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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Adventures in Martial Arts Provincialism

Since I started training in 2008, I've moved across the country three times - Mississippi to Nevada, Nevada to Texas, and Texas to Missouri. I also contemplated moving to a couple of other places seriously (Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, Rapid City, and Knoxville were the big ones) when I was laid off and job hunting.

Due to this, I can tell you that martial arts training in the United States is very, VERY provincial.

You see, in a place as big as the US (and I presume Canada has this same problem), you will quickly discover that unless you train a pretty major and very 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 and they don't all do things the same way.

When I moved from Mississippi to Las Vegas, there was literally NO ONE that we could find that taught any of the specific martial arts styles I'd started studying back in Mississippi.  If they were there, they were either so bad at the Internet they were invisible (and that is certainly possible, especially back in 2009) or they just didn't teach publicly.

When I moved to Texas, it took me six months and two martial arts schools before I almost literally stumbled across my Arnis teacher (and that's a story for another time, but it's a funny one).

When I moved again to Kansas City, I had to undertake this search yet again. Just like the other two times, I didn't find anybody teaching exactly what I want to study.

Take Modern Arnis.  As far as I can find - and boy howdy, have I looked - Modern Arnis isn't being taught in Kansas City.

A close relative style of Modern Arnis, Kombatan, does exist here. Another FMA style that is friendly, Luzviminda Arnis, is also in the area. All of them require a bit of a drive to get to, and are hard to manage with schedules, but it can be done on occasion.

BUT if I were a pure Modern Arnis player - and I wanted to remain that way and not switch styles - then I have to start my own group and then travel to a Modern Arnis camp or seminar or private lessons to learn more from Modern Arnis teachers in another city.

Hey, that's actually the normal way that Modern Arnis spread in this country, so it's kinda traditional.

Since I'm a Presas Arnis player, which is 10 times harder as it doesn't exist outside of my teacher and the World Modern Arnis Alliance (and those are two different versions, mind you), I'm stuck doing that long-distance thing anyway, even if I do have close relatives nearby.

Training in a small subset of a small subset of a small subset of the martial arts world - Presas Arnis in the FMA's - means I don't have a lot of choices if I want to keep doing it.

It's not just my FMA 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, Shorin-ryu, and so on. So if you're a Wado-ryu guy, you might end up in a city that's dominated by Shotokan, and you'll have to decide if you want to switch or not.

Be aware that it's possible that what you train in, no matter how popular it is where you live, might not exist at all in other places. The more non-traditional the style is, the more likely this will be a situation you'll deal with when you move.

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!

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