Poll: Tradition or Evolution?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by kidswarrior, Mar 24, 2007.

?

MA: Preserving Tradition, or Continuous Evolution?

  1. 100% Preservation of what the masters handed down

  2. 75% Preservation/25% Evolution with the times

  3. 25% Preservation/75% Evolution for relevance

  4. 100% Continuous evolution to ensure modern effectiveness

Multiple votes are allowed.
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  1. kuntawguro

    kuntawguro Master Black Belt

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    If we tried to do battle in Afganistan the way we did battle in the Civil war- our troups would all be dead. Change is what keeps us alive. Tho the strategies of the past are taught to make sure the same mistakes are not repaeated. The same is true about the martial arts. We should acknowledge the histroy and the traditions , but we should live and train int he here and now.
     
  2. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    I don't think it's quite as simple as that analogy assumes. The difference between the Civil War and Afghanistan is driven by technological advances that radically change the nature of fighting. One individual firing RPGs can deliver more firepower in a few minutes than a whole cavalry regiment with its artillery backup could do at Gettysburg throughout the whole battle. The nature of full-scale warfare has been transformed by mininaturization and advances in ordnance: much smaller mechanisms can deliver much larger TNT equivalents. But the technical content of traditional karate turns out to be aimed at defense against roundhouse punches to the head, head-butts, grabs, groin strikes... exactly the untrained techniques the people like Geoff Thompson and Patrick McCarthy have identified as the `habitual acts of violence' which initiate the vast majority of contemporary violent encounters.

    There's a nice summary in Bill Burgar's Five Years, One Kata, which devotes a whole chapter, with excellent graphics and photographs, to illustrating the most common or so half-dozen violent confrontational behaviors that bouncers, crowd-control experts and security people have observed. And what's interesting is that the single kata, Gojushiho, that Burgar studied and tested intensively for five years contains direct, effective responses (or pre-emptions) to every one of these half-dozen initial-attack moves.

    Your comparison doesn't stick unless you can offer some good reason to believe that people in Okinawa initiated attacks at the turn of the previous century in radically different ways from the way they do today. The fact that this one kata contains effective counters to moves which modern-day experts identify as the main combat initiations strongly suggests that such a belief would be a major error. So the changes in the conditions of warfare over the past 150 years are probably irrelevant to the way in which civilian violence has proceeded during the same period. There probably are some interesting differences in how unarmed street violence plays out... but there's no reason to believe that the content of traditional karate (or whatever) is even a little bit irrelevant to what happens on the street today...
     
  3. Kacey

    Kacey Sr. Grandmaster

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    I agree. "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" ~ George Santayana. Why reinvent something that already exists? Many people do not understand the rationale that underlies the parts of their art that they discard - and thus end up reinventing something that was already there. The only way to understand what is already there is to learn from what is, before adding what is missing.

    All people bring something new to a martial art - their experiences, physical and mental capabilities, understanding, and so on all make their own interpretation and practice of their martial art an individual experience, and their own interpretation color how the art is passed on to the next generation of students. That is why it is so important to understand the history and traditional performance of a martial art before adding, changing, or removing anything - like language, which vanishes if not spoken, changes with time and understanding, imports new ideas from immigrants, and drops outmoded concepts, martial arts are constantly evolving - but also like language, where learning about the history and roots can aid in understanding the changes in usage, it is, IMHO, necessary to learn about the history and roots of the MA(s) one practices, where it began and how it evolved, before making any changes. Once that is understood, the appropriate changes can be made, with less time spent covering old ground.
     
  4. kuntawguro

    kuntawguro Master Black Belt

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    Strategies--- the way battle was done back then does not apply to todays wars. Tho the weapons have changed. Back in early karate days guns were not used, there was a code of the warrior- the code now is do unto others before they do unto you. And rule? what rules?
    The basic man of war hasn't changed much structurally , but mentally and physically - yes. Without change we would be stuck repeating mistakes- formulas once developed for battle still apply, but in different FORMULA STRUCTURE. Standing out in the open waiting for your opponent to advance and face you is not a good idea when a sniper can pick you off easily at 100 yards. More stealth like strategies are now used. Being sneaky is a good trait not a bad one for the man of honor used to face his opponent. This is a simple comparison and it is not complete, but it does apply.
     
