I can’t honestly say that there is any one superior system or style of the martial arts. In fact, it is my opinion that there are no masters or grandmasters anywhere who can say this. If they do it is biased and ego based and myself I would avoid teachers like this. What I could say is that there are superior martial artists.
If we look back into the history and creators of the martial arts. We would see that even though the masters had core principles and favorite techniques, their ways were constantly changing and evolving up until the point of their death. Sadly, after the passing of their teacher, convinced that their teacher held the only true knowledge of combat, and in an attempt to become as good the master. Students would analyze and copy their teachers every movement as exactly as possible. Sometimes to the point of even trying to adopt the physical quirks and personality traits of their teacher. This brings to mind an old saying;
“Do not seek to be like the masters of old. Seek what they sought.”
Whether or not a martial art system works and it can be passed down is a hypothetical question at best. What works for a 6’3” 220 pound man will not work the same for a 5’4″ 145 pound man. So there can be no true way that is universal. Sure there can be key concepts and core principles which might work universally. But, as a teacher I can’t press what works for me on my students. The goal is to help them find what works for them. For their shape and given consideration to their particular attributes both physically and psychologically. To speak of what may or may not work for others as if the art of combat is a set doctrine is a very dangerous game. Instead it would be best for martial art teachers to clarify and speak of what works (or has worked) for them. Providing of course they have real world close combat experience. I’m not trying to sound like Bruce Lee or come off as if I know “the true way of personal combat.” In fact much of my philosophy of teaching and training goes against that of Bruce Lee’s. (Or, I should say that of Mr. Lee’s martial art teachings as it has evolved from). Instead I am saying that I can’t teach anyone to fight like or be like me. Unless they have the same build, psychology, and life experiences as I do that would be possible.
Over the years I attended dozens of martial art seminars. It might seem egotistic but my intention was not that of leaning. Personally I feel the only way to learn martial arts is through hard training with a legitimate master over an extended period of time. The concept of learning at seminars as though mastery of martial arts was an accumulation of hundreds of movements goes against my philosophy. Although I must say, I think that seminar training could be beneficial for beginners who are still searching for that specific fighting art that will fit best for them and their lifestyle. Attending seminars with this attitude could be a good way to experience a glimpse of the various fighting arts. What is important here is that they need to understand, unless the movements taught at these seminar are carefully mastered through practicing them tens of thousands of times under the guidance of a true master, they are never going to work.
Honestly my motivation for attending the seminars that I did (and for that matter the masters who I visited for one-on-one training) was to meet and experience the arts of those few masters. In a way, sort of testing myself by seeing first hand the ability of these select masters and therefor adjusting my training appropriately. I find it sad that the general public is being fooled into believing that mastery of the martial arts is an accumulation of as many movements as you can. Rather than being told the truth that combat efficiency comes from complete mastery of a few basic movements. I know that I might offend some martial art teachers out there who make a living through teaching seminars. My intent is here is not to reflect badly on them. Certainly for those who do not have access to a legitimate master then training in seminars could be their only option. (After all, some training is better than none.) Just like any other learning platform, if there is a proper mind set and understanding of its limitations, then seminar training could prove to be beneficial. However, there are some seminar teachers out there who definitely don’t want my opinion on their two day “Instructor Certification workshops” that keep popping up everywhere. If there were liability laws governing martial art teaching ~ well enough said.
These days I don’t attend any seminars at all. As a Kung Fu man I could spend a lifetime training full time and never master half of what my Sifu has already taught me. If I could truly master 25% of that knowledge I would be very happy. As a Kung Fu teacher I concentrate on the training not the techniques. In fact I don’t teach techniques at all. If I teach you my fighting techniques you will just be copying me. What I offer is a bag of tools and the training methods to develop those tools. Just like a carpenter ~ some carpenters are good and some are bad. Some have many tools and can’t use any of them well. Some use very few tools yet create the most wonderful structures. It all depends on the person, their personal motivation, their attention to detail, and how well they have developed the ability to use their tools.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that I have nothing more to learn. But rather what I have to learn can only be achieved through rigorous training in what I have already been taught. Too many teachers have turned the martial arts into an accumulation of techniques with not enough practice of each. The end result has turned into the degradation of martial arts as a whole. Jack of all trades and master of none.
More so what I am trying to say here is this. I am out of the rat race of the “I know more.” or “My teacher is better than yours.” or even worse the propaganda of “Our system is the only one that really works.” This hypocrisy ~ as if all you need is a few secret moves (that only I can teach you) whether you train hard or not. I thinks it is a bunch of crap. As a martial artist I love and respect my teacher. But, honestly what I seek is much more than what any one man could teach another. That can only be achieved through rigorous training and personal experience. What I seek can only be found within myself.
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
~ Miyamoto Musashi
© Copyright Todd Taganashi 2017