Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

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.


Dirk Bruere said...

Martial arts have degenerated into three strands. MA for children, MA as sports, MA as "kick arse" combat for those who want to learn to fight. Children grow up, sportspeople eventually drop out as they pass their peak performance, and the kick arse contingent learn how to fight and that's it. MA need to be embedded into a culture, religion or ideology to provide a lifetime framework. This is the missing element

Frank Granovski said...

It's easy enough to start/create a high quality school, with reasonable rates, and be successful. If you have the skills and the business brains.