We gave Isaac a good send off last week as he starts university on the south coast. Isaac started over a year ago with Bushin following a background in karate and others. His thirst for martial art knowledge was insatiable and continued to train in other styles, never short of a question or two. He recently graded to green belt, scoring highly on the sheet, and has been a consistent grade-on-grade improver. Although Isaac will be away for a few years getting to grips with uni life, there are plenty of quality martial art clubs to seek his teeth into. I trained for four years on the south coast and set up my own club when I was attending Southampton University. The club is still running to this day.
Cross-training, mixed martial arts and MMA are all the fad now. I remember when the concept was just starting to grow in the early to mid 1990s. In actual fact Bruce Lee pioneered and popularised it in the 1970s but it really wasn’t until cage fighting took off that martial artists really started to explore outwards. Most traditional styles are reluctant to “share” their students with other clubs and styles. This is especially strong in the Japanese styles which follow the tradition of “one style, one master”, where you are an apprentice to your master and it is deemed rude and disrespectful to train elsewhere. This was certainly the case when I learnt Shorinji Kempo in Japan. A short hop to the local karate club would have been a short hop out of the door.
However, nowadays it is seen to be far more acceptable. This is mainly because martial arts have progressed so dramatically over the last few decades and many teachers now realise that one style does not necessarily have all the answers, whether it’s technical or philosophical. I started cross-training half way through my martial career, branching out initially into Taekwondo, Wing Chun and Tai Chi. I found that I learnt more in few weeks that I had learnt in few years and my technique and application improved enormously. I also found that I appreciated my roots more because I could better understand the quality of a style and its instruction.
In Bushin I actively encourage cross-training. I still do it myself. It is not something to be ashamed of or kept secret. It should be embraced…after all most martial arts have similar aims and there are only so many ways you can be grabbed and be punched. Ultimately we all want to be better people, fight better, learn skills, get fit and sweaty, plus have a bit of fun. Most of the styles I’ve trained at over the years are similar in this regard. As long as it doesn’t distract you from your “home” style and you can still distinguish which dojo you are training in, there is no issue. I found most mixed martial artists are more rounded individuals, open minded and more skilful fighters. As Bruce said “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”
My only hope is that my students get better and challenge me. If they do, I will improve…and then, ultimately, so will they. I look forward to the day when Isaac sails back to the Bushin shore, with a full cargo of martial art skills so we can all learn from him. Happy travels…