There is a raging debate in martial arts blogs as to the usefulness of traditional pattern-based martial arts, those that have been handed down and refined for hundreds of years, and those of the modern so called "reality-based" fight game.
The biggest proponents of the "reality based" systems are (1) the "close quarter combat" (CQC) trainers, which is based on the World War Two Fairbain-type hand-to-hand combat. This system is effective and simple, employing lots of low kicks, elbows and knees and knives. Rock 'em sock 'em trench fighting stuff.
The second group is the Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) and the "Mixed Martial Arts" (MMA) fighters.
While BJJ relies on groundfighting and submission holds, most people would never want to get caught rolling on an unfriendly bar floor in a guard position with knives and boots in their back. Mixed martial arts fighters, however, are equaly capeable at stand-up striking as they are with grappling and mat work. MMA fighters are powerful, the sport is very popular, but most fights end in a submission on the mat. Also, the fact that it is sport oriented with safety rules points out that certain techniques cannot be used.
So what of the old traditional pattern-based martial arts? Where, with all the heat they've been catching from the "reality-based" trainers do the traditional arts belong in our lives today?
The first obvious answer, of course is that MMA fighting is a young person's game. As fighters age, their bodies simply cannot take the abuse.
But there is another often overlooked benefit of those forms and patterns of traditional arts:
Almost everyone has heard the old saying "Martial arts is 30% physical and 70% mental". Well, MMA stands those percentages on it's head. While it takes strategy and heart to defeat an opponent, it is strength and physical skill that makes the superior fighter.
Now consider the fact that traditional martial arts, especially internal styles such as Tai Chi, Bagua and Aikido have experts that reach their peak in their fifties and sixties. This is long after most hard style fighters have retired to the sidelines.
Consider the nature of the yielding, introspective approach used by those internal arts, and their repetition of patterns that mimic the natural world. Herein lies the gift of the traditional arts, stressing a type of growth and expression lacking in other fight sports.
Below is a passage from "The Aquarian Conspiracy", by Marilyn Ferguson:
"Inward attention, in other words, generates a larger (energy) fluctuation in the brain. In altered states of consciousness, fluctions may reach a critical level, large enough to provoke a shift into a higher level of organization.
But larger fluctuations of energy (in the brain) cannot be contained in the old structure. They set off ripples throughout the system, creating sudden new connections".
Ferguson goes on to say that this occurs through meditation, hypnosis and guided imagery. This is precisely what the masters, sages and shamen of old have passed down to us, and modern science is now proving that introspective imagery literally makes the brain grow and evolve!
So where do we find some middle ground between the punishing training and pugilism of the boxer and MMA fighter, and the introspective patterning of the traditional arts?
I believe this to be a good argument for the idea that hard-style arts make a good foundation for young, developing fighters. They have the stamina and desire, and benifit from that training. With time, anyone who has been in the martial arts for half-a-lifetime will soften their approach, spare their body the punishment and seek a more introspective approach. By this time, they will have learned to flip that mental switch and turn on the predator, the wolf, the gladiator when needed.
If a person is on the correct path, they will continue to improve their martial skill, but in a way that maintains their health and continues to give them a new outlook on life.