  5. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    Evolution can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing as well.

    And in some cases evolution of a given art is a good thing in others it is just a convenient way for a practitioner that is not really training or does not understand the training to claim mastery of something he/she made up in order to look good.

    Many CMA styles were combined to develop Sanda and that is a good thing, Sanda is very effective

    Xingyiquan was changed by Wang and evolved into Yiquan and this to is a good thing.

    But if I decided to claim that Sanda, Xingyi and Taiji are old antiquated and need to evolve just because I can’t make then work do to some lack of understanding or lack of training on my part and decide to evolve it into Taixinganda then it is a bad thing.
     
  6. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    I'm sorry, but I don't see how what you're saying here addresses any of the points I raised above. TMAs are not intended for the battlefield (although they can be adapted, as Taekwondo was during the Korean War at the initiative of General Choi as an unarmed killing technique designed for a fully kitted-out ROK soldier who was out of ammo or had lost access to his weapon; and there is documentation that in this mid-20th c. warfare setting it was terrifically effective). I'm not talking about war, therefore, and I'm pretty sure I made that clear. I was talking about the conditions for which TMAs were initially devised—self-protection for the individual in a civil society in which there were no police patrols, Crime Watch neighborhoods, security guards, laws on assault and battery, and so on. Where do the snipers you bring up come into this? And do you think that nasty, violent people in the back alleys of Shanghai, Shuri or Osaka were any less `sneaky' on a dark night in 1897 than they are in New York, Kansas City or Tacoma in 2007?

    Sorry, I'm not following. What comparison applies? Are you still comparing warfare combat to streetfighting? My argument was that the differences between 19th and 21st century warfare are different to a vastly greater degree than the differences between a street altercation in 19th c. Okinawa or wherever, on the one hand, and 21st century Anywhere, USA, so far as we can tell from the actual content of the TMAs I mentioned. I noted that the habitual acts of civilian violence which have been repeatedly observed `in the field' by modern participant observers of street combat are exactly those which traditional Okininawan/Japanese (and Korean) karate forms contain very effective conters for. How does anything you're saying here speak to that point? Can you be a bit clearer?

    Exactly. Exactly, exactly, exactly.... :)
     
  7. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    A stick is a very different weapon then a sword, and while some crossover is present, they require different tactics, techniques and strategy.

    If the reason for maintaining sword training is that it is trasferable to a stick, then why not train with sticks? Why spend time learning iaido? Sticks do not come in sheaths. Nor do they cut.

    The purpose of sword training is not transferablitiy to improvised weapons, that would be a poor means to get to that end, right up there with giving infantrymen muskets to train with, as the skills are transferable to Assault rifles.
     
  8. CuongNhuka

    CuongNhuka Senior Master

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    You realise that in many ways, your wrong. Allow me to explain.
    The way battle was fought "back then" does still apply. In the mid satges of WWI a British General reffernced a biblical battle for a stratigy. Modern generals study such battles as Carantan and The Buldge (WWII), several out of the Spanish-American, Mexican-American, the Civil War, and the Revolution. Names elude me, and I appoligise. Thermopolea (think the movie 300), Agicourt (100 years war), many of william wallaces battles out of his campaigns in the 1400's, and so on.
    Their have never been rules, and no real code. Guys wouldn't kill each other, not because of some code, but because it would make his family mad. And it's easier to let a guy live, then fight his whole family. Or am I misunderstanding what you mean by a rule and code?
    During the invasion of Iraq in the First Persian Gulf an enitre battalion of combined infantry/artillery was told "stand their, and look like a target". Because of what you said about, standing their is no-no. A brigade of Imperial guards (Iraqs best and brightest) marched up, and next thing they new they were surronded. Standing their can be the right thing to do. Ohh, and that tactic was from the campaiqns of Hannibal.
    By the by, snipers as a distinct group have been around since BEFORE the American civil war. We're talking the campaigns of Julius Cesear. And they were used heavily by the Yankees in the Revolution, and both sides during the Civil War. The Brit's got the idea, and so did the Dutch settlers in South Africa. So, during the Dutch Cvil War the Bohrs (what the Dutch settlers called themselves) used sniper tactics. Based off that whole Yank line of "don't shot till you see the whites of their eyes".
    And sneaky tactics have always been used. It's just a matter of whether or not it's fesiable. During the American Revolution a large number of British troops were simply obliterated by a small number of Americans who the tactics of the group now know as the Rangers. Snipe a few officers, and vanish into the woods. Pop up latter, and do it again. Evetually, the British lost so many troops, they stopped caring. Something a Russian Cossaks used against Naploen at about the same time. It's just a matter of what is best over all.
    Though, you are right in some ways. The people you fight have better tactics and weapons, so you get a better weapon. But with martial arts, the analogy is not quite the same. Your opponent gets better techniques and new weapons, you just figure out how to take what you already know and apply it to the new situation. Something generals have been doing since before recorded time. You have your oppion, and I have mine. But if your going into an argument with evidence that is either wrong, or simply doesn't apply, expect to have someone take issue with it.
     
