Why is lineage important?

Monkey Turned Wolf

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So far a long time I've dealt with the disease that lineage is important in kenpo. I disagree with it, but some people have a huge issue with not being second generation chow/parker/etc. Despite my disagreement, I understood because so many kenpo practitioners took kenpo in separate ways that the head of hour style is practically it's own style by itself.

However, reading on here, I've discovered similar issues in styles where, to me, the lineage shouldn't matter at all. In most non-denominational atyles, regardless of who your lineage follows you'll still be learning a standardized skill set as long as you have the same founser/grandmaster. The only clear exceptions to this that I know of are wing chun and kenpo. Is there any logical reason for why they matter in other styles, or is it more of a pissing contest based on how 'pure' the styles are?
 

ballen0351

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In most non-denominational atyles, regardless of who your lineage follows you'll still be learning a standardized skill set as long as you have the same founser/grandmaster.
That happens in all styles I bet. I trained in two different Goju Ryu Organizations. They both were Goju and were very similar they still had alot of differences as well
The only clear exceptions to this that I know of are wing chun and kenpo. Is there any logical reason for why they matter in other styles, or is it more of a pissing contest based on how 'pure' the styles are?
I dont know if its a pissing contest but the more removed from the source you get the more things start to change. Either by choice (the student believes hes making an improvement) by mistake (The student just doesnt remember it quite right),
An example I remember Higaonna Sensei was demonstrating a technique but had injured his wrist so he was holding his hand a certain way due to pain that was slightly different then they way he had taught it before. The technique required you to hold your hand and wrist as clost to a 90 degree angle as you could get but due to the injury he was more at a 45 degree . Other dojo heads saw this "change" didnt bother to ask about it just went with it and went back to their schools and not only change the technique to a 45 degree angle to the "New" way but came up with elaborate reasons for the change. A year later at another seminar Higaonna was confused as to why everyone was holding thier hand at 45 degree angles and not 90. So the closer to the source you can get the better chance your learning it the way the founder wanted .
 

Touch Of Death

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So far a long time I've dealt with the disease that lineage is important in kenpo. I disagree with it, but some people have a huge issue with not being second generation chow/parker/etc. Despite my disagreement, I understood because so many kenpo practitioners took kenpo in separate ways that the head of hour style is practically it's own style by itself.

However, reading on here, I've discovered similar issues in styles where, to me, the lineage shouldn't matter at all. In most non-denominational atyles, regardless of who your lineage follows you'll still be learning a standardized skill set as long as you have the same founser/grandmaster. The only clear exceptions to this that I know of are wing chun and kenpo. Is there any logical reason for why they matter in other styles, or is it more of a pissing contest based on how 'pure' the styles are?
I think it is very important in Kenpo, because, if I know who taught you, I can guess the way you are doing something, and take it from there. There are just too many differences, in Kenpos, to not simplify, by asking who sent ya. :)
 

Bill Mattocks

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So far a long time I've dealt with the disease that lineage is important in kenpo. I disagree with it, but some people have a huge issue with not being second generation chow/parker/etc. Despite my disagreement, I understood because so many kenpo practitioners took kenpo in separate ways that the head of hour style is practically it's own style by itself.

However, reading on here, I've discovered similar issues in styles where, to me, the lineage shouldn't matter at all. In most non-denominational atyles, regardless of who your lineage follows you'll still be learning a standardized skill set as long as you have the same founser/grandmaster. The only clear exceptions to this that I know of are wing chun and kenpo. Is there any logical reason for why they matter in other styles, or is it more of a pissing contest based on how 'pure' the styles are?

Ever play "Post Office" as a child? The teacher whispers a sentence in one child's ear, who then whispers it to the next child, and so on. The original statement quickly becomes distorted and unrecognizable.

Likewise, different students learn the same thing from their instructor but perform them differently, each thinking they are teaching precisely what they learned.

Entire lineages have been found diligently repeating a mistake seen in a film made of an early generation student, not knowing it was actually an error and not intentional.

Even in traditional MA, the exercises and kata from the lineage of one student is often recognizably different than another's, almost like a regional accent.

Lineage in that sense isn't trying to say one is better than another, but rather this is what one can expect to see from one or another.

