The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Struggle to Keep Martial Arts Alive

When I was young, I remember several martial arts schools either in the neighborhood or not far outside that were well established and operated for years. These days I don't see the as much. A BJJ school and a MMA gym. Anything else seems to come and go. 

Running a commercially viable martial arts school is pretty tough.

Below is an excerpt from a post that was published at Kung Fu Tea that is relevant. The full post may be read here.

This weekend has been a blur of activity. Friday evening was consumed by the first “open mat” sparring night at the Central Lightsaber Academy (which was a blast), Saturday was devoted to a day-long seminar on Sicilian knife fighting (a grimmer vision of weapons training), and about half of Sunday was spent helping out with the Autumn open-house at another martial arts school here in Ithaca. I have barely had time to upload my photos and draft out some quick field-notes.

Still, a nagging feeling emerged as I began to meditate on these very different events.  While I have not had time to fully develop these ideas, I thought that it might be helpful to write down a few of my impressions. The golden thread uniting and giving meaning to each of the activities seemed to be a “hidden” discussion on the problems of transmission and market viability within the martial arts.

Or maybe that is not entirely correct. The discussion happened openly in the second event.  I hope to write a fuller account of the Sicilian knife seminar led by Sifu John Crescione in a future post. But from a social scientific perspective, one of the more interesting things that came up was a debate as to whether it would really just be better to let this art die out. Granted, no one in the room thought that this was a good idea, but Sifu Crescione noted that many of the “old timers” back in Sicily who had learned and studied practical knife fighting as a family based “combative practice” saw no point in taking on students or promoting themselves within the current revival of the Italian martial arts. For them, knife fighting was a direct response to a violent environment and teaching strangers better ways to kill each other was not a wise course of action.  If a changing world no longer required these skills, so much the better.

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