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BJJGround Forum >> Black Belts and Morality


8/4/14 12:26 AM
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shen
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Edited: 08/04/14 3:07 AM
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Black Belt, Torrance, CA
UGCTT_Fillthy - If you think BJJ is a combat sport, then a black belt probably doesn't mean anything beyond 'really good grappler' (ie Lloyd Irvin)

If you think BJJ is a martial art, then a black belt speaks more to the overall quality of the person (ie Rickson Gracie)

I don't think either is right or wrong, but personally, I side with Shen on this one.

 

Exactly.

 

Whether one likes it or not, there is no debate that historically morality and character builing are central concerns of most martial arts. If you read the autobiographies of or biographies about famous masters, this is the unifying thread that unites them beyond the different methods each advocated. They all felt martial arts had to serve a greater purpse than mere fighting and that purpose was to improve people's lives and thereby improve their communities:

Kano, Founder of Judo ("All things connected with [Judo] should be directed at it's ultimate object, the benefit of humanity")

Funakoshi, Founder of (Shotokan)Japanese Karate ("The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of it's participants")

Doshin So, Founder of Shorinji Kempo ("Live half for yourself and half for others")

Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido ("The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body and polish the spirit")

--And that's just the tip of the iceberg among Japanese martial arts masters.

In the past you had to prove yourself of worthy character toeven be accepted as a student of the matrial arts. Instructors were picky about who they chose.

These days, pretty much ANYONE who walks in the door and can pay will be accepted. That is a HUGE change in the way martial arts are practiced. Huge.

8/4/14 12:27 AM
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deepu
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liuk3 -
shen - 

Well, what you believe goes against, not just BJJ, but really the wider tradition of martial arts...

It is uncanny how in almost all cultures, martial artistists have believed that there needs to be SOME "moral" component or code of behavior, when teaching martial artist. Some have very strict ones, some looser, but most all have them. A focus on character has always been a major --if not THE major-- focus of martial arts training. Dictates on behavior have always been a part of the martial arts for good reason; teaching bad people how to be better at violence is not a net gain for society.

BJJ is a system that is not particularly strict in this regard. Doesn't mean there are not great human beings in BJJ, there are. But the system itself doesn't put that much emphasis on it --that's actually part of what some people LIKE about BJJ. Also, the entire culture surounding MMA too has been a big blow to the traditional idea of what martial arts are all about.

 

 


Sounds like I may be in the minority, but I am in complete agreement with Shen.
Not in the minority at all. Personality comes into play when being promoted to black belt. You have to demonstrate an ability to teach your teammates, make them better etc ... You should be a role model so yeah you better be a good person. Phone Post 3.0
8/4/14 12:29 AM
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shen
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Edited: 08/04/14 12:33 AM
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joe_mama - 
shen - 

Well, what you believe goes against, not just BJJ, but really the wider tradition of martial arts...

It is uncanny how in almost all cultures, martial artists have believed that there needs to be SOME "moral" component or code of behavior, when teaching martial arts. Some have very strict ones(e.g. Shorinji Kempo, Hung Gar Kung Fu), some looser, but most all have them. A focus on character has always been a major --if not THE major-- focus of martial arts training. Dictates on behavior have always been a part of the martial arts for good reason; teaching bad people how to be better at violence is not a net gain for society.

BJJ is a system that is not particularly strict in this regard. Doesn't mean there are not great human beings in BJJ, there certainly are. But the system itself doesn't put that much emphasis on it --that's actually part of what some people LIKE about BJJ. Also, the entire culture surrounding MMA too has been a big blow to the traditional idea of what martial arts are all about.

 

 


From what I've heard, Jiu-jitsu really fell out favor in Brazil due to it's perception of it's practitioners being seen as a bunch of fight instigating thugs back in the day.

I wonder if history will repeat itself here [in the US], and we'll see it fall out of fashion as a socially acceptable activity.

 

Actually, it even fell out of favor in Japan many years before falling out of favor in Brazil.

One of the reasons Kano used the name "judo" instead of "ju jutsu"  was to distance himself in the public eye from the "thuggish" jujutsuka.

