The Martial Art

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The Martial Art
Bryce Lane Feb 25, 06
When I was in art school many years ago we were mighty big on understanding
the enviroment. Not trees and birds and the like but learning how to work
artistically with more than just what we think we are working on. We learned
that when you work, you are not only working on some object but working also
on what it is with and around. Nothing is free or separate from that which is
around and with it. Understand the world with and around you, then life gets
alot more interesting, and in some cases even alot more likely.
In the martial arts the word "art" is very often left out in practice.
They often come down to schools of different "dueling styles", since the
enviroment is removed as much as possible from consideration. I am not down on
sportfighting, combat sports are a "hoot and a half", yet there is a much
bigger picture here to consider and "art", even martial art is all about
considering bigger pictures.
The next time you go out, take a look around you. Look close, look
further away, look at what is between you and the doors or around you
and any possible opponents. Don't say anything to the people you are
with because they will likely think you are some sort of "nut". That
is fine because a martial artist who is not "nuts" in some important ways , is
a disgrace to his or her chosen art(s).
When you are taking this look consider simple things, like "could I
really throw a roundhouse kick anywhere in this place"; "will going to
the ground only expose me to every pointy or steel toed boot in the
room, while making extricating myself from this mess impossible"; "Is it more
likely any of the stuff around me can trip me or my opponent better than
either of us could trip or throw each other in the dojo?
What you will start to see is that no matter what your skills, half
or more of them are useless or a detriment already. You will see that your
enviroment can do-you-in likely far quicker than your opponent.
Throw a crowd in an area that is already an obstacle course who
become "hostile obstacles" if excited and now you likely just can't
imagine what to do. Cops hate this sort of situation, but police have
something of a solution. They can order up more police, which is a luxury you
likely don't have.
When martial arts schools start training in areas set up more like
restaurants, crowded parties with furniture and sporting events, then the art
is alot more complete. This is a whole lot more than just "keeping up your SA"
(situational awareness). It is learning to use a situation to your advantage
with what you have and wherever you happen to be, in fast and fluent detail.
If that isn't "art" in every sense of the word, then what is?

Sun Tsu wrote, to paraphrase "Know your enemy, know yourself, know the land,
and you will not be defeated in ten thousand battles. This is an exageration
of course, but when is the last time in your martial arts school you worked
with "knowing the land"? When it the last time you went into an area filled
with obstacles and worked with using that enviroment against an oponent(s) in
order to attack covertly, defend yourself, or escape. Learning to see quickly
and near-instictively how to attack or defend with what is there. I am not
talking about simply finding hand weapons, but using the area as a weapon.
What can you push, pull or throw him into or over, what is in your way, what
is in the way of help or escape, what are the dangers beside my opponent, how
many people might want "in" on this, how is the crowd acting and moving? You
have to have this map in your head and get the skill of getting it quickly and
instictively without whipping out the sketchpad, a reference manual, and a
pack of markers.
Working intelligence assets learn mostly out of fear to "read an area"
especially for something like a dead-drop, where intelligence material is
left for someone else to pick up. A failure to have routes of escape, know who
belongs in the area and who does not, failure to have a place to get rid of
suspicious material fast, or failure to recognize an out of place vehicle
can pretty much end a brilliant career of "hardcore office politics". Sorry to
use such a dark example, but the "cultivated awareness" is the same, just used
for something a little more productive in your own case hopefully.
Musashi spoke of this, Sun Tsu wrote of little else if you read carefully.
There are always three of you in every fight, even in an otherwise empty room.
There is you, your opponent and your enviroment. If you have the enviroment on
your side, the fight is now two against one in your favor.
Much is often said in hushed tones about "mental arts", usually about "death
touches"and the like; Nonsense that hints at dark secrets and ancient black
magic; I would say that if you want a mental art then try this one: Everywhere
you go for a week or so, take a good look around, see what and whom is where,
understand how people move in the area trafficking naturally, see where they
naturally gather and areas of psychological "no mans land" in the place. Look
and see what is made of what, what looks hard, what looks durable and isn't,
what can be used to augment punches, kicks, trips or escapes, what can get
someone off balance what is reflective and can give you warning, where can
you herd them into or want to make sure they don't herd you into. You will
find far more than you think you will, and practive developing a valuable skill.
Once you develop a feel for this, sneak a partner out of school who is at a
similar level to you, find places, practice (safely), exchange what you learn.
Art is about discovery, innovation and creativity. If you are not doing these
three, wherever and whenever you can, you are not an artist. Any school which
discourages these three as well as not helping you moderate the three by
developing judgement and reason about your art, you are welcome to; but it is
nowhere I want to be.
One other little bit from art school that has lived in my head for a couple of
decades now is that "real art lives out in the world". I think we were

talking about photography but if that isn't also incredible martial arts
advice then what is? Understanding the enviroment and how to use to your
advantage what it contains is at least as useful a tool as decent oil paint, a
fine leica camera or a good right hook. Without developing the understanding
of where you are and what to do with where you are, no art of any kind is