More and more I see adverts for martial arts classes making reference to ‘the street’ and how this or that art is the best as a result. I appreciate real life plays out on not just one but many streets but it is the essence of the issue with which I I have a problem. A Martial Art should contribute to the development of a person to better help humanity, a vehicle for health, happiness, understanding and contentment.
There is a key role of martial arts in history that should not be overlooked, but its’ physical relevance in todays society has evolved. A basic interpretation of an arts practicality ‘on the street’ is, I hope, one of self-defence. Interpreting, transferring and evolving a technique learnt from a form, or in a dojo, to be effective in a real life self-defence situation.
Many a martial artist seem obsessed with an Arts’ relevance on ‘the street’. What street? There are some extremely proficient martial artists who would be able to make most things work on most streets, however, the times I have heard a teacher pronounce ‘this is how it happens on ‘the street’ it has been clear they have never been on the street they are making reference to in anything other than a fantasy world they created in their head.
Everything in Martial Arts comes down to context and interpretation. The application of the physical self-defence element focuses on one small element of an art, which in many respects signifies the failure of all other aspects of a practitioners martial arts training.
Creating a relevant context for martial practice that facilitates intelligent thinking, feel, decision-making, contextual awareness and the application of relevant techniques poses a challenge. Life and times have changed, for some practitioners their lives still require and facilitate the application of martial physical skill but for most that is not the case. Teachers need a ‘hook’ to attract students. The biggest problem this creates is not weather or not a technique is relevant or ‘would work on the street’ but the creation of a fantasy world in which these martial arts practitioners reside and the resulting self doubt that dogs the few who question their Arts’ relevance.
The idea of the ‘street’ and the way it is marketed is quite brutal. As a Martial Artist I went looking for the ‘street’, I found people of all backgrounds and outlooks, on the whole I didn’t find martial artists. Mostly, real proficiency on the street came from a type of person most would not like to associate with or be compared to. Fuelled by anger, drink, drugs, hate, a love of fighting and hurting others. These are not attributes of a martial artist.
The street can be organized, clumsy, inconsistent, unreliable, violent, friendly, cold, wet, hot busy, quiet, full of individuals or groups…
The safe navigation of which is all down to a healthy awareness, interpretation of context and knowledge of self. A full martial arts system can help you achieve this and become a better person. If you want to become proficient on the street you don’t need martial arts, the street is no different to any other arena; to be proficient takes time, experience and practice. As an individual you need to ask what you are looking for and as a teacher you have a responsibility to ask what it is you are imparting and advocating.
Martial Arts are a powerful tool. Used for good or bad all falls within the realm of the Tao, but it is up to us to make a decision we believe to be in the interest of humanity.