In the light of my previous post, I guess that some of my handful of readers might ask: “What do you look for in a martial art”? It is a fair question, especially since those criteria will have major impact on all of my future articles, rants and reviews that will hopefully appear here.
Before going into more detail about my own preferences, there is one thing that, I believe, has to be present in any case, i.e. whichever of the previously mentioned motives you have to join a martial art group. Consistency is what will be the decisive factor in my decision to either go for something, or just skip it. By consistency I mean the inner logic of the fighting system at hand – the coherency of its ideas, concepts and principles. There really should not be any colliding and/or opposing principles in a martial art, otherwise it would be confusing for the students and probably ineffective in its desired combative goal.
In traditional martial arts and systems, if the instructor is offering contradictory advice it usually means that he or she does not really have a full grasp of what they are doing, so maybe they should reconsider being an instructor in the first place, or at least the curriculum they are teaching. One thing is for sure – you should be reconsidering continuing your training in that environment and with such an instructor.
When any of the modern and new, especially eclectic methods are at issue, it could be one of the two things: one, the system itself is not worked out properly; two, the instructor is inadequate, just like with the traditional school. Of course, some of these modern schools are still very much work in progress, so if the leader/founder/creator is an able performer and can even teach the technical part of the material well, maybe he is just still looking for the right way to organize his teaching, hence the occurrence of “gray areas”. If so, it might be worth staying around and seeing the whole thing grow…or move on, if your needs are more pressing and urgent. Ultimately, it is your choice.
OK, so we come to my own criteria. Essentially, I am sort of a martial art junky, so it is possible to see me doing various things for various reasons (again, see my previous article), but there are still come common denominators that I will seek. For starters, healthy atmosphere is a big thing. While I could sometimes learn somewhere despite the instructor’s deviated personality, rotten relations among the practitioners etc, it is bound to be short-lived, even if the technical material itself is good.
Secondly, good training method is also held in high regard. It means that if having to choose between a great master in performance, but utterly unable to teach, and just a solid guy who has good training methods with consistent results, I will end up with the latter. Training methodology is a big thing in my book, so I will not settle for those who refuse to improve on their work due to laziness, ignorance, insecurity, ego and other personal reasons that only hinder their students’ growth. All that said, sometimes there are those master performers who do not even care to teach others. When stumbling across one of those, I will try to glean as much as I can and then attempt to organize the knowledge on my own, while maybe even finding some adequate training methods myself along the way.
Next, I prefer teachers/coaches who do their best to explain what they do in the simplest and most understandable way possible, in opposition with those who reach for pseudo-philosophy and mystical quasi-explanations to actually keep their students in the dark.
Naturally, sometimes those of higher education will use the terminology that could throw off some of the inexperienced students, but if it is in the function of making the instruction more focused and dense, I am all for it…and the students should take additional effort to understand. Warning notice is due, however. Some people will just use big words and gobbledygook for the sake of sounding smarter, while actually saying nothing of substance so beware of those. See, you should have paid attention in school – it would have been easier to discern between the two kinds.
Finally, whichever art I might choose to get involved with, has to contain some direct combative value and relevance. Ideally, it should offer a good balance of effectiveness and efficiency, because the former will make the goal clearer, while the latter will keep me challenged and stimulate me to stay with it for longer periods of time. Now, my personal preference is that the direct combat applications need not be spoon fed and all laid down for me. In my experience, if I have to work on my own on interpreting things and exploring the possibilities, the findings tend to stay with me more readily and with quicker integration into my toolbox.
In the end, currently my longest lasting “love affairs” in martial arts are the systems of
South East Asia (Filipino, Indonesian, Thai) and western methods (Russian Systema, fencing and MMA). That said, I am always trying new things out with an open mind, but at the moment, these form the lion’s share of my interest and research.