Thursday, September 12, 2013

Martial Arts and Competition or... 'Please stop... just... stop.'

Traditional Kung-Fu has a peculiary relationship with competition, marked mostly by disdain if not outright hostility in many cases. Many traditionalists have interpreted competition as self-delusion or self-aggrandizement. Its worth noting that the 'super practical' drills of the most fundamental of traditionalists could be viewed in a similar manner by contemporary practitioners, but I digress.

This attitude has developed to its current state because of the going and counterproductive struggle between traditional and contemporary iterations of many martial systems.

Many traditionalists choose to look down upon competition, viewing it with contempt. Whether we choose to admin it or not, we know that stereotype. Sneering and often unphysical fighters who say that tournaments do not reflect real world conditions. This is not to say that all traditionalists are of this ilk, that there is not value to the idea BEHIND this reasoning, or that all those who believe such are, themselves, unathletic. Nevertheless, the stereotype often holds true. You say tournaments don't reflect real world conditions?

You know what? Neither do forms, drills, conditioning, weight-lifting, sparring, weapons practice, road work, or bag work. That isn't the point. Physicality is universal, it supports itself and contributes to development in all mediums. Many of the greatest fighters I know are dancers, acrobats, and gymnasts. Individuals who have learned their own bodies and the nature of physicality intimately before ever thinking of turning that knowledge to a martial medium.

Why? They know their bodies and they are involved in constant intrinsic and extrinsic evaluation.

Watching tape, judges evaluating competition, trainers evaluating the form of their students, coaches evaluating technique. These physical practices contain many levels of examination from multiple sources, many of whom are uninvested (and therefore, more objective) in an individual student.

The point of competition should be internal and external evaluation. It is a starting point, rather than a conclusion, and should be viewed as such. When it is viewed as such it becomes a valuable tool both in improving one's physicality and in helping maintain the mental and emotional well-being of a fighter.

It cannot be viewed as the most accurate representation of skill, but neither can competition be written off as completely irrelevant.

Like many of the more esoteric parts of martial practice (rigorous meditation, weapons practice, specific conditioning), the purpose of competition must be sought out and meditated upon by the individual. It is not handed to you, like all the other valuable realizations that come in a martial artist's evolution, it must be earned.

Are we truly so lazy and selfish that we cannot search for the benefit in something. If it is not immediately apparent, our instinct is to write off the entire process?

This is part of a disturbing trend, where we search for rapid benefit with minimal time investment. It speaks deeply to the lack of emotional and mental investment in martial training. Physical investment, by comparison, is much simpler.

We, as martial artists, must delay gratification and train ourselves to search for deeper meaning in all of our practices.

It is in the search of deeper meaning that fighters find their virtue and become warriors.

1 comment:

  1. Very often competition is viewed as a vehicle of vanity for competitors. Perhaps the martial arts should separate its tournaments by adding different classifications. After all, that extrinsic observation that you spoke of will be limited it students and masters only see what's in their own dojo. To know the limits of your drills and your own strength and how they may relate to others, you need the exposure of a tournament. Tournaments give you so many opportunities for challenging observations that help you learn.

    Of course their are abusers. You need only see a commercial of "Dance Moms" to know that some people will make anything ugly. But that shouldn't stop the pursuit of truth.

    THANKS for such an eye opening blog!!