• Jackie Bradbury

Dojo Denizens: The Preservationist

The reasons we train in the martial arts are as varied and personal as each and every martial artist.


That being said, we do tend to fall into... well... types. That's what "Dojo Denizens" is all about - those types.


Today, let's talk about the Preservationist.


The Preservationist is mostly interested in being as true and authentic to the roots or context of a martial arts style as possible. This may be a revived style, or it may be one that goes back hundreds of years uninterrupted.


The Preservationist isn't interested in the relevance of training to 21st Century life. She doesn't care if what she does will help her defend herself in a fight. She isn't interested in how it might keep her physically fit. She isn't motivated by the mental health benefits, or by competition (unless that is a key component of the style historically), or self defense, or any of the other reasons we might train.


For the Preservationist, maintaining a style exactly as it's always been taught is the point of training.


The Preservationist may learn the language the style comes from as part of training (maybe even a historical dialect no longer spoken). He might wear clothing that is authentic to the period his style comes from or the "original" uniform students wore back when the style was created.


There is to be no deviation from the way the founder or founders of a style taught that style for a Preservationist. Being authentic as possible is critical business.


The positive of the Preservationist is that we have someone who can and will try to keep old traditions alive. This has cultural and historical value in its own right, of course (think of it as a living museum).


The rest of us can take what the Preservationist protects and apply it to what we do in a new context. We can find new insights in old ways, and we can't do that if the old ways aren't around.

The negative of the Preservationist is that sometimes that obsession with authenticity can come off as close-minded and elitist. While maintaining a no-longer-relevant fighting system is interesting, it's not the only way to train, and there are plenty of historical styles that did evolve and innovate and are still here


Whether the Preservationist is conserving a style hundreds of years old, or is just protecting the legacy of a recently-passed-away founder, she's an important contributor to martial arts culture and life.


Are you a Preservationist? How do you remain authentic to the roots of your style? Do you know or train with a Preservationist? What's the upsides and downsides? Let us know in the comments!

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