Other Arts

Another fellow blogger and Aikido enthusiast, Crazy Hobbit, made this post regarding training in multiple martial arts. He uses a great reference to a book, Another Fine Myth, by Robert Aspirin:

…the Main Character (a Magicians Apprentice) asks a Demon why he can’t learn both physical and magical attacks and defenses. Aahz, the demon, throws a log at Skeeve, the apprentice, and tells him to block it. Skeeve first attempts to use his hands, but then decides he should impress Aahz by using magic, and ends up getting hit during his indecision.

I was a fan of those books a long time ago, and I had forgotten about this particular passage.

I think this passage makes an excellent point. It can be very challenging to learn two or more arts that, to use Crazy Hobbit’s phrase, share the same utensils. Not only can it lead to mental indecision, but it can also interfere with your muscle memory as well. Much of our responses in dangerous situations hinge on muscle memory, or how well our bodies remember certain movements. Indecisiveness at this level can dramatically slow down your reactions.

Yet, studying another art that does not share the same utensils, such as Iaido, does not have this same risk. If you are in a dangerous situation and you have a sword (granted, an unlikely scenario), you will respond one way. If you are empty-handed, you will respond in another way.

(As a side note, I really like the term, utensils, here, because it does not imply the core values shared by most martial arts. Both Iaido and Aikido can be incredible tools for learning calmness, centeredness and control. But they employ very different utensils when learning the lessons these arts have to offer.)

One other item I’d like to point out: in more traditional times, training for war was often a necessary and full-time occupation. Consequently, there was time to practice several different arts, because most of your day would be solely devoted to training. Now, martial arts training is a small slice of our daily lives. For many of us, it is difficult to carve out two or three hours a week for our training. Given that, training in multiple arts today requires someone who can make the time commitments necessary to give these arts at least a modicum of attention and focus. This can be extremely challenging… and while I applaud those who can do it, lack of time remains the another prime reason why I often caution people from practicing more than one art.

Self defense, after all, is not an activity where “jack of all trades, master of none” is sufficient.

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