Are so-called traditional martial arts dumbed down (even when practised properly in Asia)?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Bullsherdog, Jan 25, 2018.

  1. Bullsherdog

    Bullsherdog White Belt

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    I found this article by Marc MacYoung after seeing a comment by another user about how TKD-even when practised in its traditional form back in Korea- is already dumbed down.

    Asian Martial Arts vs. ‘keeping it real’ in the West – Marc MacYoung – Conflict Research Group, Intl.

    To go back to the redditor who stated TKD is dumbed down, he said that even authentic traditional schools have replaced their moves with sports techniques and that they are far from whats been envisioned by the early founders pre-Korean War. He claimed that the original version of TKD would barely use kicks and most techniques are using your arms and designed to take someone out within seconds using barebones simplistic moves. I wish I can find the post he made, but he states the oldest version of TKD resembles less what we think of as martial arts today and more like WWII era Military Combatives in movement and philosophy. He also made similar claims on Capoiera.

    However its interesting Marc MacYoung (who I never knew before) made a post that repeats the exact same thing the TKD guy on reddit stated. If it wasn't for his wildly different writing style, I'd say he plagiarized MacYoung or vice versa.

    So I am curious is it true that even authentic styles with a rich tradition going far back as the Samurai period such as Iado and Shaolin Kung Fu has been just as dumbed down as American martial arts schools have been?

    I mean I always wanted to learn Kendo so I can learn how to move like a Samurai but now I have doubts about attending a school after seeing the comment on TKD and MacYoung's article.

    Can anyone give their input?
     
  2. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    You'd have to define "dumbed down" - that's a loaded term. If a style originated for war-use (and many did not), then it would have different moves than are useful in civilian self-defense. While there's some overlap, a battlefield approach simply isn't the same as a self-defense approach. Also, the training in some cases was much "harder" at one time than it is now. The people training in it lived in a different world. Some of what we romanticize as being lost has actually been removed or altered because it doesn't fit students' goals, or even because we've learned things that make it less useful (or even a bad idea, in some cases).

    I doubt my training - any of it - is as hard as some of the training in medieval Japanese war training. I'll also bet there was some non-war training back then (peacetime maintenance, and civilian training) that wasn't as hard as some of the training I've been through.

    More to the point, does it matter? I train what I do because it fits my goals, not because it either is or is not the same as was trained 100's of years ago. If someone wants to train for competition, modern sport TKD is almost certainly better suited to that aim than some combat-field art of old.
     
  3. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 2nd Black Belt

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    I wouldn't necessarily say "dumbed down" but there is certainly a change in focus. Let's not forget that a lot of these Martial Arts (particularly the older ones, >500 years old) were conceptualised in a completely different environment than we find ourselves in now. Just as a simple example, let's look at Muay Thai. According to tradition, Muay Thai was originally used by wandering tribes as they crossed the Asian continent and had to defend themselves against rival tribes. Then, later on when the tribes had settled and made proper settlements, there wasn't as much need to use Muay Thai for killing and so the focus switched to sport, where the objective was to knock out your opponent rather than kill them. This different focus caused certain techniques to be lost and others to be added. Then as time past and guns were introduced, hand-to-hand combat became less viable on the battlefield and was used more and more just for sport, until we get to how it is today. Not dumbed down, but with a totally different focus compared to how it originated.

    The same applies to a lot of weapons-focused arts. European Fencing is completely different now to how it was back in the 16th century. Back then even though Rapiers were mainly thrusting weapons, they had sharp edges and you could cut and slash with them too. Then as time went on the sport of fencing became more popular until it more or less completely replaced the military style. Now it's got to the point where you are only allowed to strike an opponent with the tip of your blade. Slashes and cuts won't score any points. If you tried to use modern fencing techniques in a battle you would die very very quickly. Different times, different focuses.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018
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  4. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    It depends on who is teaching or doing it. Really, that’s it. Different people focus on different things in their training and teaching.

    Be careful about making blanket statements. As soon as you do, a hundred people will point out contradictions to your statements.
     