  9. green meanie

    green meanie Master Black Belt

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    Great question, but a hard one isn't it?

    I'm in an art that evolves. We have specific goals that we want to accomplish with our art, problems that we try to provide solutions for. That's never going to change and how hard we train every night working on those solutions is never going to change -that's where the tradition lies for us. But at the same time, we're not completely bound by specific techniques.

    For example, I feel my students should have several defenses against a takedown. That's never going to change. But the defenses I teach has changed slightly over time. A couple new takedowns were learned that needed specific defenses in order to effectively deal with them. Other new defenses that I was previously unaware of were also picked up along the way. To not teach these techniques that I know in my heart to be a necessary part of their defense simply because they were not a part of the 'original' curriculum strikes me as a serious disservice to my students. :asian:
     
  10. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    I'm quite certain, in line with green meanie's post, that there are excellent techniques that haven't yet been discovered yet, to handle specific kinds of attack (some of which themselves haven't yet been discovered). More generally, there are new discoveries waiting to be made in every realm of knowledge. The old masters made really brilliant discoveries. Sir Isaac Newton was as good as it gets in physics and mathematics. But as we know, there's an awful lot of stuff he missed. Why should it be any different with Anko Itosu or Choi Yong Sul or Hwang Kee or anyone else. Being great doesn't mean being omniscient, eh?

    So new discoveries are always there to be made. Look, for just one example, at the `fence' strategy promoted by Geoff Thompson and others in the UK combat-MA community. Bill Burgar, in his study of the Gojushiho kata, updates some of the `decorative' movements in the traditional form of that kata to build the fence techniques directly into the kata applications. This is creative thinking in action. I'll bet Matsumura and Itsosu would have been among the first to get hold of the `fence' technical machinery and make it their own...

    There's a lot of great stuff out there, waiting for us to stumble across it.
     
  11. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    I agree.

    Evolution and adaptation are necessary. I personally think that the best vehicle for this is within a reasonably traditional system as the framework. If you get too tied up in tradition -- you ignore the reality that a modern attacker isn't using a long sword or 6 foot staff; he's using a baseball bat, machete, or gun. If you move too far from tradition, you lose the structure to hang your changes on.
     
  12. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    I think you (and many others) have romanticized historical combat. I think that when it came down to war -- the truth has always been that it comes down to get the other guy before he gets you. The methodology has changed, and the rigamoral justifying what people did has changed... but I doubt that any "peasants can't fight noblemen" survived in actual combat. Neither the sword nor the bullet cares the social status or "warriorhood" of the person on either end of it...
     
  13. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    Or the pike, eh? Even before firearms put paid to massed charges of heavily armored aristocrats on heavily armored warhorses, the use of pikesmen drawn from the peasantry, lightly armored but working together with those wicked long death-poles, pretty much put an end to the classic mediaeval mass attack by the previously invincible `swordproof' gentry. My understanding is, by the late 14th c., it was pretty much a given that an armored knight had zero chance against a line of pikesmen...
     
  14. bluemtn

    bluemtn Senior Master

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    Hmmm... Not sure where I lay there. I'm all for keeping tradition, but at the same time- I feel there should be expansion. I'm not sure if 75% ev. and 25% trad. is really the numbers that I see where it should be. More like 65/35? Oh, I'll stop being so picky on numbers and go with 75/25.

    I feel that you learn from history (tradition), but you also should be willing to learn new things.
     
  15. Adept

    Adept Master Black Belt

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    But thats not a preservation of tradition, for it's own sake. That is preservation of history.