8/4/14 1:11 AM
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JasonGV
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shen - 
UGCTT_Fillthy - If you think BJJ is a combat sport, then a black belt probably doesn't mean anything beyond 'really good grappler' (ie Lloyd Irvin)

If you think BJJ is a martial art, then a black belt speaks more to the overall quality of the person (ie Rickson Gracie)

I don't think either is right or wrong, but personally, I side with Shen on this one.

Exactly.

Whether one likes it or not, there is no debate that historically morality and character builing are central concerns of most martial arts. If you read the autobiographies of or biographies about famous masters, this is the unifying thread that unites them beyond the different methods each advocated. They all felt martial arts had to serve a greater purpse than mere fighting and that purpose was to improve people's lives and thereby improve their communities:

Kano, Founder of Judo ("All things connected with [Judo] should be directed at it's ultimate object, the benefit of humaity")

Funakoshi, Founder of (Shotokan)Japanese Karate ("The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of it's participants")

Doshin So, Founder of Shorinji Kempo ("Live half for yourself and half for others")

Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido ("The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body and polish the spirit")

--And that's just the tip of the iceberg among Japanese martial arts masters.

 

In the past you had to prove yourself of worthy character toeven be accepted as a student of the matrial arts. Instructors were picky about who they chose.

These days, pretty much ANYONE who walks in the door and can pay will be accepted. That is a HUGE change in the way martial arts are practiced. Huge.


You're right. But the masters you mentioned are hold overs from a past era. An era when "martial arts" meant something different; something that was potentially deadly and had to be strictly controller. The Koryu arts seem to be mostly weapon arts for example.

The modern equivalent of martial arts would be the military/police. Which is subject (in theory) to the equivalent of "character" selection; as indicated by psychological testing, intelligence metrics etc.

In the modern era, martial arts are one of two things. Martial/combat sports, like BJJ, boxing etc. Or, if a traditional/Koryu style, something I would consider historical re creationists. If you're busting out the Jo and doing katas, you are not doing martial arts, you are doing the equivalent of a renaissance fair re-enactment.



8/4/14 1:18 AM
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The People's Knee
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Edited: 08/04/14 1:20 AM
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Apologies in advance for my cynicism, but here it comes: I WISH things were like Shen describes, but the reality is, unfortunately, very far from that. The amount of shitbag  black belts (and other belts as well) in BJJ is staggering. Also, in what seems to be the greatest irony of all, those who talk the loudest about character building and wanting to make BJJ students "better people" invariably seem to be the last people on earth who should be in charge of such tasks. It also takes a certain amount of arrogance to decide that your job is to make someone else a better person. A lot of my students are professionals, veterans, first responders, doctors, etc. Imagine the chutzpah of telling someone who saves or protects people's lives for a living that you're going to improve the character of such people. It's gotten to the point when I hear someone in BJJ start talking about character building, I see it as a red flag. So many times the person who says that has a shady past and should really be more concerned with improving their own character.

-The People's Cynical Knee

8/4/14 1:24 AM
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shen
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Edited: 08/04/14 2:08 AM
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N5Z - "Well, what you believe goes against, not just BJJ, but really the wider tradition of martial arts..."

Modern tradition of martial arts, maybe. If Im not mistaken you have a background in JJJ? Before I found BJJ I trained at a couple different JJJ places. Im sure where you trained was legit but my experience with the traditional martial arts consisted of unstable individuals preaching pseudo buddhism in slapstick Japanese garb and showing crappy technique.

What drew me to BJJ and what I always assumed drew everyone else was the practicality of it. You were taught, you practiced live and there was minimal theory or philosophy involved.

I cannot speak for a historical cross cultural "moral" code in martial arts because I do not know enough about the historical teaching methods, arts et al but I do know that throughout history wars have been fought by rough men, not philosophers.

 

Well, I suppose your first experience with BJJ could have just as easily been with one of the many egomaic, nutcases who teach BJJ.

 

This is a big FRAT but Just, FWIW...