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  5. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    I would call it evolution. It's natural and inevitable. Are we dumbed down versions of neanderthal? Are feet a dumbed down version of a flipper or fin? I am sure there are times the duck billed platypus says to itself "gee, those fish sure are lucky...they have gills...I miss having gills"
     
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  6. skribs

    skribs Master Black Belt

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    In my opinion, Taekwondo has evolved and expanded, but it hasn't changed. What has changed is that previously every school taught the traditional content, whereas now many schools specialize in only the sport or tricking aspects of Taekwondo, instead of the combat aspects of it.
     
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  7. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    All arts do it. Look at early boxing or full contact karate.
     
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  8. DaveB

    DaveB 2nd Black Belt

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    What you would call dumbed down I believe the Korean instructors would call evolved.
    My understanding (limited and second hand) is that TKD is happy promoting health and harmony as a sport.

    Furthermore this idea of grand masters building a deadly fighting system that isn't being taught is b.s.
    TKD was an attempt to recapture national identity after years of Japanese domination.

    It was karate when karate was at its most dumbed down, repackaged.

    The best thing the Koreans ever did was evolve it into a modern sport.
     
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  9. Encho

    Encho Green Belt

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    Dear op,

    Not everyone who studies martial arts cares about learning how to fight or being effective in a real life scenario. Lots of people in Asia countries practice for other reasons besides knowing how to fight.

    Also understand kendo is a sport and will not teach you how to move like a samurai. To get a closer feel to what arts a samurai might practice I suggest kenjutsu over kendo.
     
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  10. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 2nd Black Belt

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    Some people would argue that our over-reliance on technology has de-evolved the majority of the population to the point where nobody could survive without it. In a way they are right because a lot of the skills that were commonly taught 500 years ago have been completely forgotten by now. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? The jury is out on that one.
     
  11. frank raud

    frank raud Master Black Belt

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    Early TKD is based on Shotokan. WWII combatives is based predominately on judo, jiu jitsu and some Chinese martial arts. They do not move, act or have a similar philosophy.
     
  12. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 2nd Black Belt

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    From what I've heard and read, TKD is based on Shotokan which is based on Okinawan Karate which is based on Fujian White Crane Kung Fu in Southern China. I don't know if there is a similar relationship between Judo, Jiu Jitsu and any Chinese Martial Art, although it is possible. Shuai Jiao is one of the oldest forms of Chinese grappling, supposedly dating back 6000 years, whereas Jiu Jitsu is supposedly only around 600 years old.

    With regards to WWII combatives, it's entirely possible that the Japanese forces were originally trained in Jiu Jitsu and Judo, and then picked up Chinese arts when they invaded Manchuria during the war.
     
  13. jobo

    jobo Senior Master

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    if the war you are talking about is the second world war? Then Japan had made a habit out of invading China long before that, most notably in the early 1930s, then were generaly to busy exterminating 100, of thousands of people , any one who might have been able to teach them was already dead
     
  14. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 2nd Black Belt

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    Yeah sorry, I meant the Japanese Invasion of Manchuria in 1931, prior to the official start of World War 2.
     
  15. frank raud

    frank raud Master Black Belt

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    WWII combative generally refers to the Allied forces, and predominantly the techniques taught by William Fairbairn and E A Sykes, based on their experience and expertise developed as members and associates of the Shanghai Municipal Police Force.
     
  16. BrendanF

    BrendanF Orange Belt

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    Iaido and Kendo were developed in the early to mid 20th century. There are still koryu iaijutsu and kenjutsu traditions in Japan and abroad.

    As Flying Crane said, beware of making generalisations - not every American martial art school has been 'dumbed down'. If your contention is that focusing on sportive/competitive techniques at the expense of traditional ones is 'dumbing down' - there are plenty of martial arts out there that do not compete, and are not sports.

    Can you provide a source for that idea? Jiu Jitsu is an antiquated way of romanising the term, that is almost exclusive to modern, western inventions and BJJ. Japanese jujutsu traces it's history back to older grappling systems which called themselves different things - Kogusoku, Yawara, Torite etc. (and further back to sumo/sumai) They can be traced back far further than 600 years..there is record of a Chinese martial artist (Chin Genpin) travelling to Japan in the early 1600s and teaching some form of MA, which became one of the Yoshin ryu lines. Chinese sources are quick to use this to explain how 'jujutsu/ALL Japanese MA came from China/Shuai Jiao'. Yeah, no. As with everything Japanese, the Chinese/Korean/Continental influence is clear, but there is also an undeniable history of independent creation and development.

