FIT TO FIGHT

I ad­mit that’s a ti­tle that needs some ex­plain­ing. It may sound like an odd la­bel for an anal­y­sis of Western com­bat, but I can think of no bet­ter way to UHIHU WR ZKDW ZH GR DV HQWKXVLDVWV IRU :HVWHUQ ZD\V RI ƘJKWLQJ

Black Belt - - CONTENTS - by Mark Hat­maker ABOrT TeE ArTeOR: For more in­for­ma­tion about Mark eat­maker, visit ex­treme self­pro­tec­tion.com.

ever won­der why east­ern mar­tial arts are so pop­u­lar while western mar­tial arts aren't? mark hat­maker be­lieves he knows why, and it's all about lin­eage and tra­di­tion.

East­ern arts, for the most part, have a built-in hi­er­ar­chy of ad­her­ence to lin­eage and tra­di­tion. In other words, “My mas­ter was taught by this mas­ter, and he was taught by …” and so on. Don’t get me wrong! Di­rect lin­eage can be an ex­cel­lent in­dex of qual­ity in­for­ma­tion trans­fer­ence, but it isn’t a guar­an­tee of ex­cel­lence. WESTERN COM­BAT ARTS have less of a ground­ing in lin­eage. Oh, it’s out there, but it’s just not as dog­matic in most cases. It can be spec­u­lated that this obliv­i­ous­ness to lin­eage — not dis­re­gard for it — in the United States is rooted in the con­cept of the self-made man/Yan­kee in­ge­nu­ity/fierce in­de­pen­dence that this na­tion fos­tered in its early years.

We can see ev­i­dence of this no­tion in our fron­tier wrestlers and pugilists, peo­ple who learned their trade via the bumps and bruises that came from im­promptu friendly (and unfriendly) matches as op­posed to jour­neys to tem­ples and pil­grim­ages to a guru’s her­mitage. Our early fight­ers would hone their fight sci­ence by trial and er­ror and by self-study, the less-pompous word for au­to­di­dac­ti­cism. We have nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of these self-guided scrap­pers in ac­tion, in­clud­ing John L. Sul­li­van hon­ing his skills in pickup matches and Ed “Stran­gler” Lewis try­ing out holds he learned from a guide writ­ten by Evan “Stran­gler” Lewis.

We also can credit the fact that many Western arts fell into dis­fa­vor — like when real pro wrestling went fake. Fur­ther, many, in­clud­ing a num­ber of sword styles, faded from com­mon use al­to­gether. Thus were lin­eages busted in the West.

What­ever the rea­sons for this lack of em­pha­sis on lin­eage, it hasn’t staunched the flow of solid in­for­ma­tion. In fact, it may be a boon for the Western arts. The East­ern arts of­ten have a read­ily ac­ces- sible and long line of tra­di­tion to draw from, but this very char­ac­ter­is­tic can sti­fle ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Western arts, with their less-clear de­lin­eations, force many prac­ti­tion­ers to ex­per­i­ment with con­cepts, ideas, tac­tics and tech­niques be­cause noth­ing is handed down on a sil­ver plat­ter. Again, this is not to say that all East­ern arts fall out­side this ex­per­i­men­tal cat­e­gory, but it’s far more com­mon to find ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in the Western meth­ods. ES­SEN­TIALLY, all mar­tial artists are au­to­di­dacts. We are all self-taught. Whether we learn at the feet of a guru or from a DVD, it’s the prac­ti­tion­ers who choose to take the in­for­ma­tion and make of it what they can. Au­to­di­dac­ti­cism seems to ex­ist to a greater de­gree in Western com­bat artists be­cause shal­low lin­eages of­ten call for exploration. This exploration leads to a form of com­bat arche­ol­ogy in which students de­vour ev­ery book, DVD and man­ual they can lay hands on. They scour any and all re­sources, whether that means study­ing re­pro­duc­tions of old wood­cuts, peer­ing at pho­to­graphs of wrestling pos­tures cut into the rock tombs at Beni Has­san, read­ing the lat­est box­ing man­ual or pop­ping in a new DVD.

Au­to­di­dacts are, in this sense, mar­tial arts arche­ol­o­gists as they at­tempt to piece together ob­scure or for­got­ten ideas and re­assem­ble them. Only then do they syn­the­size those ideas in a man­ner that’s per­ti­nent and valu­able to their life. TO­DAY’S METH­ODS of arche­ol­ogy and au­to­di­dac­ti­cism can, in a sense, be called a di­rect lin­eage to that spirit of Yan­kee in­di­vid­u­al­ism that fired many of our wrestling, box­ing and Western­com­bat fore­run­ners. To­day’s arche­ol­o­gists have avail­able me­dia and tech­nolo­gies that were un­dreamed of a mere 30 years ago, let alone a cen­tury ago. It’s their never-end­ing thirst for knowl­edge that makes the dili­gent hard-training, cy­ber­lit­er­ate au­to­di­dacts of to­day the di­rect lin­eal prod­ucts of men such as Ed “Stran­gler” Lewis de­ci­pher­ing that Evan Lewis book­let 100 years ago.

It’s a grand tra­di­tion, one we should all be proud to be a part of. I know I am.

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