FMAT: Starting Your Own Style

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Sep 11, 2006
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Starting Your Own Style
By Bobbe - 07-17-2009 03:39 PM
Originally Posted at: FMATalk


I want to expand a bit on my article about Style Purity. The conversation seems to have shifted from &#8220;Legitimacy&#8221; to &#8220;When you should start your own style.&#8221;

Starting your own martial art is looked upon with disdain and aversion by those who hold that purity and system loyalty are paramount. This is due, in no small part, to he idea that you are &#8220;carrying on&#8221; a lineage or a tradition of some sort, usually dating back a few hundred years. Something passed down from teacher to student, in a long, unbroken line.

While this idea holds great attraction for those looking for some sort of esoteric twist to their training, the thing to realize is that nobody does anything exactly like their teacher. Martial Art students mimic and emulate their instructors to the best of their abilities until they understand what it is they&#8217;re being told to do. Then they begin the experimentation stage, how fast can I go, does this work backwards, what if he has a knife, etc.

In fact, teacher himself may have to have modified the original technique or principle to suit him, and the student is returning to the first idea without realizing it.

I usually term this as: "A martial style is a THEORY that has evolved into DOGMA".

1: Theory - An individual's conceptual idea for combat.

2: Method - Trial and error way of making the theory applicable in real time.

3: System - Two or more methods grouped together that suit an individual.

4: Style - System dogmatized by later-generation disciples.

By stage four there is no hope, any growth propagated by the founder will have ended, and from this point on it is just mimicry. You can see this wherever you go in martial arts, the point of view of the founder becomes dogma after a generation or two after his passing.

As for myself, I have what I call a &#8220;Method&#8221;. I use the banner of &#8220;Edmonds Martial Arts&#8221;, because of the petty bickering between various systems that I always seem to find myself in, and no one can say I&#8217;m &#8220;stealing from their art&#8221;, because I happen to have the same principles in mine.

This also gives me the freedom to move between teachers and systems without surrendering my individuality or point of view. When a teacher of ANY art gives me knowledge, I can accept it and evaluate it&#8217;s effectiveness with objectivity, without having to drag it through someone else&#8217;s version of what is effective and what is not.

My filter for what I incorporate involves 4 different rules for acceptance/rejection:

1: Window of use
How long will I have to train this skill to become moderately adept at it. How long could I realistically apply it before time and old age take it away from me? Techniques that require hyper flexibility or the speed of a 16 year old track star I dismiss out of hand. If I can&#8217;t carry it with me into old age, I prefer not to train it at all. Kicks to the head come to mind.

2: Degree of physicality needed for application
Again, nothing that requires I spend hours working on my speed, strength and stamina just to train one technique for 30 minutes. This is why I don&#8217;t do Wushu.

3: How well it fits with my overall fighting philosophy
I favor close-range. I favor bladed weapons. I favor motion over rooting. I know these things about myself & I&#8217;m honest about my abilities and limitations. So jump-spinning back kicks are out.

4: General effectiveness.

Ever see a spinning backfist? There just isn&#8217;t enough combat effectiveness or realistic application for me to train it. Spinning back elbow (such as used in Muay Thai), yes, that I can see the use of easily. Also, how much work do I have to put into the fight just to position myself to do a technique that amounts to a slap & puts me in greater danger?

The system will tell you

The system can't lie.
Most classical styles are rooted in at least two or more principles of combat, and nowhere is this more obvious than the forms of any given style.

Conventional styles tend to blend several principles at once, looking at less tradition and more practicality of application.

The problem is getting to the point.

When you have to go through a style just to understand how a handful of principles work, your training can take years. It becomes obvious that the style only exists to get the message of the principle (or principles) across to others.

The question must be asked: Is this system truly the best way to teach these principles? Or simply the best way the originator of the art could come up with, given his level of education, geographical location, level of experience and technical understanding?

As far as the system telling me something, or lying about it (telling the truth, etc) I don&#8217;t subscribe to this. The system (or art, style, what have you) should be the VEHICLE for growth, but it should never be the DRIVER.

I define "useless" as anything routinely performed would get me KTFO by a semi-skilled opponent. I don't train to keep fit or look good

I agree, see above.

As an Ilustrisimo stylist I'm sure you appreciate the principle of "Enganyo".
Enganyo (feinting) is my LIFE, and I have as many techniques for it as I do disarm variants.

You do this and *BANG!* Q.E.D.
Q.E.D.?!?! You might hold the distinction of being the first person ever to use that term here on FMA Talk!

Ultimately, the time to branch out on your own is up to the individual. Many people leave as soon as (or before) they're ready, others stick around long after they should have left. But experience is EVERYTHING, the more you have the better prepared you will be to teach others. I had 18 years in the martial arts before I started teaching, and I was grateful for every second of it. I'm still training to this day, I never stopped that.

I was teaching for 5 years before I began to mold what I would eventually recognize as my own method. I'm grateful to my teachers for the exposure and guidance they gave me, and the best way I know of to thank them is to be so good at what I do that it makes them proud to have had a hand in my training. I produce students who are both skilled and independent thinkers, which I think is also a reflection on those who taught me how to do it.

My head is spinning here, trying to keep up with the subtleties and implications on the other thread. Someone get me a Chimay Blue, please...!

Looking over this, I see I&#8217;m making quite an argument for abandoning whatever given style one might train and creating your own. I don&#8217;t mean to do that, and if you&#8217;re happy with what you&#8217;re doing, GREAT! I stayed in a few different systems (Augustine Fong&#8217;s Wing Chun, Cacoy Doce Pares, Mande Muda) for YEARS after they had become political nightmares for me, because I was loyal to the instructors. I too understand the value of a classical system, and the instruction you get from it.

But consider this: Only a person with no imagination could train martial arts for more than 20 years and not create, at minimum, their own variant of it,

Note to self: I have to stop doing this. Pretty soon, everybody will have all the chapters & no reason to buy the friggin&#8217; book!


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