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Old 03-30-2013, 04:21 PM   #48
Ellis Amdur
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Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 896
Re: how do we define martial?

Mert - Donn very definitely considered koryu bujutsu to be martial, because, he believed, they were two things: a legacy of the warrior class, and that they were arts of war. In his view, that they were anachronistic didn't change what they were for --and hence, when one trained those activities, one was still training on how to kill another combatant with a weapon.

Here's the problem with his thesis though.
1. The vast majority of extant koryu were NOT - definitely NOT - warfare arts. They were developed in the Edo period, and primarily focused on dueling, if you will. Not that dueling was an every day incident, but it happened often enough that a "martial artist" needed to be prepared - at least if you hung out a shingle. The problem was, however, that the way one might use weaponry and footwork on a battlefield may not have worked in a duel. For a modern simile, take the best warfighter from any Special Forces military unit, and put him in a boxing ring and fight with boxing rules against a pro. He wouldn't last a round on his feet. If he was informed that from this day forward, the only combat he would see was in a boxing ring, he would surely start to train for it. So the idea that the koryu were preserved unchanged, is very definitely not so.
2. Even in the Warring States period, the koryu were not basic military training. Rather, martial arts practice and technique were used to hone an elite warrior class. Similarly, BJJ-type training is surely not the most important skill for the modern warfighter. But it gives a safe way to test competitive instincts, spiritual endurance and in no way does it conflict with the rest of training. Remember that by the 1590's, the deciding factor in warfare in Japan was the firearm.
3. Research shows, that by the mid-Edo period, possibly the majority of enrollees in many ryu were NOT bushi. It became a means of social climbing.

So, there is a certain level that I absolutely agree with Donn. But he was too black-and-white in the way he framed things, and therefore, did not do justice to history. Honestly, we had a discussion in which I said, "The train has left the station. Why quibble about a word that is now vernacular. Why not call bujutsu and other true combatives, "warfare arts," for example. But he stuck to his guns . . . .

Anyway, back to martial virtue -- just to use aikido as an example, this being Aikiweb, anyone who claims that aikijo, for example, is an effective combative use of a short staff is ignorant of how to use a staff in combat. That's just a fact. There are a number of essential components to make an effective combative usage of any object and if neglected or left out, you do not have an effective martial system - - -for the purpose of combat.

Look (not directed at you Mert, but for anyone outraged at my last statement), you can kill someone dead as a doornail with an Olympic target bow. But if you mustered up on your horse in a Mongol troop, they with short laminated horn bows with a pull of 160 pounds, they would laugh themselves right off their horses. Everything has a perfect purpose for the purpose it is created.

Ellis Amdur

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