Lessons on Terminology and History

with Dan Bernardo, Sabom

Ever since the beginning of man-made things, we have had the "repair or replace" dilemma. A need or want coupled with the resources at hand creates a "thing" to fulfill that need or want. Someone wants to make coffee, the resources avaliable were used to create a "coffeemaker".

Then comes the sad moment when the coffeemaker stops working. Are we more likely to fix the coffeemaker, or trash it and buy a new one?

In times past, when the resources were not as readily available, and things weren't manufactured as efficiently and cheaply, fixing it was a more likely scenario. Nowadays... PITCH IT! (Is that a Pittsburghese saying?)

Our dumps are full of evidence that modern people would rather have what's Bright, Shiny, & New.

But this begs the question, is new necessarily better? No, of course not. Nor is older necessarily worse (or better). But the simple fact is, people are always more inclined to want the next thing. The newest phone, the newest car, the newest clothes, the newest tv, the newest house, etc...

So... how does this effect the Martial Arts?

One word, "Industry".

How many times do we hear the martial arts community called an industry? All of the time, right? I'm not going to point fingers and name names... (cough, cough, EFC, cough, cough) but there are quite a few reasons that the martial arts is now a multi-million dollar industry in the world.

And just like that coffeemaker, people are pitching their old ways and buying the new.

  • New curriculum
  • New uniform styles
  • New programs
  • New belt systems
  • New training equipment

Bright, Shiny, & New!

Don't get me wrong, I understand that change is inescapable. It is the only constant in this universe. And in many ways, things done in the 1500's (let alone the 1950's) may not be the most efficient things for modern day human beings.

I understand that our society changes, our psychology changes, our weapons change, and with that change we need to adapt. That's a fact. But this begs a question... Repair or Replace?

But before you answer that question, I want you to think about one more thing. Who is making the product in question? You see, the coffeemaker, for instance; if the company that made my broken coffee maker is an expert in coffeemakers, it wouldn't be the best decision to replace it with a coffeemaker made by a company that isn't an expert... no matter how cool the box looks, or how good looking the spokesperson is.

Likewise, if the company that made my broken coffee maker has no business being in the coffee world, it may be a better idea to replace it with a coffee maker produced by experts.

But here's the rub...

In the martial arts world, it is incredibly difficult to tell who are experts. I know that may sound as a shock, but ranks and titles are quite misleading in the modern martial arts "industry".

Because of this, just because some "expert" is selling a new curriculum, doesn't mean it's worth replacing your current curriculum. Likewise, just because your current curriculum was given to you by an "expert", doesn't mean it's not worth replacing.

So, Repair or Replace? At the peril of creating a false dichotomy, I would like to use two labels in regards to the martial arts world.

Community and Industry

I will let you define those two, or compartmentalize them however you see fit. But let me state that I see more Repairing happening in the Martial Arts "Community", and more Replacing happening in the Martial Arts "Industry". Keep in mind, when I say Repair I'm speaking of an evolution without straying from the old ways. A fix... but not a change.

The Korea Dangsoodo Association's purpose and mission is the preservation of the old ways and it is the goal of old school Dangsoodo to create real martial artists, from white belt to 8th degree black belt... we all train together. Therefore we Repair, not Replace.

Real martial is not a fad. It's not the next best thing. It's not Bright, Shiny, & New.  It's OLD, GRITTY, DIRTY HARD WORK.

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