    Preservation of tradition, simply for the sake of it, is when someone refuses to adapt or change to something simply because it isn't the way they already do it. It's the sort of thing that goes:

    "Well, yes, I can see how that would be good, but I won't do it because my sensei never taught it to me, so it isn't traditional."

    Actually, while the pike was useful, the heavily armoured knight still ruled the battlefield.

    It was eventually politics and economics that saw the knights rule end. Kings and Lords decided that paid soldiers were more reliable and preferable to lesser lords (knights) with feudal obligations, and as a result the knight was phased out of the military.

    A charge from knights into a pike formation would be costly, but it would also succeed.

    But to illustrate your point, we need look no forther than Agincourt, where thousands of french nobility were killed, not by the Longbow as is commonly supposed, but by having their heads smashed in by peasants with mallets after they had been taken captive. The English knights refused to do it, and Henry needed the men being used to guard the prisoners and couldn't risk the captured french knights being freed and arming themselves, so he ordered them slain. By the peasants.
     
  16. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    I think the classic story about preserving tradition for traditions sake is the one about a form featuring a weird, disconnected backward hop at a certain point... After some research, it turned out that the dojo where the teacher learned it wasn't long enough to do the form without the backward hop, and that's the sole reason for the hop... But the hop was taught without understanding ever after...

    To me, the traditional aspect and principles of my art give me a framework to adapt or mold to modern concerns. Many issues about forming a stable platform for firing a gun are the same as forming a stable stance to throw a punch -- but I don't need a "gun form" to apply them. Traditionally, under my teacher, we fight strong-side lead. But at work -- I've got a gun on my right hip. I'm not putting that closer to the bad guys than I have to! That doesn't mean I can't use the same principles when it comes time to go hands-on, though.

    Then there are other aspects of tradition, like bowing into class, or uniforms and how to handle your belt. Those... If you're going to train or teach XYZ Martial Art... You've got to use them. They're part of what distinguishes a martial art from a simple collection of "how to beat someone up" moves. I'm not saying you have to be a slave to them... but if you're doing a formal training session -- you have to keep the traditional trappings of it.
     
  17. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    Yes, I'd heard something about that. The role of the Welsh longbowmen was apparently greatly exaggerated. Just another illustration of how legend becomes passed off as history.

    It's funny: my views of Henry V were formed early on after reading Shakespeare's play as a youngster, and then seeing it performed a number of times. In spite of what I know, I still have that heroic image of him somewhere in my head...
     
  18. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    Now the pike is a very good example of martial evolution.

    Let's go back is history a bit to Hellenistic Greece and a little thing that Philip of Macedon put into regular use - the Sarisa. Essentially a pike. And the Macedonian phalanx was a good example of a strong pike formation. Why then did it fall out of use? Simple answer, the Romans.

    Later, toward the end of the Roman period when mounted warriors were becoming both more effective and more prevalent there was little that could be done about them.

    The mounted warrior developed through the Norman domination to the fearsome shock troop that was the Medieval knight. To deal with this techniques were developed in two places, both involving a revival of the pike.

    In Scotland, the schiltron was developed whereby pike-armed troops were supported by means of sword-armed men being interspersed among them. In Switzerland, or perhaps Burgundy, a similar technique was used. In both cases it was effective but could still be overcome by a concerted cavalry charge, though such would be damn costly.

    Later still, with the development of effective portable firearms, the Swiss developed the pike formation further by interspersing arquebusiers among the pikes. That pretty much saw the end of the knight on the battlefield.

    Throughout its history the pike maintained certain elements to its use. Massed and rigid formations, for example. But over the centuries, as the battlefield changed, the way the pike was used, and supplemented, was modified to suit.
     
  19. Adept

    Adept Master Black Belt

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    Indeed, the pointy stick has always had a use in combat. Even today we still use bayonets.
     
  20. Shotgun Buddha

    Shotgun Buddha Brown Belt

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    The Bayonet is interesting because the weapon was very rarely actually used for direct combat, its main uses were prior to attack where all those wonderful sharp stabby bits were a wondefully off-putting thing for the enemy to have to charge at, and then stabbing the enemy in the back while they're fleeing.
    Up close and personal troops were far more likely to strike with the butt of their gun like a club than stab with bayonet.
     

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