Most so called Japanese jujutsu isn't Japanese (that is, it is not practiced in Japan), but rather is a western art based on a mix of influences. Ask a typical JJJ instructor, "what dojo are you affiliated with in Japan?" and 95% of the time the answer will be "none".

I have a teacher who was a protegee and traveling companion of the legendary Don Drager --probably the most knowledgeable westerner in Japanese Martial arts history (Google him). My teacher has mutiple Instructor and Master level certifications he earned the most legit way possible. One of them, a classical art called Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu/ Jodo,[funny you mention the jo!] he's been doing since the 1970s. The crap he had to do to get accepted in the higher levels of the classical circles of true Japanese Martial arts was unbelieveable. And he has told me there is a level he will never be allowed to --despite 50+ years of diligent training in an art absolutely NOBODY on earth cares about-- simply because he is not japanese. 

So in the west when people say they teach JJJ, it could mean literally anything. A combo of karate and aikido with some jujutsu. Judo with some karate, three mixed styes of Jujutsu with some judo, etc. But it usually isn't literally "Japanese Jujutsu". As such, I can't really speak to what such people are doing. But what they are doing is literally and figuratively a world away from actual JJJ. There is a huge difference between TRUE Koryu/ classical or traditional martial arts and the so called "TMAs" we have in the west. A martial art that still doesn't completely trust you after 50 years is very Japanese. A martial art that advertises on a bus bench and will teach anyone who can pay, is very American. Both have good & bad points. But to think one has experience with Traditional Japanese Martial Arts when you take an American martial arts class, is not really accurate. They moreso have experience with American martial arts. Just because you wear a gi, doesn't mean what you are doing has any GENUINE relationship to traditional martial arts.

Honestly... I'm not sure why I wrote all that. lol.

8/4/14 1:24 AM
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joe_mama
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shen - 
joe_mama - 
shen - 

Well, what you believe goes against, not just BJJ, but really the wider tradition of martial arts...

It is uncanny how in almost all cultures, martial artists have believed that there needs to be SOME "moral" component or code of behavior, when teaching martial arts. Some have very strict ones(e.g. Shorinji Kempo, Hung Gar Kung Fu), some looser, but most all have them. A focus on character has always been a major --if not THE major-- focus of martial arts training. Dictates on behavior have always been a part of the martial arts for good reason; teaching bad people how to be better at violence is not a net gain for society.

BJJ is a system that is not particularly strict in this regard. Doesn't mean there are not great human beings in BJJ, there certainly are. But the system itself doesn't put that much emphasis on it --that's actually part of what some people LIKE about BJJ. Also, the entire culture surrounding MMA too has been a big blow to the traditional idea of what martial arts are all about.

 

 


From what I've heard, Jiu-jitsu really fell out favor in Brazil due to it's perception of it's practitioners being seen as a bunch of fight instigating thugs back in the day.

I wonder if history will repeat itself here [in the US], and we'll see it fall out of fashion as a socially acceptable activity.

 

Actually, it even fell out of favor in Japan many years before falling out of favor in Brazil.

One of the reasons Kano used the name "judo" instead of "ju jutsu"  was to distance himself in the public eye from the "thuggish" jujutsuka.


And just to clarify, I'm not calling out anyone who views BJJ as a combat sport vs a martial art as a thug.

I do wonder though, where the art/sport will be in 5-10 years. If there will be consequences for the art's lack of a stricter 'vetting' process than TMAs.

As given the US media's propensity for sensationalism and scandal. It really wouldn't take too many more TLI style stories to come out for the general public to turn against the art and taint it like in Japan and Brazil.
8/4/14 1:58 AM
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shen
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Edited: 08/04/14 12:49 PM
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The People's Knee - 

Apologies in advance for my cynicism, but here it comes: I WISH things were like Shen describes, but the reality is, unfortunately, very far from that. The amount of shitbag  black belts (and other belts as well) in BJJ is staggering. Also, in what seems to be the greatest irony of all, those who talk the loudest about character building and wanting to make BJJ students "better people" invariably seem to be the last people on earth who should be in charge of such tasks. It also takes a certain amount of arrogance to decide that your job is to make someone else a better person. A lot of my students are professionals, veterans, first responders, doctors, etc. Imagine the chutzpah of telling someone who saves or protects people's lives for a living that you're going to improve the character of such people. It's gotten to the point when I hear someone in BJJ start talking about character building, I see it as a red flag. So many times the person who says that has a shady past and should really be more concerned with improving their own character.

