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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

The Martial Science

Some of us like to call what we do "martial science" versus martial arts.

I think this is an interesting idea, especially if the style in question is actually following the scientific method in its development and things constantly get challenged and verified by other people to test the validity of the solution to whatever martial arts problem is being discussed.

Of course, much of the time, people calling what they do "martial science" haven't used the scientific method to develop their style.

Calling it a "science" is basically a marketing gimmick to make their style seem more legitimate than others.  They don't undergo the rigorous process of the scientific method at all, and they definitely don't seek out people who aren't in their club to verify what they do as effective.

But that doesn't negate the idea of using the scientific method as an approach to developing a martial arts style.  This would, of course, apply mostly to modern "living" styles, versus classical styles that are as much about preservation of the source material as they are fighting or self defense.

If you're aiming to develop a modern, effective fighting method, why NOT use the scientific method to do it?

Some of us do use a rudimentary scientific method to try to figure out what works, especially if they're testing against resistance. In much of what we teach, it's nearly impossible to test thoroughly because we'd end up hurting or even killing participants, and we don't want that. It's unethical and I doubt we'd find many volunteers.

However, it doesn't mean we can't do any testing at all. It would be interesting if we had a method where a style makes a claim, and then another group that hasn't bought in necessarily to the assumptions of the style test it in an objective way (not setting out to prove OR disprove the point, just to verify if it works, honestly, or not).

Of course, we'd need a good, formal testing methodology.  We couldn't say, as many white belts do, "Yes, that's fine against (x) but what if I did (y)?" and then invalidate whatever technique or concept that is being examined.  That'd be moving the goalposts and changes the problem you're trying to solve in the first place.

It would be neat the know that something works because it's been rigorously (and skeptically) tested, not because charismatic Grand Master so-in-so says it does.

So what do you think?  Should martial arts be more "martial science", using the scientific method as a way to develop techniques?  Or is what we do more than just what's "effective"?  Would you consider a martial "science" more or less legitimate than a martial "art"? I'd love to know what you think!

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