You might not realize it, but everything in the world changes and evolves, even the ruins from ancient civilizations long since past are continuously changing due to environmental erosion and many other factors. I have been involved with various aspects of the martial art for a very large portion of my life and I have experienced the evolution of what most practitioners accept as the ancient martial art, trying their best to keep it pure and as it originally was, even though they actually have no idea of how it originally was.
In more modern times the great Bruce Lee regretted ever putting a name to his personal fighting style of Jeet Kune Do, as he instinctively knew that his followers would seek to keep it as “pure” exactly as it was when he developed it.. That was totally against his personal philosophy that everything must evolve to be able to blend in with the changing of time, environment and even culture. In my well over sixty years of personal involvement in the martial arts, I have actually seen and experienced the forever changing evolution of the martial arts, even though practitioners strive to keep it as it was.
Firstly, what is known today as the martial arts, in its many diversified forms, was actually discovered, devised and developed as life survival preservation skills. Those skills actually had very little to do with fighting or war, but more to do with sharing, giving, nurturing and love of life. Those are all things that modern or even so-called ancient martial art practitioners never considered a very important part of their respective art form.
What we today call the martial arts are literally thousands of years old, and regardless of how diligently practitioners try to preserve the style they are involved with, it is realistically impossible, commendable, but impossible to keep it pure, and if you allow me to, I will prove it undeniably.
First off I cherish the martial art, as it has so much to offer everyone in so many ways, even assisting us all in our everyday lives that we don’t even realize. The martial arts are so profound, covering such a diverse area, being filled with life-altering gifts, if we only seek them and accept them into our lives, as that is the real true values hidden deeply within the fiber of the ancient survival skills.
I am desperately trying to find the right words to write in this article so that you can grasp the essence of what it is that I’m trying to share with you all, while I try to show you how it is impossible to keep things as they were, and very honestly, we realistically do not want to, because that will actually destroy the deliberately hidden life gifts that the survival martial art skills have preserved for us.
Ok, I think and hope you will all agree that the art we seek to preserve is thousands, if not millions, of years old, and either way that is a very long span of time, right? Try to think that far back if you can, to a time period when everything was very simple and primitive, with none of today’s modern conveniences.
I’m old enough that I experienced civilization changing through several time period developments as I grew up, such as it was very rare for people to have a telephone in their home, long before the advent of cell phones, there were no televisions in homes, but when they were developed and became available they were very small and only black and white, no color or gigantic fifty inch wide screen TVs with surround sound, but generally only live radio programs were a source of entertainment, and newspapers were a main source of current information.
I have been very blessed with having studied many martial art styles and trained with many relatively modern martial art masters and grand masters and even though they teach their family styles, it is fairly evident that they have added, and more or less updated, the family system they are teaching (knowingly or inadvertently). I know this for a fact because I have studied with many of those masters and grand masters when they were first beginning to share their family art form with the general public and over many years of their teaching how what they originally taught changed to fit in with the main stream of current arts.
The martial art is very much like developing countries, where things are changing and developing very rapidly, generally with the common people desperately trying to keep things as they have always been, while at the same time enjoying living in the new more modern developments with running water in homes, driving motorbiked and automobiles rather riding oxen, horses or bicycles. It has always been that way and I can assure you it will continue to be.
Academically speaking, when you are a student in school, grade school, junior high school, senior high school and even college, what you are being taught, even in the same course, changes from teacher to teacher, even when they are teaching from the very same administrative text books. You know what, it has to be that way, simply because each teacher comprehends the very same material they are teaching differently, so what each of them teach you is different and that can often have tremendous affects on you.
The martial arts, of course, has the very same dilemma, as each teacher shares their version of how and what they comprehend of what was shared with them by their teachers, therefore automatically changing what you are being taught. Moreover, you also comprehend what you are being taught through your own thought processes, comprehending everything how you see it.
That is just human nature friends, but you know that really isn’t all that bad, because we each discover many things through this process and that is actually part of the evolutionary process. Can you believe that?
Let me try to give you one more visual picture of ancient evolution, so you can see this for yourself. Take a room full of students, show them a very simple method of stepping and punching, showing them how the body posture is, how the legs move and position, how one arm extends as the punch is delivered while the other arm retracts.
I promise you every student will perform differently, some minimally, but different, regardless of how diligently they try to get it exactly correct like you want it. Friends, as much as we all want exactness and perfection, we must leave room for mental deviation, because we all perceive differently from everyone else. This is part of our individuality, and that individuality is what defines us as who we are.
Basically what I’m trying to get across is that the martial arts as a whole has to be in a continuous state of change, mainly because of the need and desire of the practitioners. Because as generations change, so do so many other facets of life.
For the martial art to be an integral part of every generation, it has to fit in. In order for it to fit in, it has to evolve to fit the current culture and the people’s life style. The techniques themselves always have to be adjustable, so that they are still effective in different environments as times moves on.
Remember, what worked to varying degrees for the ancient ones in their primitive rugged existence also has to fit in every succeeding evolving generation, so adaptability is always a key word, whether it is from individual to individual or generationally, the martial art has to be applicable to every circumstance if it is going to be effective and dependably usable whenever for whoever.
When traveling long distances I would rather drive in a car, instead of a motor cycle, but depending where I’m traveling to, I might prefer to fly in an airplane. Adaptability in travel definitely has its benefits, now doesn’t it?
Accept your martial art style for the way it fits you and your needs, but most importantly, for how well it adjusts to helping you feel healthier, both through the physical attributes it develops for you and the confidence it gives you when it comes to defending you and your loved ones.
Most martial art styles really have so many beneficial aspects to them that we never realize until we have been involved with them for a long time. But when it comes to survival out on the mean streets of today’s suburbs and big cities, try to make certain that your martial art style shares with you at least the basic aspects of observation, awareness, stealth, stalking and tracking, as those were some of the very beginning skills that assisted our ancient ancestors to survive in their hostile primitive rugged environment.