I was discussing an earlier blog that I wrote with some people when an important question came up: Can a martial art system that teaches cultural aspects associated with another country be effective in the United States?
I won’t repeat what I’ve already written in that earlier blog (which I believe is an essential part of my over-all answer to this question), so I encourage everyone to go there and read it. I will only repeat the following:
Culture is generally defined as the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. But, as you can see from this image, what bonds a collective together is much larger than the intellectual. Dreams and prosperity for the young, life and liberty, happiness, other goals, even survival all are a part of the overall meaning of life in any collective.
The earlier blog discusses why it is this important to your martial arts to learn about the culture that formed and developed your system. In this blog, I want to highlight something different: Nearly every United States (U.S.) citizen has either themselves or their ancestors had to fight for their rights and responsibilities.
(Side note: There are no rights without responsibilities. For example, the right to be well requires we are proactive in developing and maintaining wellness.)
Our histories, going back before there were colonists on this continent, are filled with the stories of these struggles, fights and liberation. Whether you talk about the struggles between England and France, the Confederate of States and the British Empire, or the slaves and their struggles for independence and freedom, groups and generations of people fought and died for the rights and responsibilities of their fellow- men and women.
The same is true of our martial art systems’ ancestors. There were reasons these systems were developed, upgraded and maintained, and they weren’t for pleasure sports. People were suffering and, in some cases, dying at the hands of some oppressive force. When we come to the understanding and appreciation of the driving forces that led our ancestors to develop the combat systems they did, as well as those who followed and revised and upgraded those systems, we come to an important realization: We have a huge responsibility, not just in the defense of ourselves and loved ones, to all of those who will follow us in the martial art system that we teach.
Does this mean the martial art system should be strictly adherent to the cultures associated with another country? No. In order to be practical, we must address the culture we live. But, that doesn’t mean we cannot benefit from learning from their cultures. Consider this: Many people today travel for work or pleasure. How often do you suppose those travels take them from culture to culture?
It’s like learning a language. I have a student who came to the U.S. from Ivory Coast, Africa. He speaks French and English; whereas, I cannot speak French. If he were in either country, he would have no problem speaking to people. I, on the other hand, would have difficulty. (Let’s hope the bathrooms are marked in English!)
When this difficulty exists in the relationship we call a fight, great risks are present; potentially life and death risks. For the true martial artist this is unacceptable; it is something they strive daily to overcome in their practice.
The greater we understand the cultures that formed the various fighting systems out there, as well as what revised and upgraded them, and how they are applied by the trained and the spectator, the greater our ability to communicate our intentions in the fight at the preservation of our (and our loved ones’) life and well-being. When this falls apart, our ability to survive is threatened – as a person, family, community, country . . . .
Empower yourself to life!™
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