Lineage can also be important when someone professes something, such as a high rank or a technique done in a way no one recognizes, etc. Understanding who their instructor was or is can bring perspective. I was role of a person who showed up to one of our association's big meetings, wearing a red and white belt of a master and professing knowledge he seemed not to actually posses, at least he could not make his techs work against a resisting partner. Our MA world is small, and no one seemed to know or have heard of him. Eventually he was asked about his lineage. His original sensei was known and respected but had passed long ago. When ask how by whom he had been promoted to his recent ranks, he reportedly was evasive and would not give names. Hmmm. I won't call him a fraud, but many thought he was and is. So lineage can also be important to establish credentials.

It also helps if one does have to change schools within a system for whatever reason. Your lineage helps a future instructor understand what you've likely been taught and how you likely apply it.
 

Tony Dismukes

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I love how you say at the end you want to learn without passing judgement yet the entire article is passing judgement on tradition martial arts
Not at all. I outlined one view of lineage which is very common in martial arts, "traditional" and otherwise*. I didn't criticize it in any way. I then outlined another perspective which is not so commonly expressed and indicated that I have a liking for it. I have no gripe with anyone who prefers the first view.

*(I mentioned that Helio Gracie and his sons promoted this viewpoint. I've also even seen this view expressed in a book by a JKD instructor. You'd think that would be the last art where you would find said "traditional" approach.)
 

ballen0351

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Not at all. I outlined one view of lineage which is very common in martial arts, "traditional" and otherwise*. I didn't criticize it in any way. I then outlined another perspective which is not so commonly expressed and indicated that I have a liking for it. I have no gripe with anyone who prefers the first view.

*(I mentioned that Helio Gracie and his sons promoted this viewpoint. I've also even seen this view expressed in a book by a JKD instructor. You'd think that would be the last art where you would find said "traditional" approach.)
you compared traditional founders to the divinity and started off with the once upon a time there was a bad *** fighter ...using a fairy tail opening to describe how traditional arts were founded. But if you don't think your being judgemental ok. I disagree
 

ballen0351

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The interesting thing is What you say BJJ does right, take what works from other styles and use it. That is exactly what the bad *** God like Okinawian founders did. They traveled all over Asia taking what worked added it to local styles to make their own style.
 

Tony Dismukes

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you compared traditional founders to the divinity
No I didn't. Nothing in there about gods or divinity.

and started off with the once upon a time there was a bad *** fighter ...using a fairy tail opening to describe how traditional arts were founded.

I think you misunderstood what I wrote. I was not describing the concept of lineage in specifically "traditional" martial arts* I was describing the traditional concept of lineage in martial arts in general. (BTW - I have yet to come across an internally consistent, widely agreed upon definition for what constitutes a "traditional" martial art.)

The "once upon a time" opening to the sentence was intended as shorthand. If you look at the actual description of the lineage concept that I wrote, it's exactly what many martial artists from a wide variety of arts express and defend on a regular basis.
 

ballen0351

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No I didn't. Nothing in there about gods or divinity.

You said the martial wisdom flowing down from a single divinley inspired source.
That sounds like your making fun tradition founders being compared to gods

I think you misunderstood what I wrote. I was not describing the concept of lineage in specifically "traditional" martial arts* I was describing the traditional concept of lineage in martial arts in general. (BTW - I have yet to come across an internally consistent, widely agreed upon definition for what constitutes a "traditional" martial art.)

The "once upon a time" opening to the sentence was intended as shorthand. If you look at the actual description of the lineage concept that I wrote, it's exactly what many martial artists from a wide variety of arts express and defend on a regular basis.
ok so your passing judgment on all styles....well except BJJ of course
 

Tony Dismukes

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The interesting thing is What you say BJJ does right, take what works from other styles and use it. That is exactly what the bad *** God like Okinawian founders did. They traveled all over Asia taking what worked added it to local styles to make their own style.
Yep. I think that's pretty common, especially among the founders of arts. It's certainly nothing that's unique to BJJ or any other system. If you think I'm saying that's something that happened in BJJ but not Karate, then you're totally missing my point.
 

ballen0351

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Yep. I think that's pretty common, especially among the founders of arts. It's certainly nothing that's unique to BJJ or any other system. If you think I'm saying that's something that happened in BJJ but not Karate, then you're totally missing my point.
ok we will just have to disagree
 

Tony Dismukes

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You said the martial wisdom flowing down from a single divinley inspired source.

