What goes into the creation of a new martial art, style, or system?
In my opinion there are degrees of separation when it comes to the martial arts. You have an art, a system, and a style. Being a professional artist I always think of art as being creative. A system to me is a method of doing something and a style is how a person interprets what they learned.
In order for a martial art system to work as it is intended, it must be tested. Much like theories must go through various methods of testing, it is the same for the martial arts. Defensive and offensive theories without testing to prove they are effective might make them invalid.
One of my teachers was always a sceptic when it came to watching others demonstrate their offensive and defensive techniques or style. In order for him to believe that a method of fighting was valid, he would test it against what he already knew. This didn’t mean that he went around challenging everyone. That would be a very foolish activity for many reasons. Instead he found a way to test what others knew in a friendly exchange.
There are many reasons why a person decides to create a system of fighting, some out of necessity and others for self-serving reasons. But whatever the case, new systems will continue to flourish as they should because creativity is a key element behind all art forms.
Style in fighting is something that each individual develops because it is a way of expression. I once heard someone say that in the beginning a student whistles his teacher’s tune but when they understand what they are doing they whistle their own tune.
So am I saying that every martial artist has their own style? Well, yes and no. Style depends on the knowledge and experience a person possesses as well as their views about the fighting arts themselves. Many teachers don’t encourage their students to think outside of the box. There can be many reasons for this such as a lack of knowledge on their part, traditions that they adhere to, a poor teacher or teachers, or maybe their own belief system when it comes to learning and teaching martial arts.
Usually martial artists that develop their own systems of combat have come in contact with a variety of already established fighting systems. There are some who may consider themselves purists or loyal to the particular system they are learning or have learned. I see nothing wrong with that but if you don’t experience other arts you might be short changing yourself because there are amazing martial art systems out there that are a joy to experience. Other arts may also enhance your own or even make your art more complete. Not everyone especially nowadays has the opportunity or the time to study and complete a martial art curriculum. But by experiencing other arts you may be able to fill the gaps in areas where you lack knowledge.
The thing that you want to avoid is learning an art or system and then renaming it and calling it your own. If you don’t intend to teach what you know it doesn’t matter but if you do decide to teach your own system, you’ll have to ensure that it’s truly yours. Not saying that it can’t be influenced by other arts or systems because just about all arts are influenced by others.
But if you decide to embark on the creation of a new fighting method, don’t cheat, do the work that’s required and don’t forget to give credit where credit is due…