Random Training Notes 18

Regarding historical or traditional training practices:

Within physical culture, old practices or concepts aren’t necessarily good or better than modern ones just because they’ve been around awhile. There is belief in martial arts circles, especially in “traditional” groups, that something which has been passed down for decades is unquestionably valuable, or even superior to modern evidence-based understandings. A common defense is “do you think technique x would still be around it if it wasn’t battle tested?” Another is “look at practitioner x- if it worked for him, and he had no fancy research.”

The plain and unglamorous truth is that sometimes techniques or training practices got passed down simply because no one knew any better, or it fulfilled a cultural function (particularly in Confucian-influenced societies)  or because they maintained a certain personal prestige or power structure within a group. A technique may have never actually been used in a fight;  a conditioning activity may routinely cause joint damage that actually weakens a student over time, but the status of the originator serves to enshrine it. Old can be good; old is not automatically good.

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4 responses to “Random Training Notes 18

  1. I absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content for yourself? I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write in relation to here. Again, awesome blog!

  2. I am not Mr. Karate.

    People conveniently forget that the horse and buggy worked fine for many years also, until trains and vehicles came along too. By the pseudotraditionalist logic we should have been Luddites a long time ago. The masters of old were themselves innovators, not just steadfastly transmitting previous knowledge.

    (Plus they crosstrained in multiple styles! Gasp!)

  3. Great post! I just found your blog and I’m glad I did.

    I’ve often had the “just because it’s old, doesn’t mean its better” argument with fellow ‘traditionalists’.

    As a general rule of thumb, I’ve always felt that some of the old ways of training (read: the potentially risky ones), though they may be excellent to mold proper spirit during a weekend of shugyo, should be sparingly applied to regular training lest sports medicine has illustrated them to be safe over the long term.

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