No, I said the concept was that the martial knowledge flows down in a straight line. There's nothing whatsoever about "divinely inspired" anywhere in my essay.

That sounds like your making fun tradition founders being treated like gods

Nope. I'm describing a common viewpoint about the flow of martial knowledge.

ok so your passing judgment on all styles....well except BJJ of course

Did you miss the point where I mentioned this exact same viewpoint can be found in BJJ?
 

ballen0351

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No, I said the concept was that the martial knowledge flows down in a straight line. There's nothing whatsoever about "divinely inspired" anywhere in my essay.
I'm on my phone so I can't cut and paste but your exact words you wrote were "a single divinely inspired source" those are your words not mine



Nope. I'm describing a common viewpoint about the flow of martial knowledge.
which I agree with until you started talking about being divinley inspired


Did you miss the point where I mentioned this exact same viewpoint can be found in BJJ?
no you said a few members of the Gracie family and not even all of them. I had no problem with the essay and agree with most of it But when you Say your not judging yet you are and compare style,founders to God I disagree with that. The essay itself was fine. I for example wanted to learn Goju. I Didn't want to learn Goju with some TKD kicks and judo throws because it works better I wanted to learn tradition Goju. So I like that the information flowed from the founder down. That's one of the reasons I left one branch of Goju for another my first organization added and slightly changed things. Changes that made sense and worked better but it wasn't original.
 

Tony Dismukes

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ok we will just have to disagree
I have no problem with agreeing to disagree on the role of lineage or the best way to train or whatever.

I do have a problem with someone putting words in my mouth that I never said and never meant.

Just in case the problem is due to me not expressing my ideas clearly, I will attempt to recap my points from the original blog post:

Common view of lineage
Founder creates an art (I didn't specify how they came up with it, but travelling the world, learning different arts, and synthesizing the "best" of what they've learned is certainly one of the common patterns.)

Founder teaches students.

Those students become teachers and teach students of their own and so on.

If one of those teachers along the way doesn't learn the whole art correctly, then part of the knowledge is lost and subsequent students under that teacher's lineage will be missing some understanding of the art. You can find lots of discussions on this very forum promoting this very idea.

Lineage looks like this: Founder --> Teacher A ---> Teacher B ---> Present day student.

According to the Helio theory of BJJ, my lineage would look like this: Maeda(pre-Founder)-->Carlos Gracie -->Helio Gracie (Founder of BJJ)* --> Carlson Gracie --> Carlson Gracie Jr. --> Mike O'Donnell --> Me.

*(Most lineage trees show the arrow going straight from Carlos to Carlson, but Helio presented himself as the one true creator of BJJ and Carlson did train with Helio as well as Carlos.)

A different view of lineage (I'll call it the "open-source" perspective)
Founder creates an art (at least one person generally gets the credit, although it may sometimes be a more collaborative process).

Founder teaches students. Students learn from teacher. Teacher learns from students. Students learn from each other. Students learn from outside sources and their own experiences.

The process repeats with each generation of students. Practitioners learn from their teachers, their students, their peers, their own experiences, and exposure to other systems. The art will change over time to a greater or lesser extent based on how open practitioners are to changes that they don't perceive as coming directly from their own instructor, but some degree of change is inevitable. Knowledge and understanding can be gained in each generation as well as lost.

According to my "open source" theory of BJJ, my lineage would look something like this: Kano-->Maeda (and a bunch of other judoka and catch wrestlers influencing each other)--> Donato Pires/Carlos Gracie/Luis Franca/others? -->Helio Gracie/George Gracie/Oswaldo Fadda/a bunch of other catch wrestlers and judoka--> (arrows zig-zagging back and forth to a bunch of second-generation Gracies, including Carlson, various non-Gracie jiu-jiteiros, various lutre-livre fighters)-->(arrows going around in a complicated pattern between 2nd and 3rd generation jiu-jiteiros, judoka like George Mehdi, wrestlers like Bob Anderson, Luta Livre fighters like Marco Ruas) --> (arrows going all over the damn place between different generations of BJJ practitioners, judoka, wrestlers, samboists, MMA fighters, JKD practitioners and so on, to Me.) My rank may come through the Carlson Gracie lineage, but my knowledge, skill, and personal expression of the art owe easily as much to a variety of other lineages as it does to anything that was personally passed down from Carlson.

