The field of martial arts is full of showmanship, commercial popularisation,
taking the craft and presenting it as a commodity for the purpose of profits
and earning money. This results in as someone has said, “amateuristic
martial arts are a source of serious wounds.” (The Book of Five Rings)
In the pre-modern era the science of martial arts was an essential science
for the warriors. I will take lessons from what Miyamoto Musashi has written in his books when writing about the science of Martial Arts.
The science of martial arts has evolved in the modern era. However, the base teachings and values remain the same. The science of martial arts involves great skill and master planning. Martial arts in today’s world is seen more so as entertainment, blood sport, competitions and fighting. The military aspect of martial arts has been replaced by advanced weaponry, but the principles still work.
Having explained that, I want to focus on the science of martial arts and
individuals. Just like how, a master plumber is first an apprentice, learning from a teacher; the master martial artists too, start as an apprentice. The mentor-student relationship can be seen everywhere. A master scholar is once a student, a master carpenter is once a student. One cannot expect to be an expert at something without having been mentored/coached/taught by a master.
Why do I stress this? In today’s DIY world, where courses and videos are readily available online. The concept of learning from a teacher/mentor/master has become far-fetched. Many thinks and believe that they
can become experts without having been taught. I was lucky in terms of martial arts to have been taught by expert masters and mentors. The craft, the basics, principles and values were instilled after diligent practise over many years.
Practise is key. Bruce Lee once said that don’t fear a man who has practised a thousand different kicks. Fear a man who has practised the same kick a thousand times. I can apply these principles in other walks of life.
Writing these surprises my own behaviour in other fields. I am reflecting on
other arts, skills that I am trying to hone and how and where I went wrong. One lesson I learnt from that- confidence is good, however, doing something you haven’t successfully done before is a mistake without seeking mentors, teachers and professionals. Still, I am happy that I started off in the right direction and learnt from the professionals/experts, went out explored on my own, learnt lessons and took the right direction by seeking mentors. Depending on many variables, journey in mastering a craft/skill can take many different paths. However, if I can highlight the importance of one thing, i.e. finding the right mentors/teachers to learn from in whatever field you are pursuing is crucial to success.
When one has developed practical knowledge of all the skills of the craft, eventually one can become a master craftsman.A master martial artist has similarities to a music orchestra in a sense that the conductor runs the orchestra smoothly, effectively and skilfully. They know all different instruments within the piece, the notes, the structure. They can see the small details and monitor the flow of the bigger picture.
Coming back to the subject of marital arts practise and individuals. The
science of martial arts and how I have come to understand it, is through the
lens of emptiness, state of flow, fluidity, diligent practise. The purpose of
martial arts is to be able to overcome your foes, however, once you become an expert, you can do so without fighting. Understanding this is important. Master martial artists achieve serenity, calmness and understand its psychology and philosophy. These values in today’s world, in my view, are relatively pertinent compared to the military aspect.
Mastering a martial art helps the individual understand themselves and understand others. It instils discipline, routine, creativity and practise of deep focus.These tools and skills are transferable to many other aspects of an individual’s life. To conclude this, in my view, these latter reasons mentioned is why the traditional form of martial arts must be practised and the spirit kept alive. Once the individual understands the true philosophy of the arts, he understands many aspects of life on a deeper level. For example, personally for me spirituality, focus, and discipline have a huge overlap with the practise of martial arts.