The Renaissance Man

Steel Tiger

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While chatting with some people about defence concepts in Europe I got to thinking aboutsomething else and I would like to throw it out there to see what others think.

During the Renaissance (14th - 17th centuries) many of the great figures were experts in a range of fields, including the martial.
Musashi suggested that a martial artist be expert in many fields.

Do we see this nowadays?
Are the people at the top of our game Renaissance Men and Women?

Should they be? Can they be?
 

Big Don

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While many of the "Greats" were masters in multiple fields, most people never were and never will be. As admirable as the goal is, life interferes in a variety of ways making actually achieving even profieciency in multiple fields extremely difficult and thus, rare.
The most recent renaissance man I am aware of was Theodore Roosevelt.
Diplomat, hunter, marksman, martial artist, taxidermist, historian...
 

Tames D

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While many of the "Greats" were masters in multiple fields, most people never were and never will be. As admirable as the goal is, life interferes in a variety of ways making actually achieving even profieciency in multiple fields extremely difficult and thus, rare.
The most recent renaissance man I am aware of was Theodore Roosevelt.
Diplomat, hunter, marksman, martial artist, taxidermist, historian...
Teddy was a Martial Artist? I didn't know that.
 

Kennedy_Shogen_Ryu

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Man has this post ever got me thinking, and I honestly can't think of anyone. Congrats for making me think this hard at 1 in the morning!
 

Big Don

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Teddy both boxed and practiced Judo. He'd challenge people in the White House. That always struck me as just plain cool.
 

Brian King

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Originally Posted by QUI-GON
Teddy was a Martial Artist? I didn't know that.


Yup He was also a legitimate Judo Brown belt I believe,. He had a Judo dojo built in the White House.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamashita_Yoshiaki
The Seattle Dojo is still in operation today

also
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt
Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in pursuing what he called, in an 1899 speech, "the strenuous life." To this end, he exercised regularly and took up boxing, tennis, hiking, rowing, polo, and horseback riding. As governor of New York, he boxed with sparring partners several times a week, a practice he regularly continued as President until one blow detached his left retina, leaving him blind in that eye (a fact not made public until many years later). Thereafter, he practiced jujutsu and continued his habit of skinny-dipping in the Potomac River during winter.[61][62]
He was an enthusiastic singlestick player and, according to Harper's Weekly, in 1905 showed up at a White House reception with his arm bandaged after a bout with General Leonard Wood.[63"

http://www.judoinfo.com/announce.htm
President Theodore Roosevelt became a brown belt in Judo during his administration and built a small dojo in the White House. Ulysses S. Grant was the first American President to observe a Jujutsu demonstration with Jigoro Kano in 1879.

Brian King
 

Big Don

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Teddy was a Martial Artist? I didn't know that.
http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_svinth1_1000.htm
At a White House luncheon, he delighted guests by throwing the Swiss minister to the floor several times to demonstrate a judo hold.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n6_v45/ai_13580900

I have to thank you, Qui-gon, had you not asked I wouldn't have looked this up...
Teddy wrote the Credo of the United States Judo Association:
http://www.zentrumpet.com/credo.htm
President Theodore Roosevelt was first introduced to judo during his Presidency by Yoshiaka Yamashita who is credited with bringing the sport to the United States. Roosevelt continued to study the sport during his presidency and beyond, ultimately advancing to the level of brown belt.
http://www.usjudo.org/famousjudoathletes.asp
 

thardey

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While chatting with some people about defence concepts in Europe I got to thinking aboutsomething else and I would like to throw it out there to see what others think.

During the Renaissance (14th - 17th centuries) many of the great figures were experts in a range of fields, including the martial.
Musashi suggested that a martial artist be expert in many fields.

Do we see this nowadays?
Are the people at the top of our game Renaissance Men and Women?

Should they be? Can they be?

I don't think that most "Renaissance Men" will gain popularity in this day and age. Most famous people right now are from "reality TV" and soundbytes, not from actual study and respect. Teddy Rosevelt was not famous because he was a Renaissance Man, but he was a famous person who was also a Renaissance Man.

I try to be a Renaissance Man as much as possible, not for any real ideal, but simply because of the way I learn: the more I know, the easier it is to learn more. If I can find a common thread, I can relate new hobbies and skills to others, and learn new ones quickly.

That's why the term "Renaissance Man" refers to somebody, Man or Woman, who studies multiple things. It's not so much a random collection of skills they acquired, but they sought out the common threads. They believed, as to some extent that I do, that physics, music, martial arts, dancing, art, geometry, mathematics, spirituality, philosophy, history, and politics are all related.

However, that also caused problems when a scientific finding disagreed with religion or philosophy. That was the most notable, but I'm sure there were other problems.

So with "modern science" we divorced it from everything else, and called it "pure science". I personally don't work in the realm of "pure science", but stay with "applied sciences" with still gives you the ability to combine science with other disciplines.

All that to say, we need people who study the forest, and people who study the trees. I could not learn the way I do, if not for the specialists, but I do not want to be a specialist, myself.

