Sunday, June 25, 2006

Lessons in Martial Arts

I have been taking lightsaber lessons for about a year now. A local martial arts instructor has tailored his knowledge of Chinese and Western swordplay to a Jedi lightsaber technique. We have an eager and talented group of students who have been studying and preparing for a demo at Con-version 22 in August.

When I started my training I did what any geek would do. I got a hold of every book I could on the subject. I read "Shimmering Sword" by Nick Jamilla. Because the Jedi style is ultimately stage combat I read "Actors on Guard." I read articles by John Clements and a series of books on Eskrima, Kendo and Western Olympic fencing. I did not do this to learn moves or techniques. I did so to learn the history and culture of what I was entering into.

I learned that different sword styles are formed through the following environmental variables:
  • Who is doing the fighting. Armed villagers are taught differently than a specialized warrior class
  • Who the opponent is. If the enemy always wears armour, and carries a pole arm, you train differently than if they are un-armored and bring knives.
  • Sport vs combat styles. Kendo and Olympic fencing is fought for points, while kenjutsu and traditional Shoulin styles are combative.
To attempt to compare different styles without taking into account these, and other conditions, is a fruitless fanboi activity. Asking "who would win is a fight: Samurai or a Fencer?" is on par with asking "Who is faster, Superman or the Flash?"

When I began sharing my new interest in swordplay with others, I learned other factors to consider:
  • You seldom meet an amateur.

  • It would seem that most people are 45th dan black belts in Ken-punchalot Ru.

  • There are more misconceptions about techniques and the reasoning behind techniques than there are about most religious doctrine/

  • Any reading on martial arts forums and magazines will yield a wide result of arguments for and against any point you could think of.

  • Everyone is in the one true school.
  • At some point in every discipline, students graduate and move on and start their own school, leaving many students to believe that there is a right branch and several wrong branches. Anyone you meet will be in the correct one. Of course if anyone thought that they were in the wrong branch, they would quit and find another place to train. But if there were a true path to a discipline, the shear quantity of competing schools would seem to place most people on the "wrong" path.


So where does this leave a novice martial artist beginning training in an esoteric style? I'll leave that for you to decide for yourselves.

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1 comment:

Nick Jamilla said...

Very insightful and succinct comments on sword fighting. Glad you had a open mind when you explored the sword arts. Question everything and decide for yourself. And thanks for reading my book.