Common phrases you’ll here for totally-awesome-get-skill-quick programs:

“Forget all that bowing and scraping. I’m going to teach you the no-holds-bared, real-deal version of what the martial arts are all about!”

“Wanna become a street killer in 6 months? Sign up now for our intensive program that gets rid of all the fluffy nonsense of antiquated martial arts!”

“Instructor _____ _____ has studied the martial arts for over 30 and has black belts in _____, ______, ______, ______. In his revolutionary ‘power of the tiger’ program, he takes only the best techniques from each style and teaches you how to be the best!”

Rex Kwon Do in Napolean Dynamite

Marketing is fun! Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of schools are selling these days. Somewhere along the line, the stripping down of martial arts got obfuscated and cafuddled. Nowadays, we seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Originally, paring away layers of your art was a very traditional thing to do. Unfortunately, you could only start doing it after years of practice. In the old interpretation of stripping, one begins to investigate the deeper levels of meaning found in kata, practice, movement, and violence. This investigation of your art could reveal –

1. Bunkai. Intepretation of what kata movement actually means
2. Increased efficiency. How to change your body movement so as to decrease time and energy wasted.
3. Purpose. Why are we doing what we do? What relevance does this have to daily life?
4. Improved disposition. With a natural and healthy outlet for stress, overall lifestyle can improve.
5. Plenty else.

In a tricky way, digging deeper into martial arts helped practitioners dig deeper into themselves. The ultimate goal being “perfection” of body, mind, spirit.

The unnecessary fluff, such as structure, bowing, stancing, etc. were all tools to lead students down the proper path.

Nowadays, there seems to be a lack of patience for all that. The goal seems to be finding out the best way to punch someone in the throat (hint: they’re all pretty good.) What we have in these modern students is a sudden increase in technical ability with no sense of control or compass of when to use it. Furthermore, beyond that basic technicality, there is no knowledge of the intricate aspects provided by many years of quality training.

The martial arts of the old masters was leisurely, peaceful, ferocious, and lightning quick all in the same few moments. This was complete integration of art into lifestyle. If one just learns how to kick and punch and grapple, they risk losing that very special quality of classical art.

Devil’s Advocate – As I like to do, I want to poke a few holes in my own theory here. There are situations where pretense, or pomp, takes over an art. This obsession with ranking, military style structure, and hollow technical perfection of kata also drains away key aspects that classical arts try to instill.

It’s a really fine line between b.s. technique collection and b.s. procedure obsession. No matter what you study though, be it Goju-Ryu or BJJ, there is always room to pursue those lofty ‘classical’ goals.