Saturday, March 15, 2014

Confessions of a Martial Arts Snob

Like a lot of martial artists, I'm an absolute snob when it comes to what I do.
Fancy.
I'm snobby about practicing a self defense oriented art versus sport arts or performance arts or combat arts.

I'm totally snobby about my chosen self defense strategy being the correct one.

I'm definitely snobby about my belief that you train the way you fight, and if you don't train with weapons regularly, you have no idea how to really use them, nor are you going to have any idea what to do when presented with one.

And I'm very, very snobby about my art being the best one of all the arts, including other FMA's.

Modern Arnis, particularly the version I learn and practice, rules.  My teachers are the best.  My lineage is the best, consisting of badasses who I have zero doubt can handle any real life violent confrontation without breaking a sweat.

My art is chock full of so much awesomeness, I can't figure out why all of you aren't dropping whatever you're wasting your time with and training with us.  I mean, really, it's pretty damn obvious.

Indeed.  Not today.
(Okay, I might be sort of kidding that I *actually* believe that last paragraph...)

Guess what?

You're probably a snob too.

You believe whatever you do is the bestest-ever martial art.  You believe your motivations for training are the correct and true ones.  You believe that your way is the best way.  In your heart, you sneer at martial artists who do other arts, or, god forbid, do arts for different reasons or goals than yours.

You have to be snobby about it!  Otherwise, why would you do it?  Why spend a lot of time and money and energy developing skills that you don't wholeheartedly believe are the most worthy of that investment?

As necessary as this snobbery is - and I do think it's necessary - at the same time, it can lead us to be exclusionary at best, and cultish at worst.

For example:  which of these desires that leads to learning a martial art is invalid?
  • I'm afraid of getting beaten up by bullies in my neighborhood
  • I would like to honor the martial skills of our ancestors
  • I want to combine my love of physical movement and swords into a single activity
  • I wish I could do cool moves like a ninja or what I saw them do in "The Matrix"
  • I want to be a champion athlete but I don't enjoy team sports
  • I was victimized by a crime and I want to feel stronger and safer
  • I enjoy testing my physical skills against other people
  • I want to train because I'm concerned about the collapse of civilization and I'll need to learn hand-to-hand combat
  • I would like to recreate what it was like to duel 300 years ago
Future UFC champion?
I think they're all valid - and none of those reasons led me to the martial arts.

I started doing the martial arts because it seemed less boring than working out at a gym.

It was a short time after I stepped onto a mat for the first time that I fell in love with the martial arts. Over time, I became enamored with the self defense point of view.  Who knows, in five years, maybe my reasons will be different - it's certainly possible, as I, like most people, will change and grow with experience, and perhaps I'll be more interested in the sport versions of the martial arts than I am today, or the performance arts. Or not.  I can't say right now.

I think it's important, especially for teachers, to be open to all of these people with all of these motivations (some of which may seem incredibly silly to us).  Sometimes a person's goals don't fit with what we do and teach, and that's okay - steer them to a martial art that does fit what they want.

Even though those other arts can't possibly be as good as ours.