Thursday, December 01, 2005

Training Traditional Martial Arts

by: Peter Vermeeren

All to often traditional martial arts and those who practice these ancient arts are considered dreamers, fools or historical mummies because we are training arts that flourished 400 or more years ago. These people can not understand the reasons why we study archaic weapons like sword, bow, spear, halberd, etc… Their nº1 line is " you can never walk on the street with these weapons" But that is not all. Traditional kata training is considered foolish , a waste of time not realistic…….. How little do these people understand of the traditional training and the underlying concepts....

Unlike the rest of the world Japan has been isolated from external influences for the biggest part of it's existence as a nation. For over 1500 years the Japanese have been involved in internal struggles, battles and full scale wars. They had to defend themselves against the Mongol invasions, conspiracies amongst themselves and assassinations.

Because of their isolation from the rest of the world, new inventions like gunpowder came to them very late. The rest of the world was tasking giant steps in modern armament development whilst the Japanese on the contrary did not depend on weapon development to fight their battles.

After having perfected the weapons the had and having explored all the different ways a bow can fire, a sword can cut and thrust, a punch and kick can be given and a Naginata can slice they came to the conclusion that the deepest secret of martial arts was not to be found in the type of weapon, the thickness of the yoroi, the strength of the unarmed techniques but in something else.

They started to look inward , into the deepest part of their being and they came up with the answer that have made them the experts of martial arts in the world.

They knew that by knowing oneself and the opponent they would always be able to overcome him. From that moment a new martial science was born. The art of strategy. Strategy has been developed by the Japanese and taken to the point were it became an art form. The Japanese strategy is far superior to other countries. The Go Rin No Sho (book of 5 rings) of Miyamoto Musashi is considered in the western world as one of the top books concerning strategies for battle. There are even books written applying Musashi's principles to the modern day business world. But to the Japanese the go Rin No Sho is a book for beginners. That makes you wonder doesn't it?

Today in this rapid changing world the learning of traditional martial arts is still learning these practical martial strategies through physical exercises.

Let's compare:

When you enter a traditional Ryu you start learning a bunch of techniques called waza. This is like learning how to lay bricks, plumbing, making doors and windows , etc….

The next step called Kata training takes you to the next level. You start building a house. Your first house will be very traditional, square with no fancy extra's. This is when you start seeing the principles of building a house. The experience you acquire teaches you that there are certain ways to do things. You can not make a 2 by 2 m hole and place in this hole a much smaller window or door. You also learn that you must start at the bottom when constructing a house, not at the roof.

After making many, many houses you start designing your own house. You put in some extra's, some improvements and so on. This is the moment when you can use the principles or strategies of making houses to construct different types of buildings. You understand the underlying concepts. You know inside yourself what it is that makes a building being such and you understand that although their shape may be different at the end they are all houses….. But only he who masters the highest level will be able to turn any house into a home.

This is what modern day practitioners fail to see. They think that more muscle strength, faster movements, more deadly techniques and such will make them invincible. How wrong they are. They are still living in a dream. As long as man has 2 legs, 2 arms, 2 eyes, etc… battle will never change. The outer form may change but he who understands the underlying concepts will always win the battle. Man's actions are ruled by basic instincts and the art of strategy as learned in the traditional martial arts builds upon these instincts to secure victory. Through training we learn to see our inner fears, understand the reasons of our behaviour and actions. We learn to correct and perfect these in order to obtain control over ourselves. By understanding this we will also be able to know the enemy and control his actions.

Finally, modern day practitioners tell us " let's fight , no rules". No rules….. ok , so we are allowed to bite? To stick our fingers in your eyes? To catch and twist your groin until it is separated from your body? To use the most extreme techniques until you die? This is true combat, anything goes and until the end. Until one or both will never get up again to see the rising of the sun.

This is the reason why traditional martial artists never get involved in modern day martial arts championships. They realize that by participating they already have lost. And in the rare case that some traditional martial artist would step in a ring with rules he will loose the battle. He is trained for true combat not sports.

About The Author

Peter Vermeeren is a traditional martial arts teacher for over 30 year. His websites can be found here: and


Blogger Erik Mann said...

I was looking for blogs about martial arts and came across yours. Great blog you got. I have a website somewhat related you might find interesting.

11:40 AM  

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