Friday, September 12, 2014

this is, very serious kungfu

I loved taking martial arts, but I've had trouble finding a new place.  It feels like the problem is that I'm very picky.  I have this criteria that I need a school to meet, and if it falls too short, I'm not interested.  Either, not at all, or just, not enough to find the motivation to actually bother with it.

So, as far as motivation goes, it may really be an underlying component of needing to meet an exceptionally high bar, for getting any motivation happening at all.

Still, keep coming back to what exactly I want to get out of it.
For example, it needs to be good exercise.  This is central to my justification for actually doing this.  Even if a case could be made for it being utterly impractical in every other way, no one should be able to argue that it's not even a good workout, or that exercise isn't practical.  As I've made my way through my thirties, this has seemed increasingly important.  How active we can be as we get older has so much to do with how active we choose to be, while we have the chance.

This just feels inarguably important to me - and yet, there are some schools that go way too easy on their students, to the point of being of only marginal physical benefit.  Better than doing nothing, but not much.  There may be plenty of exceptions to this particular one, but not as many as one might think.

A lot of it really contributes to how seriously the practice is taken.  If it's just for kids, it's fine if it's not the best exercise, isn't really authentic to any real tradition, or even all that effective as self-defense.  That it's fun can be the most important of all, but as an adult, I need it to be about a little more than that.

When it comes to the tradition of martial arts, there are two distinct sides to whether that contributes or undermines said seriousness.  On the one side, there's Traditional Martial Arts, which does explain a whole lot of what it does as tradition, and how accurate that is can be important to its practitioners, who may not be happy to find out one day that their instructor really just makes it all up himself while watching Van Damme movies.

On the other, you have the side that cares only about how effective it really is, as far as kicking ass goes.  Be it in in the ring, a bar fight, or if assaulted on the street - if it works, it doesn't matter what sort of pedigree it's got.  If someone comes up with a proven more effective way to do an armbar, then we should learn that, because that's what it's all about.

Although in an overlap of those two sides, you've also got the sport fighters, who want what they're taught to be effective, for the given sport, but they also want it to be true to a real sport, with a tradition of sorts.

Lastly though, you've got the actual artistic aspect of it.  Art could just be a word for technique, but try looking up some youtube videos of Wushu, and tell me how that isn't meant to be a bit of an art form.  Some might look at that as decidedly not-serious, because it isn't practical, it isn't even a competitive sport, in the sense of competitors going physically head-to-head in any way.

Personally, how seriously I take a school has more to do with how honest I feel they're being about which of these roles they really fill.  If it's mostly about art, that's great, as long as it doesn't pretend to be about self-defense.  If it's about tradition, that's fine if it's based on actual traditions.  If it's a sport, the sparring should be heavily emphasised.

In a way, I was spoiled by Hwa Rang Do, which claimed to be about all of the above, but turned out to be surprisingly accurate about it.  I say surprising because, I think there's always going to be a trade-off.  Jack of all trades, master of none, and all that.  Some can fall pretty far short on some counts for trying to do too much.

I felt the school I went to struck a pretty impressive balance between it all, and looking at somewhere new to try, there isn't anywhere like that.  There's a Taekwondo place, and a Jiu Jitsu place, but at my age, if I'm going to be at all serious about it, I should try something with a lower risk of injury.  Maybe Wushu would be best.

Whatever it is though, they have to know what they're doing.  Literally and figuratively.

Oh yeah, and it needs to be within a mile or two, because I don't drive.  In theory, I could spend countless hours riding public transit, maybe even going into Manhattan a few times a week.. but in reality, I'm having trouble getting over my anxiety about just leaving the house.

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