Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Adventures in Martial Arts Provincialism

Since I started training, I've moved long distance three times, and I'm gearing up for my fourth.

So I can tell you, for a fact, that martial arts in the United States is very, very provincial.

There is, sister, believe you me.

You see, in a place as big as the United States, it's pretty common to discover that unless you train a pretty major and popular style (think BJJ, Judo, the major variants of Karate, Kung Fu, Kempo and Taekwondo as examples), you may not find anyone training or teaching the particular strand of martial arts you've been training in the city you moved from.

You MIGHT find something similar, but then again... you might not.  Not only that, each of the styles I mentioned above have differing lineages and organizations and sometimes they don't always play nice.

When I moved from Mississippi to Las Vegas, there was literally NO ONE that we could find that taught any of the styles I'd started studying.  Oh, it doesn't mean they weren't there; we just couldn't find them. We found some distant relations, but exactly what we wanted to study was nowhere to be found.

When I moved to Texas, six months and dumb luck helped me find my teacher for Arnis, but I have yet to find anybody teaching the empty hand styles I started in Mississippi.

So here I am, gearing up to move again, and not only am I worrying about the move, establishing ourselves in our new home, looking for a job, etc., but I'm also having to do a lot of research and think hard about how and where I'm going to train.

When you're a martial arts lifer like I am, this is not a non-trivial problem.

You see, certain styles and organizations are dominant in one city where it might not exist in another.

Take Modern Arnis.  As far as I can find - and boy howdy, have I looked - Modern Arnis as I know it, in all of the major lineages, doesn't exist in Kansas City.

A close relative style of Modern Arnis, Kombatan, does exist there.

Now that's fine and dandy for me, as I actually train in Presas Arnis, a hybrid style that blends Modern Arnis and Kombatan (and a few other things to boot), so it's not hard for me to get with Kombatan people to train.

If I were a pure Modern Arnis player - and I wanted to remain that way - then I have to start my own group if I want to train it at all, and then travel on occasion to a Modern Arnis camp or seminar or private lessons to learn more from teachers.

Heck, as a Presas Arnis player, that is part of MY plan when I get settled, because I don't want to abandon the Modern Arnis side of what I do.

In other cities, I would have to switch to a different FMA style set as there aren't even any close relatives to Modern Arnis around at all.

Yep, that's almost exactly how I felt here in Fort Worth prior to finding my teacher

It's not just my style that has this problem.  I mentioned the "major variants" of well known and popular styles above. Take "karate". There are places where Shotokan dominates, places where Goju-ryu dominates, places where Wado-ryu dominates, and so on.

Here in Dallas-Fort Worth, it's big enough to have more variety, but even here, one variant of taekwondo - American Karate - dominates the others.

When you move, you not only have the issue of trying to find a place to train what you want (and you  may end up having to compromise and shift styles a bit) but also there's rank implications that can be a hassle.

Are you close enough to your new style that they'll recognize your rank? Or do you have to start over at white belt?  Or do you have to "test in" at whatever rank they think you are in their style?

Again, non-trivial considerations.

If you've only trained in one city, you might not realize that this provincialism is a thing.  If you move away to a different place, be prepared for this fact.  It might represent an opportunity to try something new as well as the need to shift your core style to something else.

So let's hear your stories about encountering provincialism in the martial arts. Have you ever moved to a new city and had to search for a place to train?  What was important to know when you did that?  What training advice would you give to someone moving away? Let us know in the comments!