Also, I believe you can be above-average at many things, and I think the more experiences you are able to draw from, the easier it is to be above-average. But you will never be the "best" at anything.
 

crushing

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Renaissance Man, that means jack of all trades, master of none, right? ;)

Post modern man (whatever that means) has become a more specialized species as it evolves. Becoming more like. . . insects, I guess.
 

Marginal

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While chatting with some people about defence concepts in Europe I got to thinking aboutsomething else and I would like to throw it out there to see what others think.

During the Renaissance (14th - 17th centuries) many of the great figures were experts in a range of fields, including the martial.
Musashi suggested that a martial artist be expert in many fields.

Do we see this nowadays?
Are the people at the top of our game Renaissance Men and Women?

Should they be? Can they be?
That worked better back in the day. Less knowledge, more idle time.
 
OP
Steel Tiger

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Renaissance Man, that means jack of all trades, master of none, right? ;)

Post modern man (whatever that means) has become a more specialized species as it evolves. Becoming more like. . . insects, I guess.


Would characterise Leonardo da Vinci as a jack-of-all-trades?

Personally, I would not and he, I think, is the archetypal Renaissance Man.
True, he was a polymath and probably a genius, which helped. And he may be an exception (though people like Machiavelli and Cellini would deny this).
Painter sculptor, engineer, astronomer, anatomist, biologist, geologist, physicist, architect, philosopher, and humanist.

Now these guys tended to have sponsors who payed for them to work, but they had to produce or face dismissal or worse. It would be nice to have someone pay the bills while I pursued my interests, even if I had to produce war machines and works of art regularly.

I think that the modern tendency to specialisation is a specific outgrowth of the Renaissance. Without the work of the Renaissance Men, like da Vinci and Newton, the level of specialisation we see today would be impossible.


All that being said, I do not think it is impossible to be a Renaissance Man nowadays.
Thardey pointed out the integrated approach that led people like da Vinci into numerous areas of research and I think that can be achieved in these modern times.

Just as an aside, I would recommend Benvenuto Cellini's autobiography. Its magnificent. This man single-handedly turned back the French invasion of Italy, invented smokeless, silent gunpowder, another type of gunpowder that made bullets go much, much farther than normal, and produced magnificent works of art. It is a great laugh, though his artwork is actually magnificent (see statue of Perseus).
 

Blotan Hunka

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Thing with the classic Renaissance man was that the fields they explored were then far less developed than they are now. We arereaching a point where any major innovation in a field requires specialized education, technology and experience.

Todays "Renaissance Man" is better described as "widely educated" or having various interests. To be considered an "expert" or innovator in multiple disciplines as in the classic sense are gone IMO.
 

thardey

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Thing with the classic Renaissance man was that the fields they explored were then far less developed than they are now. We arereaching a point where any major innovation in a field requires specialized education, technology and experience.

Todays "Renaissance Man" is better described as "widely educated" or having various interests. To be considered an "expert" or innovator in multiple disciplines as in the classic sense are gone IMO.

I see what you're saying - like the probability of one single person understanding everything about how to build a computer, from the microchips to the software, to the internet, is pretty slim. Most advances are made by specialists in their own arena, building on the information from before.

But the idea of the Renaissance was more than just being the top of your game at everything, although they certainly had better odds of that than we do -- the idea was to not specialize in your own life.

The concept of being either smart or strong, or either rational or religious, would have been foreign to them. Their goal was to develop themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, so that one did not outweigh the other. Athleticism was as important as knowledge. If you've ever been to St. Peter's square, you're surrounded by statues of Christian Saints, each one made to look like Mr. Universe. The idea being that at the attainment of sainthood, they must not only be perfect spiritually, but must also be perfect physically, as well. This is not often covered in most studies of the great Renaissance men.

The physical was inseparable from the mental.

In fact, many martial artist, once they start answering philosophical questions, using Martial Arts principles, are on the path to the Renaissance Ideal. They're combining the two.

I agree, however, that the Renaissance Ideal won't get you much recognition in today's world, in fact, if presented wrong, it often alienates me from others who prefer to specialize.

In fact, some of the very first posts I put up on this very forum were met with criticism because I was asking specialized questions about an art I was not wholly committed to, but wanted more information to "round out" my understanding of sword arts and physics in general. (I'm still looking for the answers to a couple of these, actually). The general answers I got (other than the standard, good advice: "ask an instructor") were "stick with the art you're already in."

After a little patience, a couple of people began to understand what I was looking for, and pointed me in the direction of some good resources to find my answers.

It can be a bonus at parties, however -- I can usually find something to discuss with just about anybody, because I've probably tried what they are interested in, or I want to learn more about it. But if I start talking about all the random things I've studied, they get this "deer-in-the-headlight" look and wander off. That kind of learning is simply not in style these days, in general.
 

Phoenix44

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Well, you have to admit, it was a lot easier to be a renaissance man during the renaissance--the body of information we have to deal with now is a lot greater.

Having said that, though, I appreciate a man who can speak intelligently about current affairs, is well read, educated, can cook, play an instrument, practices martial arts.
 

Sukerkin

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Very droll, Fearless ... you beat me to it :D.

Well, to be pedantic, I'm not married yet but very soon the engagement ring will arrive and then I have to pick my spot and my moment :eek:.
 
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