    And jobo - FWIW, the Japanese in China did not 'exterminate hundreds of thousands of people'. I'm no apologist - they committed some terrible atrocities, and undoubtedly killed civilians during the winter of 1937. However only the Chinese government's propaganda (and Iris Chang's) laid claim to those kind of numbers. Most historians believe the figures to be in the low tens of thousands. Horrific, but not genocide as many have been led to believe. Final figures are difficult to determine, given the nationalist government's order to their soldiers to discard uniforms in the mid 30s. The Japanese were essentially fighting an army in civilian clothes.. which makes it easy to claim they "exterminated hundreds of thousands".. if a little inaccurate.
     
  17. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 2nd Black Belt

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    Just a note regarding the extermination of hundreds of thousands of people in Manchuria, from a military stand-point it makes very little sense. When you use a large force to invade another country, you generally have to use the food and resources in that invaded land to support your army, and to do that you need the local peasants to harvest the resources. Killing off thousands of local villagers will only make it harder for you to get enough supplies to sustain your army.

    Anyway, back to the topic of Jujutsu's origins. I'll be honest when I wrote my last post I was in a rush and only had about 5 minutes to briefly look up some things, and didn't have a chance to verify any of the information I looked at. When it comes to Karate I believe it did originate from Fujian White Crane Kung Fu, just by looking at the Sanchin Kata. The White Crane version of the form is called "San Zhan" and follows the exact same pattern of steps and very similar hand movements (depending on the lineage involved) as Sanchin. Fujian White Crane is reportedly a lot older than most styles of Karate and although it is possible that the Sanchin was developed independently of San Zhan, the 2 forms are so similar in both name and appearance they are likely linked.

    That's always 1 thing to keep in mind though. It's very easy to claim that a technique or piece of technology was passed on from 1 civilisation to another, when more often than not many different civilisations that have never met came up with the same idea independently. Which civilisation invented the bow and arrow for example, or the stirrup? The answer is a lot of different civilisations came up with the concept on their own that just happened to be similar to what was being used by another civilisation.
     
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  18. Touch Of Death

    Touch Of Death Sr. Grandmaster

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    I would say that is true of the canteen, and possibly the stirrup, but, I think they mostly met, fought, and stole each other's ideas.
     
  19. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 2nd Black Belt

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    Perhaps. Historical accounts have an annoying habit of contradicting one another to the point where it's very hard to pin down when a particular piece of technology was introduced to each civilisation, not to mention there are times where a certain piece of technology might be known but not utilitised for whatever reason. During the Hundred Years War, the French didn't use Archers in battle, whereas the English did. I find it very hard to believe that the French didn't know what a bow was, but just preferred not to use them in battle, favouring men-at-arms and cavalry instead.
     
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  20. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    yes and no.
    sanchin (by any name) is a very popular form from the Fujian provence of China. there are multiple versions of it all different but all the same at the same time. white crane: Bai He Quan is only one style that uses this form. there are many many others. it is well documented that the Okinawan form sanchin: Goju- ryu , Uechi -ryu and Ryuei- ryu all share this form (as well as another from called Seisan) and is known to be passed down from Fujian styles. which styles? we dont actually know. there were many lineages of styles that did not have names. Bai He Quan was A style that was well known. often if someone was asked what style did they do, rather then have to explain it was a no name style they would rattle off the name of a well known style. there was a Tea merchant named Gokenki who was friends with Chogen Miyagi (creator of todays Goju) and Kanbun Uechi (founder of uechi ryu) who was a white crane stylist. some speculate the crane features of these styles come from him. my guess is that this is not the case. All three founders of these styles traveled to China and studied there and this is where sanchin by any name comes from.
    beyond these three men and their respective styles is where the white crane influence ends. these three styles are loosely knows as Naha Te. but there was also Shuri Te and Tomari Te styles of karate neither of which have any relationship to any known Chinese styles, especially white crane. as a note modern Shotokan is based on Itosu's Shuri Te. most styles of Okinawan karate do not have a link to white crane kung fu. the Shuri and Tomari Te styles are much older than the Naha Te styles. the Shuri styles while probably did originate from China had a long time to develop and were used by the Pechin aristocratic class who would have regular official business with China. There were also Chinese who settled in Okinawa and it is thought some arts where brought in that way as well.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018

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