Lessons on Terminology and History

with Dan Bernardo, Sabom

bartitsuIt's clear that the modern concept of MMA derives from the combination of Eastern and Western martial techniques.  With the overlap being a coalescent for differing ranges of fighting.  I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that Bruce Lee did not invent Mixed Martial Arts.  Neither did the Gracie's, nor Gene Lebell, nor anyone in the 20th century for that matter.  Instead, the first modern hybridization of Eastern and Western martial traditions seems to have occurred during the late 1800's, in Victorian England.  By 1854, Commodore Matthew C. Perry had opened the island of Japan to the Western world and Victorians were eager to explore and consume Japan’s exotic culture.

One piece of that culture was Jiu Jutsu, specifically the style taught by Kano Jigoro.  Kano toured Europe in the late 1800's and early 1900's spreading Jiu Jutsu; and later, his Kodokan Judo curriculum.  Amidst this cross-culutural period, an Englishman by the name of Edward William Barton-Wright worked and lived in Japan for 3 years, where he learned Jiu Jutsu.  Upon returning to England, he retired from his Engineering career and opened a Martial Arts school.

In 1899, Barton wrote an article in the London based publication, Pearson’s Magazine, entitled “A New Art of Self Defense.” In it he set out his system of self defense that he called “bartitsu,” an obvious melding of his name and Jiu Jutsu. While bartitsu was based mainly on Jiu Jutsu, Barton explained in his article that the system included boxing, kickboxing, and stick fighting.

Growing up in Tang Soo Do, I was exposed to a very clear dichotomy between traditional martial arts and the MMA movement.  Tension was always high on both sides of the fence, each thinking the other was bull****.  As with anything else in this world, we always perceive and interpret things with a lens of bias.  Psychologically, it is easier to become complacent and surround ourselves with an environment that supports our own bias.  But, as martial artists, this is the antithesis of what we should be doing.

“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain”

~ Miyamoto Musashi

It is obvious that many in the Tang Soo Do community have become complacent with incorrect history and declining quality.  But I have resolved to make it my own personal goal to not fall into this situation.  I want to read and learn as much as I can.  Even if that means learning that I'm wrong, Thank you Ondrej Slechta!  What's more, we as Tang Soo Do practitioners must come to terms with our own MMA past.  Okinawa Te, Japanese Karate, Southern Chinese Kung Fu, Korean Taekkyeon, etc...  Tang Soo Do.

Hate, arrogance, ego, stubbornness; I'm not sure a martial artist can be successful by harboring these qualities.  It's okay to not know how to use a sword, don't claim you do.  It's okay to not know how to grapple, don't claim you do.  Instead, find an instructor that does and train.

Become a white belt again.  I guarantee it will make your Tang Soo Do better.


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