15 April, 2011

Complete Martial Art

Recently I have discovered the interesting world of koryu.  I have been reading some books, with aims on reading more.  The first is Donn Draeger's book Classical Bujutsu.  The second is a compilation of essays put together by Diane Skoss, called Koryu Bujutsu.  I have just started reading Old School from Ellis Amdur.

All of these books are from well recognized authorities on koryu, and are oft-recommended books, and I understand why.  The views of martial arts, martial thinking and martial life are interesting at the very least.  I have found that my thought processes have changed as a result of trying to think about and understand the martial arts from the koryu perspective.

Along the line of books have been blogs, although those about koryu are few and far between.  Wayne Muromoto has a blog, the Classic Budoka, which is entertaining and informative.  In going through past posts, I came across an article on whether Karate could be considered a complete art.

Classic Budoka: Karate an Incomplete Art

The points he makes are solid - striking, grappling and weaponary all combine into a more complete whole.  After reading it, and given that the above books were already in the forefront of my mind, it got me thinking - what is a complete martial art?  I searched around the internet and found that the term for this in Japanese is Sogo Bugei or Sogo Bujutsu (depending on your definition of martial art).  From what I understand of this term (as it is applied to koryu) means that everything that a warrior would need know in order to practice his/her profession - the use of all common weapons and tools for all types of combat.  In the case of arts like Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, there are religious, mystical and health related arts included.  Some proficiency in almost every weapon (or at least the preferred weapons of your school) is required, as well as dealing with being unarmed.

The Chinese martial arts have a long tradition of including healing arts within their systems.  While not all styles are aimed in this direction, it is true that a great many famous martial artists have been doctors, herbalists, bone-setters and so-forth.  I recall that Jigoru Kano, when looking for a Sensei, went calling on bone setters until he found one who had a connection to a jujutsu ryu (or at least who admitted it).

So, after all of this is floating around in my head, I ask myself, is my training towards a complete martial art?  Am I looking to be a more complete martial artist?  Something about completeness draws me in.  So, then, what do I already have and what do I need to seek?

Given my training in Goju, I think I am on firm ground with regards to striking.  And Goju does have its share of grappling/close range techniques.  Couple that with our cross-training in jujutsu and some of the above is covered.  We also practice sai, and I have started Iaido.  The use of Tensho as a basis for health and well being is less obvious than other chi kung exercises, but my school includes some of that in our training as well.

Overall, I am not a complete martial artist.  But I am working on it, in my own way.  I wish there was a guide on how to do it, but I guess I just need to get out and figure it for myself.  If anyone actually reads this, maybe post a comment and let me know of your thoughts and experiences.

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