I wanted to have a brief chat about style. One thing I have learned over the years is that each player has their own style; distinct, individual, unique. Yet, how does that square with the need for conformity and consistency in curriculum? I have to teach the same technique to a wide range of individuals. Does that mean that I have to change the technique for each student or is it the student who needs to change? My Dad was a strict Biology professor. His opinion was that it was the obligation of the student to go to the teacher, not for the teacher to "dumb down" his lesson. I can agree with that but I often remind him that his students' most loved lesson was his "Champagne Lecture" in which he set a table with some of the products of biology we consume; cheese, salami, bread, and Champagne. Once the table was set, he would invite a pretty young student to join him for lunch and dismiss the class. (Okay, it was a different time). The class loved it. It was pure theater, hardly a droning lecture on mitosis. So, strict dispensing of canonized curriculum isn't really the only way to impart knowledge. There has to be a certain amount of art, creativity, expression of the individual.
Moreover, how does this relate to preserving an art as individuals with their own interpretations take the art out into the world and spread it? I have always been of the opinion that the art is indeed living and students should be encouraged to bring creativity and their individual style into the art after they have mastered the basics and fully understand the concepts that underlie the art. Demanding a dogmatic adherence to a "standard", I have always felt, is a path to stagnation and more an expression of fear than dedication. An art should adhere to standard principals and concepts but should be allowed to flourish and grow and manifest in the individuals who practice it as the unique expression of their personalities and body types.
I watched a video of a master of Escrima playing his version of Larga Mano yesterday. Much as I would like to level some severe criticism on his style, I have to step back and celebrate his unique take on the art. It's not what I was taught. It has some concepts I would take issue with but it is his and it shows some of the most important concepts of the art. His unique play is an indication of the diversity in which one art can manifest. It stands in stark contrast to the style of play of other graduates. It is unique, his own artful expression; neither more nor less valid than any other. And, if we fail to recognize and celebrate the diversity one art can inspire, we will certainly kill it. In an effort to codify, "dogmatize" or otherwise hold fast an art, we risk choking it to death by quelling criticism, individual expression and curiosity. There is risk too in letting an art go and flourish and adapt. But, that risk can be mitigated by adhering to sound principals and basic concepts while embracing individual artistic interpretation. It would be a grand departure for that master to institutionalize his style as the standard or for students to believe that his rank eliminates all options for interpretation or expression. I think it is best to see the personal expression each player brings to the art as their unique style and a positive celebration of diversity, not a negative threat to authority.
Play on with a living art and always feel free to ask questions.