by Mark Jordan
Martial Art Style
These days, it seems everyone wants to start a brand new martial art style.
My sensei, Professor George Kirby, publishes a quarterly newsletter, called Kokoro, that he sends out to his entire network of Black Belts and students all across the country. Usually, it consists of nothing more than questions about jujitsu techniques and martial arts in general, that he receives from his students, and Prof. Kirby's responses to those questions.
I just finished reading the series of several questions (and responses) in the last issue from a guy that wants to start his own new martial art style.
My first thought was, "Like we don't have enough already?"
From the tone of the questions, the guy seemed to think Prof. Kirby started his own martial art style (Budoshin), so therefore, he should start his own style. But he apparently didn't understand that Prof. Kirby didn't start the ryu (ryu is the Japanese word for a martial art style). He just gave it a name. There's a big difference.
[Side Note: To read the story behind the name of
Budoshin Ju-Jitsu, and see it is NOT a new martial art style, click on this link
The Reasons for Starting a New Martial Art Style
Now, I am sure the person who asked about starting a new martial art style sincerely believes he has something new to offer, and knowing Prof. Kirby as I do, he just wanted to be helpful and answer the questions. In a nutshell, Prof. Kirby's response was, "It's America! You can do anything you want!" However, this issue has been a concern of mine for a long time, and after reading that discussion, I felt the need to address it.
The most important question, that was neither asked nor answered is, "WHY?"
Why would someone feel the need to "create" a whole new martial art style? I have asked this question of dozens of people who have started (or considered starting) their own martial art style, and the answer is exactly the same in every single case.
Fill in the blanks:
"I studied ___________ and found it to be lacking in _________ and ________. So I studied ___________ and __________ martial arts. Then I blended the best from all of them and created my own martial art style called '____________' ryu."
It's like there is a Manual out there called, "Start Your Own Martial Art Style", and that is the required answer if anyone asks that question! Go ahead. Ask anyone who started their own martial art style and smile to yourself as they recite the above statement virtually word-for-word, filling in the blanks as they go.
Now I'm not saying this isn't a legitimate reason for starting a new martial art style. But for me, when I start hearing the same answer over and over, it makes me want to ask more questions!
Already Plenty to Choose From
We all know that there are countless styles out there that "specialize" in only one or two aspects of the martial arts, and are therefore "lacking" with respect to a comprehensive picture of all that encompasses the martial arts.
I happen to believe that is a good thing. Everyone has their own reason for wanting to learn a martial art in the first place. Some want to learn self-defense. Some like the thrill of competition. Others find it important to involve themselves in various aspects of ancient cultures. And still others are only seeking an enjoyable activity to get them out of the house once or twice a week. The great thing about martial arts, to me, is that no matter what you are looking for, there is already a style out there to accommodate you.
So, after hearing the standard answer, "I studied _(Martial Art 'A')_ and found it to be lacking in _'Y'_ & _'Z'_ …", I could ask, "Does Martial Art 'A' really need Y & Z?". But I already know the answer to that one.
Instead, I ask, "If you were looking for 'X, Y or Z', why did you go to 'Martial Art A' that doesn't offer 'X, Y or Z', in the first place?"
Sometimes I hear, "There was nothing else in my area at the time, and I wanted to start somewhere." OK, I can understand that. We'll get to my follow-up question to that in a moment. But first, let me talk about the most common answer I get:
"I didn't know."
"You didn't know… What?", I ask. "You didn't know what you wanted, or you didn't know what that martial art style offered?" Either you didn't do your homework, or you were misled as to what you would learn (which happens a lot, unfortunately).
But the problem with both of those answers is, once you realized something was missing from "Martial Art A", and you took the time to seek out a "Martial Art B" that offered "Y", and "Martial Art C" that offered "Z", why didn't you just seek out a single martial art that offered "X, Y and Z"?
Now, here is where I always get another quote from the "Start Your Own Martial Art Style" manual that goes like this:
"There is no martial art style that offers _X_, _Y_ and _Z_. That's why I created _F_-ryu". Again, you just need to fill in the blanks.
