Sunday, April 18, 2010
Why Do I Train In Ancient, Obscure Arts?
Like many martial artists, I occasionally chart my long path in training to consider where I have been and where I am going.
Despite many years of training in Tae Kwon Do and Kenpo, I have settled on the Chinese "Internal" arts of Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua And Xingyi. Many people are familiar with Taiji, but Bagua and Xingyi are virtually unheard of in many parts of our country. I have been very fortunate to have trained with skilled masters in these arts, they are few and far between.
So what is the attraction to these arts?
-Do they stand out as the most effective fighting arts I could be learning?
-Probably not. A beginning martial artist would need years in these type arts to fight effectively. But I am not a beginning martial artist, I've got a good thirty years of training in various arts "under my belt".
-Is it for the benefit of gaining "Rank"?
-Certainly not. I already had a second Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and a third while in Kenpo. My friends that stayed in TKD are all now fifth Dan or higher ranked. I never cared about that crap anyway. Furthermore, I don't know a single internal art school in my area that actually has a ranking system. It just doesn't apply to internal schools the way it does in the McDojo.
-Does learning a Sword form help in daily self-defense considerations?
-Hell no. Nobody fights with swords anymore. But there must be some other appeal...
So what is it that attracts me to these "arts"?
-"Art" is the key word here. As I have written countless times, Combat brings necessary pain, "Art" necessarily brings pleasure. Learning these arts brings a satisfying sense of self-improvement at a deep, introspective level. For instance, In Tai Chi Chuan, the slow precise movement allows one to feel every part of the body, the alignment, the balance, the intent.
-Memo to self: I am over fifty years-old now. Transitioning into the internal arts is a natural path for older, experienced martial artists. Look, us old farts don't heal as fast as we used to, so there is less time spent sparring and more time spent in meditative, healthy martial movement.
-Learning ancient, beautiful flowing arts is like memorizing a great line of poetry. It's not the primal scream of a youthful punk-rock band. It's more like the flavor of aged cheese and fine wine on a sunny afternoon. Even if it's raining...
-And lastly, If we train in these type of arts we continue a long line of study, steeped in antiquity with the knowledge of thousands upon thousands of warrior spirits guiding us. The Chinese arts, in particular mimic elements of nature ("wave hands like clouds") and various animal forms. As we study deep introspective body movement we become more aware of the natural world around us. We listen to the animals, feel the air, change with the seasons.
And as we become more aware of the natural world, we feel more at ease with who we are as individuals, and where we fit in the universe around us...