Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Green Grass

One curiosity, when it comes to the martial arts, is the extent to which people get the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome on a regular basis. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and I wouldn’t want people to think that I’m somehow claiming any kind of moral high ground here. I’m not, but it does bear remarking on.

It’s notable in the UK, for example, that western martial arts systems just aren’t that popular. Oh, there are boxing clubs, but where is the wrestling, particularly the folk styles? There are undoubtedly more people playing judo in Scotland, for example, than back-hold wrestling. And there are probably more BJJ guys than catch wrestlers around Lancashire. There are also more kendo schools than longsword ones.

This trend has almost always been the case. English sword and buckler teachers found themselves pushed out by continental rapier masters in the late middle ages, for example, despite several of their number winning duels against the newcomers. In mid C20th France, savate got into real trouble as the inhabitants turned to karate instead.

Lest you think that this is some phenomenon confined to Western Europe though, it shows up elsewhere too. The catch wrestling mentioned above is actually more popular in Japan than the UK, while one of the best sabre fencers I know is also from that country.

This isn’t some xenophobic rallying cry to only practice your country’s indigenous martial arts. It is, however an attempt to get you to think about the way you think, not just in this area, but more generally. Is something automatically better because it has come from a long way off or been handed down for generations? Are you missing out on what’s in front of you? Is the grass really that green elsewhere?


Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

Yes, I think it is just natural to want to learn what would be considered "exotic". In Canada, hockey is second nature - Boooooring. So why wouldn't I want to learn more about Cricket or Jai alai?

Yes, the grass will always be greener.

David Jace said...

Have you never heard that an "expert" is someone from out of town with a briefcase?

Become fluent in a fighting style that no one around you knows, and they won't know what to expect from you. It gives you an advantage. Personally, I'd want the longsword training, but I'm from Texas, so go figure.