I don't think this sort of process is anything unique to BJJ. It's just that BJJ is the art where I know enough about the history to lay out the details. If any kempoists or karateka feel that this second perspective is more in line their history than the first view, then maybe they can lay out some of the details as it applies to their art.
 

Tony Dismukes

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I'm on my phone so I can't cut and paste but your exact words you wrote were "a single divinely inspired source" those are your words not mine
I have to apologize. I didn't think I had written that line, but I just scrolled all the way down and spotted that I did include it at the very end. I wrote the essay over a year ago and was just skimming it for a reminder just now.

To be clear, that was mostly intended figuratively. (Except for those arts like Tenshin Shden Katori Shint-ry贖 where divine inspiration is an explicit part of the origin story.) It's not intended to be derisive, just shorthand for the view that present day students can't have an understanding of the art that in any way surpasses that of the founder.
 

Danny T

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According to my "open source" theory of BJJ, my lineage would look something like this: Kano-->Maeda (and a bunch of other judoka and catch wrestlers influencing each other)--> Donato Pires/Carlos Gracie/Luis Franca/others? -->Helio Gracie/George Gracie/Oswaldo Fadda/a bunch of other catch wrestlers and judoka--> (arrows zig-zagging back and forth to a bunch of second-generation Gracies, including Carlson, various non-Gracie jiu-jiteiros, various lutre-livre fighters)-->(arrows going around in a complicated pattern between 2nd and 3rd generation jiu-jiteiros, judoka like George Mehdi, wrestlers like Bob Anderson, Luta Livre fighters like Marco Ruas) --> (arrows going all over the damn place between different generations of BJJ practitioners, judoka, wrestlers, samboists, MMA fighters, JKD practitioners and so on, to Me.) My rank may come through the Carlson Gracie lineage, but my knowledge, skill, and personal expression of the art owe easily as much to a variety of other lineages as it does to anything that was personally passed down from Carlson.

Most of the arts I train is much as Tony outlined here.
And I believe most true leaders of the martial arts continue to learn and advance through the training of others and testing. The base or fundamentals remain but the understanding and ways to apply continue to grow until all aspects are covered in some manner. Except for those who are closed minded and refuse to test and experiment and adapt.
Lineage is important for marketing.
How you train; how you practice is far more important than lineage.
 

tshadowchaser

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I know of a couple of styles that by the third generation of instructors many basic blocking movements, striking combinations, and forms no longer look like what the originator created. It only took fifty to seventy years for these changes aand all of those practicing the "new" way of doing things claim these are the way it was taught. Strange thing is thhese 3rd generation students never even knew the originator. To those old enough to have know or practiced under the originators mistakes or changes are obvious but new students coming into said organisations take what they are shown as being the way it has always been.

If the above instructor can prove his direct lineage he still has the right to say he is of X or Y,Z line and styyle. If there are big gaps from him to whom he claims to be decended from he should give his system a new name. Yes it is important to be able to verify whom you learned from if claiming to be of a certian system. Without that verifacation anyone can say they are teaching a system.

So if one can verify they are ligit students of "X" system and show their lineage when an "OLD" student sees changes he/she may know when or who changed things and add a little knowledge to new students.
 

Buka

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I think it depends on how you trace lineage. If you trace it back to the person who created the particular style you train in right now - you will arrive at X.

But if you trace back the Martial education and training of X.......then you guys and me are all cousins.

Because I've trained under several instructors, my lineage goes back to the following - Arakai Seisho on one side, Peichin Takahara on another, Choi Hong Hi on another, James Mitose (in a small part) on another side, the 5th Street Gym in Miami on another, and finally Tomita Tsunejiro on another.

I don't think too many on this forum could trace their system founders back to their instructors and not arrive at one of those I mentioned. So, like it or not, I may be that weird cousin that lives in your attic.

There has only been one constant in the history of Martial Arts - change. And thank the good lord for that.
 
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