-The People's Cynical Knee

 

OK...

Since your post is OBVIOUSLY alluding to me and MY past... you want to get into this...?

1) First off, I was aquitted on charges of BOTH "Extorting an animal" and "Sale of an unlicensed a gynecological device". --That's a fact.

2) Yes, I was arrested 3 times at the Corey Haim estate. That's no secret. What does seem to be a secret on this forum is that it was due to a faulty Garmin GPS device, each time! --My car kept taking me there.

3) Yeah, I was filmed urinating in a church baptisimal. Not proud of that. But I was on a combination of Ambien and an oral antifungal medication, which impaired my judgement. Ask anyone who knows me and they will vouch that I have NEVER, EVER publically urinated in a church before (except for one other time at a wedding).

Look, I've got sh!tloads of character, bro. Sh!tloads. And I instill it in MY students.

Sorry if that makes you "uncomfortable".

 

 

8/4/14 2:16 AM
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graciesrule
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Martial Arts that came from Japan and China a key ingredient to being a Black belt or Master/Sifu in Kung Fu is in addition to fighting skill that the person was honorable and moral. It was believed that if were to learn a deadly fighting skills you had to have the proper temperament,So you would not abuse those skills. That way people would have to watch, do chores and show patience before they would teach you. There are many great fighters and tough guys in the world,ie: boxers, wrestlers, MMA, Kickboxers but that does not make you a black belt, it's attitude. I notice in Gracie Jiu jitsu or BJJ for that matter ethics and morality did not transfer over from Judo only the fighting skills. I guess the Gracie's failed to pick it up or, just discarded it or really just almost thug like(read Choque). Here's another question to ponder is how can anyone question someones Black belt when the founders of BJJ/GJJ (the 5 Gracie brothers) never were awarded any rank other than there own self promotions to Black belt?
8/4/14 3:00 AM
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Must
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shen - 
The People's Knee - 

Apologies in advance for my cynicism, but here it comes: I WISH things were like Shen describes, but the reality is, unfortunately, very far from that. The amount of shitbag  black belts (and other belts as well) in BJJ is staggering. Also, in what seems to be the greatest irony of all, those who talk the loudest about character building and wanting to make BJJ students "better people" invariably seem to be the last people on earth who should be in charge of such tasks. It also takes a certain amount of arrogance to decide that your job is to make someone else a better person. A lot of my students are professionals, veterans, first responders, doctors, etc. Imagine the chutzpah of telling someone who saves or protects people's lives for a living that you're going to improve the character of such people. It's gotten to the point when I hear someone in BJJ start talking about character building, I see it as a red flag. So many times the person who says that has a shady past and should really be more concerned with improving their own character.

-The People's Cynical Knee

 

OK...

Since your post is OBVIOUSLY alluding to me and MY past... you want to get into this...?

1) First off, I was aquitted on charges of BOTH "Extorting an animal" and "Sale of an unlicensed a gynecological device". --That's a fact.

2) Yes, I was arrested 3 times at the Corey Haim estate. That's no secret. What does seem to be a secret on this forum is that it was due to a faulty Garmin GPS device, each time!

3) Yeah, I was filmed urinating in a church baptisimal. I am not proud of that. But I was on a combination of Ambien and an oral antifungal medication, which impaired my judgement. Ask anyone who knows me and they will vouch that I have NEVER, EVER publically urinated in a church before except for one other time at a wedding.

Look, I've got sh!tloads of character, bro. Sh!tloads. And I instill it in MY students.

Sorry if that makes you "uncomfortable".

 

 


Wow, didn't see that one coming. I didn't even feel it was directed towards shen personally.

