There are many myths anchored in the minds of everyone concerning Martial Arts. However, as I write these lines, an immense work of popularization has already made it possible to dismantle the most common fantasies concerning the super-powers conferred on the practitioners of ancient and esoteric schools.
However, the disappearance of myths often leads to the appearance of other beliefs, sometimes even more deeply rooted than the previous ones. Thus most people know that there are many differences between Aikido, Tai Chi, Judo, Karate, Taekwondo etc. but few are really able to explain these differences but especially to point out the links that unite them.
Through the texts that I am going to propose here, I wish to highlight a vision of the filiation of martial arts, a presentation of their common spirit to end with the typically Japanese mentality and methods which, by their precursory role, have shaped the contemporary martial arts landscape in a conscious and unconscious way.
Defining Martial Arts
The term “martial arts
What is a martial art and where do they come from? These two vast questions have already been the subject of many books. Martial art is a term that is often misunderstood. The word “Martial Art” comes from the English “Martial Arts” which itself borrowed the term from Latin: Mars is the deity embodying war in the Roman pantheon.
In the course of the 14th century, the word is quoted this term designates training in the art of war. In the French language, the term “martial” appears around the beginning of the 16th century. Imported from Asia in the course of the XXth century, what our language designates by “martial arts” are actually very different from all that.
The arts of war?
Indeed these arts of war were intended to prepare for combat, but in a framework rather distant from that of the battlefields. If martial arts constitute an excellent base for combat between armies, their orientation is different. In an army, it is the number of soldiers, the heaviness of their weapons (capable of quickly inflicting irreparable damage) and armor, as well as the mass maneuvers composed of simple gestures that determine its effectiveness in the medieval or ancient context.
The singular combat
In opposition to all this arsenal, the singular combat is much older than the war. It is the heir of a life-and-death fight between a predator and its prey involving all possible maneuvers in order to win. The singular combat also called duel comes from a search for optimization of this principle. The best known example remains the legendary battle of David against Goliath, perfectly illustrating the concern for precision and economy of means that are necessary to achieve efficiency.
Martial arts have always been studied for individual fights in order to take advantage of the capacities developed by the practitioner (speed, originality, improvisation …) less physically strong than a soldier but more specialized. We have on the one hand the military combat where quantity prevails and on the other hand the singular combat where quality prevails.
A larger army, composed of more men who are armed with more (or more powerful) weapons, will win by its numbers without the need for each soldier to be an expert in the complex handling of weapons. In single combat, having six weapons on one’s person will be of no use and will make the work harder when faced with a single, skillfully handled weapon.
Therefore, martial arts were not born to allow soldiers to defend themselves on the battlefield. The techniques of warfare were more than sufficient for such cases. Coordinated troop movements, tight front lines, and battlefield dynamics are all strategies that pay off in warfare that have almost no use in single combat. A martial art seeks to neutralize an attack by any means as quickly as possible. It must be decisive.
The spirit and the martial art
The martial art is not a simple fighting system, it is above all a discipline that seeks personal physical and spiritual development that is neither brutal nor instinctive. This search is linked to the culture and the era in which it develops. The meaning of these practices has changed from what it was originally and this evolution is necessary and salutary. The objectives of the martial arts change with the times and this capacity of adaptation is the true richness of them.
We can therefore consider that if man has, from his first forms of civilization, felt the need to defend himself with weapons or with his bare hands, the warrior became a practitioner of martial arts when, in developing his survival, he began to consciously strengthen his moral sense. A more intense intellectual journey began on the day when one human jostled another, causing the latter to reflect on this act, resulting in a complex domino effect that itself led to a physical and mental combination close to the process that gave birth to music or dance.