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Finding our own path

I can’t help but to get frustrated when people are so against individuality and freedom of self expression in martial art. Many would say that I hold this point of view because I am an instructor of Jeet Kune Do Concepts, and am therefore an anti-traditionalist. This is simply not true because to say you are against tradition is to create another tradition of anti- tradition!

In fact, I recently started researching Ninjutsu because I respect it’s totality as a combat art. When you learn Ninjutsu you aren’t just a student of fighting, you are a student of war. Quite simply, I like what the art has to offer.

So why do I hold firm to our right to be creative and find our own way through martial art? The answer is really self explanatory, if we don’t we are not martial artists, we are martial emulators. What is art? It is self expression. The arts we study are only “arts” to their creators if we cease to develop them and allow them to change with the times. My view is not based on my JKD background, it is based on what art is, the expression of self. If I trace your picture I am not the artist, nor should I claim to be.

I will even go as far as to say we are doing the creators of our arts a great injustice by failing to keep their expression of martial art effective. If I knew that we would all be flying around in spaceships in 10 years, why would I want to teach my students to shoot a bow while riding horseback? If I would teach it I would be sure to do it for mere historical preservation, and I would also let my students know my purpose for such methods.

This is another thing that brings me back to my favorite Chinese proverb. “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” We go to our instructors and they keep handing us fish, and we become content with that. We want them to give us our fish! The truth of the matter is that we should be asking them to show us how to fish for ourselves.

Why don’t they teach us like this then? Well, basically because they were also students who like us wanted someone to give them the answers. In this way they wouldn’t have to put in the flight time and suffer the blood sweat, and tears of hard training. They could simply take their instructors teachings as the gospel truth, and if it ever fails them when needed they can just blame the instructors who taught them!

Bruce Lee said that “The mind is like a fertile garden in which anything that is planted, flowers or weeds, will grow.” When we have 80 years of traditional instructors just allowing their students to stick their hand out demanding the fish, that is the seed that is planted. Therefore our minds just accept that this is how it should be. A garden is cultivated over time and you must continue to cultivate it, it is a never ending process of getting rid of weeds and planting new seeds. We must also remember that the gardener still has the freedom of choice to plant the garden the way he wants. Does he want veggies or flowers (combat, or pretty forms and katas), maybe a mixture of both? It’s his garden, why should we be offended or even care?

I have my own garden, and I fish for myself and I am proud of that. I am also proud of others who do the same which is why I love W.O.N. I am even proud of those who are practicing one traditional art because they are passionate about it. What I don’t appreciate is when people start trying to force there tradition or opinions on me from the perspective that there is only one way. There is always more than one way to a destination although some ways may be more difficult to travel than others.

We must all find our own path. If you want to take the same road everyone else does that’s fine, if not that’s fine too. However it never hurts to check out the other routes to see if another path might work better for us.

I myself appreciate all arts and I feel that they all have something to offer. I like Bruce Lee’s attitude on this. “Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.” Learn to fish for yourself, plant and harvest your own garden and share your ideas even if they are not yours, someone can use them I’m sure, just don’t claim your path is the only one because in all actuality “their is no style if you understand the roots of combat.” Martial art is about discovering our weaknesses and making them stronger, it is about overcoming personal limitations and fear, and it is art so it is also about self expression. Keep this in mind and find a Way of Ninja that you can enjoy. In this way you will continue training for years and develop yourself as a human being to the fullest, in body, mind, and spirit.

Kurtis Banish