The Myth of the Perfect Martial Art Style
At this point I know I am talking to someone who hasn't done their homework. The truth is, I can point to a dozen different styles that offer X, Y and Z, even if it is the last twelve guys I talked to that started their own martial art style! Remember I said the martial arts already has something for everyone.
No matter what specialty or combination of areas you want, I guarantee you that SOMEONE has already thought of it. There are thousands out there. If you can't find one that meets your criteria, you haven't really looked!
To create a new martial art style is nothing less than re-inventing the wheel! In my opinion, it's a complete waste of time. Let me put it this way…
Archaeologists believe Cave Men first appeared about 3 million years ago (sometime in August, I think it was a Thursday). By the end of October, they had already figured out almost every nasty thing one caveman could do to another caveman. Trust me, there has been nothing new created in martial arts since the invention of the spear!
Think about it. Just because you put something you learned from one person with something you learned from someone else, doesn't mean you have something NEW. You've only got two OLD things stuck together. Are you going to get some parts from one junkyard and duct tape them together with some parts from another junkyard and tell everyone you've got a NEW CAR?
If anyone tells you they have "created a new fighting system", they are either delusional or lying (probably a little of both). Run, do not walk, to the nearest exit! (Or, as I like to say, "Get out of the Cave, Man!")
I have asked dozens of people who have started their own martial art style, why they did it. And I have always gotten the exact same answer. "There is no martial art that offers everything."
"So," I ask, "Are you saying that your new style does?"
Apparently, the "Start Your Own Martial Art Style" manual doesn't provide an answer for this question. This is where I usually get a lot of stammering while they try to come up with a reply that doesn't make them sound foolish. Usually it's, "Well… No. But, it's better than what's out there now." Sometimes, I have even gotten an unequivocal, "Yes. Yes it does."
But no matter what their answer, I don't buy it! Why? Because my next question always reveals the real truth behind their motives. "How long did you 'study' martial arts A, B and C?"
The typical answer I get is "two to three years" or less, never more than five. The reality is, if you 'studied' a martial art for only 2 or 3 years, even if you managed to get a black belt in that time, there is no way for you to know whether it offers X, Y and Z, or not!
After a few years of studying Kenpo, I thought it was lacking in throws and ground-work. But I stuck with it and found out later I was mistaken. I had a similar experience when studying Jujitsu, thinking it didn't include effective striking. But continued study and research proved me wrong again.
The point is, I didn't begin to grasp the full scope of either art until 8, 10, maybe 12 years of dedicated study in each one. If you are jumping from art to art, spending only two or three years with each, it is no wonder you think no martial art style has everything. It may, but you just never gave it the chance.
Mixed Martial Arts
It is probably due to the impatience of modern society, and the availability of so many different styles, people go from one martial art style to another, never mastering any. They are all trying to pick up techniques from each different system in an effort to "create" some wonderful "new" fighting system, and what they mistakenly believe will be the "Holy Grail" of martial arts.
Because of this, we have seen the recent proliferation of "new" so-called eclectic or "mixed" martial arts that are someone's unique blending of maybe jujutsu with other arts such as wing chun and escrima. The problem is, they don't fit together. We now have, Karate, mixed with judo, mixed with kenpo and with boxing (I won't give the name, but you can figure it out). What nonsense! The strategies and tactics of judo and boxing are diametrically opposed to one another.
By attempting to integrate multiple styles, often with conflicting strategies, you inevitably end up with an incongruent mish-mash of techniques that have no focus, no underlying principle, and a whole that is much less than the sum of its parts.
The sad truth is that there are tens of thousands of self-anointed martial arts "gurus" out there who jumped from one martial art to another, gaining neither depth nor rank in any of them, but decided they could put together the little bits of information from each one and make a quick buck from a trusting and uneducated public searching for something "new".