I agree with the people's knee. I'm not going out on the mats to make everyone in my class a better person. There is no time for that and that's not my area of expertise. I believe that I'm qualified enough to make them better bjj practitioners and provide them good times while doing so.

And if their character improves while they're hanging out with me then that's great. But I feel like I'm learning just as much, if not more, from them.
8/4/14 3:39 AM
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deepu
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The People's Knee -

Apologies in advance for my cynicism, but here it comes: I WISH things were like Shen describes, but the reality is, unfortunately, very far from that. The amount of shitbag  black belts (and other belts as well) in BJJ is staggering. Also, in what seems to be the greatest irony of all, those who talk the loudest about character building and wanting to make BJJ students "better people" invariably seem to be the last people on earth who should be in charge of such tasks. It also takes a certain amount of arrogance to decide that your job is to make someone else a better person. A lot of my students are professionals, veterans, first responders, doctors, etc. Imagine the chutzpah of telling someone who saves or protects people's lives for a living that you're going to improve the character of such people. It's gotten to the point when I hear someone in BJJ start talking about character building, I see it as a red flag. So many times the person who says that has a shady past and should really be more concerned with improving their own character.

-The People's Cynical Knee

Would you promote an asshole to black belt? Phone Post 3.0
8/4/14 3:43 AM
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deepu
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TPK I do get your point. And i bet the environment in your school would eliminate assholes anyway. Ultimately one is still running a school and that requires some code of conduct. Phone Post 3.0
8/4/14 9:46 AM
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Ryan Prouty
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there is a difference between a black belt and a martial artist.

 

I know on our team you wont get a BB being a piece of shit.

8/4/14 10:47 AM
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The People's Knee
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Edited: 08/04/14 11:00 AM
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Let me just clarify in case it's not already obvious: My post above was inspired by Shen's post, but it was not directed at Shen. Shen, as usual, responded appropriately.

deepu, I hear you loud and clear, but how many black belts (and other belts)  do you know who are repeatedly applauded for fighting at night clubs because they were "disrespected," etc.? Too many BJJ people activley seek conflict and an excuse to fight.  

As my friend and training partner Brendan Raedy said:

  • How about we as martial artists use the confidence that comes with our knowledge to avoid "street fights" or prevent them happening in the first place? People jumping out of the bushes to attack you is pretty rare, and bar fights are not "self defense"

 

Forget about all the talk about character and self-defense, how are these people actually behaving?

Let's not even begin to discuss various other illegal, immoral, dishonest, and shady behavior that is repeatedly ignored....

 

8/4/14 11:09 AM
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deepu
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Sadly there's too much gangster roots in bjj. Reading "Choque" and it's just sad who our supposed roots are from. Phone Post 3.0
8/4/14 12:15 PM
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brendan raedy
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deepu - Sadly there's too much gangster roots in bjj. Reading "Choque" and it's just sad who our supposed roots are from. Phone Post 3.0

I think most if not all foundational myths, whether for a martial art or nation, are unfortunately based on many sad realities.

None of that necessarily changes what you have taken out of it, or the values you construct and act on.

8/4/14 12:52 PM
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Marco Macera
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Ryan Prouty -

there is a difference between a black belt and a martial artist.

 

I know on our team you wont get a BB being a piece of shit.

This. Phone Post 3.0
8/4/14 12:53 PM
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shen
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Edited: 08/04/14 5:22 PM
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Nice posts TPK, deepu & brendan!

--and sorry I took your post personally, TPK. When you see your own picture posted on flyers all over your own neighborhood, taking about some B.S. like "Watch out for this Peeping Tom", you start to feel like EVERYONE is out to get you. I thought you were talking about me.

 

 

8/4/14 1:00 PM
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The People's Knee
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Who do you think posted those flyers all over your neighborhood?

8/4/14 1:03 PM
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shen
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Edited: 08/04/14 4:44 PM
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The People's Knee - 

Who do you think posted those flyers all over your neighborhood?

 

Probably some hater...

Sure, sometimes I wander into people's yards, or maybe linger innocently in their bushes at night, but "Peeping Tom"...? --I ain't even trying to hear that.

