There are two broad categories of research, which in reality overlap in very significant ways. They are academic research and practical research.
Academic research is a scholarly process requiring dedication, patience and an insatiable desire to learn. You truly must want to know all there is! Once again, your premise enters the picture in the all important role of a beacon directing you to information which has some relevance and bearing on your ultimate goal. Without this direction you are likely to waste a tremendous amount of time sorting and separating valuable data from a tremendous amount of junk.
Academic research involves voracious reading. The body of printed materials on martial arts has grown astronomically over the last twenty five years. The fairly recent arrival of the martial arts instructive videos has added a whole new and interesting database and provocative seminars are offered around the country. But let me offer a word of caution. You can't just expose yourself passively to these sources. Literature must be dissected a notated. Videos must be viewed over and over again. Strategically sound and weak points should be recorded and analyzed in personal journals. And finally, the seminars should be attended with an open mind balanced with healthy skepticism.
Practical research (experimentation) puts the martial scientist out on the touching pad. Your information has been analyzed, cross-referenced and refined to theoretical applications. It's time to back away from the blackboard and head for the lab.
Obviously there are some difficulties in approaching safe and sound practical or experimental research. One of the axioms of contemporary fighting arts in experimentation in the face of danger is an invitation to disaster. The last place in the world you want to test your theories is in real combat. Somehow, somewhere, you've got to get it right before the real thing.
The arena is the answer, but it is a troublesome one. You will need very loyal, trustworthy and tough colleagues to test the results of your findings. Perfecting tools, techniques and strategies takes a lot of time and most likely will result in injuries. There simply is no way to test your hypotheses without the situational reality they've been designed to address.
In common parlance, you can't pull punches. Otherwise you risk dangerous uncertainly. In my opinion, an innovator should never conduct practical research on students. Your theories must be refined with only those you can trust, who share your vision. Don't be surprised to find yourself relatively alone in these aspects of your research.
Finally, once your academic and practical research has been compatibly merged, and your hypothesis, adequately tested. You will be in aopposition to crystallize and articulated a martial truth. Over time this process an the resulting truths build eventually, it successful, your research will lead to the structuring of a complex array of truths. This will be your system, the culmination of innovation.
Profile of the Innovator
The personalities of martial innovators differ greatly. Some have been eccentric and curious characters. Others are very mainstream and seemingly ordinary people. Across this broad spectrum, however, are certain common qualities and characteristics.
Perhaps the most commonly shared characteristics among real martial innovator is a deep and enduring love of the arts. The world is experienced and analyzed through a unique filter separating out everything that has no relevance or bearing on their vision and search for the martial truth. To most people, these unique groups of martial scientists are likely to appear singularly obsessed. Perhaps fanatical, in their immersion into the arts.
A martial innovator's lifestyle is reflective of the martial way. He maintains excellent physical conditioning. Destructive habits are stunned. Excessive consumption, drugs and other forms decadence are evils to be avoided corruption, greed and immorality are rejected in favor of society's laws, morals and ethical codes.
Self-confidence is imperative. The innovator will find himself under intense scrutiny and criticism which can lead to retain his courage and vision the innovator must resort ultimately to self trust and confidence.
Maturity plays a big role. Not age, but psychological and emotional maturity. This is a well spring of strength and fortitude to cope with the pitfalls and pressures of this unique lifestyle. This maturity also provides the insight and wisdom necessary to defeat self-delusion and harmful ego gratification.
To launch out on a mission of innovation and refinement requires great heart and courage. But it also takes spiritual strength, wisdom and maturity. Practitioners who have succeeded in attaining the visions of truth have been blessed with a unique blend of these complex characteristics and traits.
No matter how skillful you are or the extent of your intellectual and technical knowledge, the hardships and sacrifices will challenge your very being.
An innovator who wishes to make a meaningful contribution of the arts must be prepared to dedicate his life to the discipline. Even then, there is no guarantee he will reach the mountain top.
Time, time and more time. You'll spend years to learning a particular style or system perfecting the most basic maneuvers, and developing a strong foundation. For most people the time it is all they can afford. For the innovators these years represent only the beginning.
Slowly-even so slowly-the doors of understanding and insight open. A feints vision appears on the artist's horizon experimentation and research begin. The vision in refined. But this process is too time consuming. So painstakingly slow, that at first it is perceived as a series of tiny steps on an endless path.
Innovation is like building a stone wall. But before the wall goes to up you have to travel another continent to gather the stones, carry them home, then carve and shape them to fit accurately one with the other. The frustration and confusion are tremendous. You will run full speed down dead-end alleys and trip blindfolded into dangerous ravines.
It conjunction with time consuming process of experimentation, research and refinement. You must devotes substantial time to keeping you physical skills tuned up, reading everything you can get your hands on, possibly teaching, and trying to balance the other aspects of your life. In no time at all your spouse, your family and friends let you know that you are neglecting other commitments. So you steal a little time from your passion to patch up other demands. It is endless give and take which regrettably does not always work.