Have you ever considered the possibility that your martial art doesn't teach X, Y and Z because your "sensei" never actually made it past purple belt in any of the six martial arts he "studied" before "creating" his own new martial art style?
Let me make this perfectly clear. "Six green belts do not a black belt make!"
If you haven't "Mastered" each art you've studied (10 years +), don't include it in your new martial art style. You could be passing along incomplete, or even erroneous information. You just don't know enough about it.
New Wine in Old Wineskins
I have a library of over $6,000.00 worth of videos and books on every "new" fighting system out there. Every time I see one advertised in Black Belt magazine or on the internet, I buy them all just in case I might actually find something that is genuinely new!
Well, let me make a correction. I would have over $6,000.00 worth of videos and books, if I hadn't thrown over half of them away! In other words, most of what is offered out there as new, is total crap! Trust me, I've seen them all, and 90% of them suck!
For example, let me tell you about one program I found on the internet, advertised as, "The new martial art I learned in prison." [Honestly, I didn't make that up.] The whole program is only ten pages, but I can sum it up in seven easy steps:
- pull hair
- kick crotch
- poke eyes
- hit throat
- break fingers
- head butt
- plus everything else you learned about fighting in the 3rd grade!
I spent the $29.95 (plus shipping and handling) so you don't have to! Consider it a public service I perform for you and the rest of the martial arts community. Unfortunately, I still get emails from the guy wanting me to buy his Ninja course, too. I think I'll pass on that one.
I also didn't buy the "Magical Martial Arts" course offered by another guy who claims to have found a way to "spiritually and mentally control an attacker", based on his combined knowledge of martial arts and witchcraft. [I swear, I'm not making this up!] The only reason I didn't buy it is because I don't believe it is really "new". I'm sure somebody tried that thousands of years ago. If it really worked, I think we would have heard about it already. [If you saw "Conan The Barbarian", you know it didn't do the Lizard King much good, did it?]
I have decided to save my money and wait for the next course, "Martial Arts as Taught to Me by Extraterrestrials!" [OK, I made that one up. But it wouldn't surprise me…]
Only Time Will Tell
To sum it up, I have checked out every new style that comes along. I have yet to find anything that is actually new. Don't get me wrong. There is a small percentage that are teaching good martial arts, it's just not NEW! I've seen it all before.
As far as I'm concerned, this need to create what I call "Gnu-Ryu's" has nothing to do with "creating a better fighting system". It always boils down to the same thing: Ego! That burning need to see your name on something. Only trouble is, most of these new systems fade into the sunset long before those who created them, as soon as people realize they really don't offer anything new.
The bottom line is, you'll never really know what your martial art style offers if you don't stick with it. But if you truly believe your Martial Art is lacking something, then find one that isn't! All you have to do is look for it. Don't waste your time (and mine) re-inventing the wheel.
As Prof. Kirby said, "It's America! You can do anything you want!" So, yes. You CAN start your own martial art style. But do us all a favor and PLEASE DON'T!
Mark A. Jordan, Rokudan
Twenty-year student of Budoshin Jujitsu
Thirty-five year student of Zentai Kenpo
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Budoshin Schools - Find Jujitsu Classes in Your Area. Information on Budoshin Jujitsu school locations, classes and fees. Includes information on Budoshin Ju-Jitsu Black Belt correspondence course.
Kenpo - Kenpo, also known as Kempo, ("fist law"), is a Japanese martial art style using holds, throws and stunning blows, to subdue or disable an opponent.
Combat Jujitsu - This Extreme Martial Art style is the World's Deadliest Martial Art. Combat Jujitsu is used by US Military Special Operations Forces! It is the deadliest martial art style known to man, and would certainly be classified in the category of Extreme Martial Arts.
Aikido, Judo, Karate and Jujitsu - Comparing Different Forms of Martial Arts. Do you know the difference between Aikido, Judo, Karate and Jujitsu? Let's compare different forms of martial arts. Hard styles focus on striking. Soft styles emphasize grappling. Jujitsu does both.