Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Myth of Wasted (Martial Arts) Time

There's lots of debate in the martial arts world about which martial arts are, and are not, "worthy" of study.  There's ample debate on any martial arts forum you care to name, and blog postings of about a jillion words at last count (and believe me, it took me oodles of time to count all those words - whew!).

You're wasting your time, losers.
The claim is sometimes made that by studying at anything less than "optimal" (whatever that means) is an utter waste of time.  That if you aren't studying (art the person making the claim is studying) or studying an art with a ground game or alive training or (insert your preferred skill or training methodology here) you might as well be playing soccer or taking dance lessons.

I don't think that's true.

Look, sometimes, it's not always possible to study an "optimal" martial art or one you'd like to study.

Sometimes:
  • You live in a place with limited local options for study (this is the usual problem for most of us)
  • You don't have the money
  • You don't have the time (weird work schedules and such)
Does that mean you shouldn't study the martial arts at all?

As long as the school has the following criteria, I think it's fine to start studying any art that has these basic characteristics, especially in the case of children:
  1. Physical activity - stretching, calisthenics, anything that gets a sweat going on a regular basis
  2. Balance and smooth movement - Learning to move around without stumbling
  3. Physical coordination - learning to do more than one thing at one time and chaining together movements, preferably using both hands and feet in concert
  4. Personal discipline - following directions, keeping school etiquette
  5. Respect - respecting ones self and others
If those elements are there, they will serve you well, even as you end up in another martial art when you can afford it or you can find someone or somewhere to train in whatever art you're convinced is the best for you.

So, yes, training at the local McDojo is better than not training at all.

Training at the local community center program is better than not training at all.

Training with a couple of people in someone's back yard or garage is better than not training at all.

And yes, I think that training with ninjas is better than not training at all.

Trick or Treating as a ninja does NOT count.
I bet, if you look, you'll find a place nearby that teaches boxing or even kickboxing.  Those are, after all, martial arts too.  Don't ignore the possibility of fencing training as well - you may find a good program at your local community center or YMCA.  Also try to do a search for various martial arts on Meetup - that's how I found a tai chi teacher in Las Vegas (and it was free, too)...

One caveat - distance training via video/DVD is something I think is very suspect, and should be avoided unless you live in the Alaskan Bush or Antarctica or something - where there's literally no other way to train at all.  Even then, your time is probably better put to general physical fitness versus video study.  I like video study as a supplement - I have found it useful - but not as a main training methodology.

For 99% of us, there's some way to study the martial arts, even if it's not the "best" one.  It's not a waste of time.

Do you have any ideas for how to keep training when the situation is less than ideal? I'd love to know!