8/4/14 1:25 PM
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N5Z
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shen - 
N5Z - "Well, what you believe goes against, not just BJJ, but really the wider tradition of martial arts..."

Modern tradition of martial arts, maybe. If Im not mistaken you have a background in JJJ? Before I found BJJ I trained at a couple different JJJ places. Im sure where you trained was legit but my experience with the traditional martial arts consisted of unstable individuals preaching pseudo buddhism in slapstick Japanese garb and showing crappy technique.

What drew me to BJJ and what I always assumed drew everyone else was the practicality of it. You were taught, you practiced live and there was minimal theory or philosophy involved.

I cannot speak for a historical cross cultural "moral" code in martial arts because I do not know enough about the historical teaching methods, arts et al but I do know that throughout history wars have been fought by rough men, not philosophers.

 

Well, I suppose your first experience with BJJ could have just as easily been with one of the many egomaic, nutcases who teach BJJ.

 

This is a big FRAT but Just, FWIW...

Most so called Japanese jujutsu isn't Japanese (that is, it is not practiced in Japan), but rather is a western art based on a mix of influences. Ask a typical JJJ instructor, "what dojo are you affiliated with in Japan?" and 95% of the time the answer will be "none".

I have a teacher who was a protegee and traveling companion of the legendary Don Drager --probably the most knowledgeable westerner in Japanese Martial arts history (Google him). My teacher has mutiple Instructor and Master level certifications he earned the most legit way possible. One of them, a classical art called Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu/ Jodo,[funny you mention the jo!] he's been doing since the 1970s. The crap he had to do to get accepted in the higher levels of the classical circles of true Japanese Martial arts was unbelieveable. And he has told me there is a level he will never be allowed to --despite 50+ years of diligent training in an art absolutely NOBODY on earth cares about-- simply because he is not japanese. 

So in the west when people say they teach JJJ, it could mean literally anything. A combo of karate and aikido with some jujutsu. Judo with some karate, three mixed styes of Jujutsu with some judo, etc. But it usually isn't literally "Japanese Jujutsu". As such, I can't really speak to what such people are doing. But what they are doing is literally and figuratively a world away from actual JJJ. There is a huge difference between TRUE Koryu/ classical or traditional martial arts and the so called "TMAs" we have in the west. A martial art that still doesn't completely trust you after 50 years is very Japanese. A martial art that advertises on a bus bench and will teach anyone who can pay, is very American. Both have good & bad points. But to think one has experience with Traditional Japanese Martial Arts when you take an American martial arts class, is not really accurate. They moreso have experience with American martial arts. Just because you wear a gi, doesn't mean what you are doing has any GENUINE relationship to traditional martial arts.

Honestly... I'm not sure why I wrote all that. lol.


I think we are generally in agreement. Where we differ is that you seem to believe the introduction of a moral code into training is beneficial to the student and may influence his character for the good. I see it as something too easily exploitable by hacks to cover up for poor instruction and create cultlike environments so prefer to not see it at all.
8/4/14 2:53 PM
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brendan raedy
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The thing about "morality" is we don't exactly have a universal definition.

Things that are acceptable in Brazilian culture might not be acceptable in American culture, and vice versa.

Even within those cultures, you have subcultures that can diverge significantly on many issues.

I am not a cultural relativist, but if we are going to attach a code of conduct to BJJ, who gets to decide what it is? And how do we enforce it?

Let he who is without the first stone turns into tu quoque pretty quickly.

Obviously we have some clear boundaries like illegal conduct, but beyond that, it becomes a slippery slope. 

8/4/14 4:32 PM
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Akston
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Money has eliminated the philosophical/moral facet of the martial arts.

Now we sell belts Phone Post 3.0
8/4/14 4:41 PM
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checkuroil
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Learning to choke people doesn't teach you how to care about others. Phone Post 3.0
8/4/14 4:45 PM
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brendan raedy
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Black Belt, Vienna, VA
Akston - Money has eliminated the philosophical/moral facet of the martial arts.

Now we sell belts Phone Post 3.0

Money may have exacerbated the issue but I don't think it was exactly a utopia before.


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