Best of the blogs: “Assumptions”, by Toby Threadgill (March 2006)

Recently I was introduced to a gentleman interested in martial arts training. He was not really aware of what I teach or of what constitutes Nihon Koryu Jujutsu. He just assumed that because I taught it, that I must believe it to be “the best”. When I told him I did not believe the art I taught to be “the best”, an uncomfortable silence ensued. I finally broke this taciturn moment by explaining that there is actually no such thing as a “best” martial art. Despite a noble effort to grasp what I was talking about, the gentleman in question eventually regressed, unable to shake the impression that if I was not convinced that what I taught was superior to all other forms of martial arts, that I was somehow unworthy of teaching him. I politely encouraged him to look around, consider what I had said and contact me again if he had any further questions. A few days later I received an e-mail from this gentleman in which he explained that he had indeed found someone convinced that they taught the ultimate style of martial arts. It was called “mixed martial arts” because it embodied only best of all the styles. I just smiled to myself as I politely responded, congratulating him on his fortuitous discovery.

An ultimate martial art, huh? Now there’s an oxymoron for you. Every martial art is ultimately based on assumptions. In fact any training program formulated to address conflict is based on assumptions. It’s kinda like the old joke about bringing a knife to a gun fight. No matter how good you are, your assumptions define your training paradigm. Narrow your assumptions and you specialize, gaining the opportunity to excel at one task. Broaden your assumptions and you might be able address many different situations but at what level of expertise? It’s an intriguing dilemma isn’t it? Specialize, and be defeated by someone outside your strengths. Be a generalist and some specialist will hand you your head on a platter. What’s a martial artist to do?

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  1. This may hurt many to think that the most effective and superior martial art is that of hiding and manipulation. One who can influence others to fight and die, or others to get between them and violence while they hide in plain sight, or out of plain sight as they and their future ancestors survive … well … therein lies the proof of the superior martial arts. One whose line of ancestry survives beyond violence into a future over and over and over again.

    Say what you will about hand to hand combat, but the superior mind finds ways to use the elements of nature, and the science of the world around him to become superior. Sometimes that superiority comes from hiding, sometimes it comes from manipulation, but the goal is always for the survival of the group and the common good.

    In the meantime …. study your history .. there are many lessons that are yet to be learned.

  2. Good point there, I like your your way of thinking. May be your arts is the ultimate or may be hiding and letting others die for you is. But what should be remembered is the reason you started to learn your particular discipline. Really enjoyed reading what you had to say.



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