“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain”- Miyamoto Musashi

In reading the last post, one might ask how do you begin to make the connections? There is no magic formula but this can happen in several ways. I believe that the most important factor is an inquiring mind and willingness to ask questions.

To me, martial arts is similar to astronomy. How many times have we heard astronomers say that, when they look through the telescope, they expect to find answers? Instead, they only come up with more questions. I feel the same way about martial arts. The more I practice, the more questions I have. If you have this mindset, you will be on the way to “making the connections.”
One way to progress to “making the connections” is that you have studied a base art for a sustained period of years. In the case of Bruce Lee, he had studied Wing Chun for several years before moving from Hong Kong to Seattle. From this base, his martial art evolved into Jeet Kune Do. Professor Presas’ base art was his family style. The later combination of his family style with Balintawak formed the backbone of Modern Arnis.
What does it mean to study a base art for a sustained period of years? In my opinion, it means practicing an art to the point where the techniques and concepts become ingrained over a number of years. It means practicing an art several times a week. It means practicing this art for several years. Once you have reached a certain point in this base art, you will begin to see similar techniques, motions, and concepts in other arts. It means asking questions. It means critical thinking and analysis. Avenues of exploration will begin to open up.
I have encountered individuals who have hopscotched through several martial arts and deluded themselves into believing that they had a deep understanding of the martial arts. Often, they have not really studied a base art.  For example, after Professor Presas fell ill, a number of seminars were held to raise funds to defray some of his medical expenses. One was being held in Columbus, Ohio, where I was living at the time. A gentleman emailed his intention to attend the seminar and sent his “martial arts resume.” According to this resume, he had been in the martial arts for 50 some odd years. We expected an impressive martial artist.
Unfortunately, the poor gentleman could not walk and chew gum at the same time, even with the most basic Modern Arnis techniques that was being taught at this benefit seminar. In talking with this gentleman, it became obvious that he had never really studied a base art long enough to make the connections. He had hopscotched around the martial arts world to his detriment.
Another sad scenario is one where one might, indeed, study a base art for a long time but never really evolve inside and beyond the parameters of the art. One may enthusiastically and robotically practice the art in question for a sustained period of time. What’s the point in that? If you’re practicing an art in the same way you did 30 years ago and have not really advanced your understanding of the art, it’s going to be much more difficult to “make the connections.” Inquisitiveness is often missing in this scenario.
Do you need to win the lottery and be lucky enough to study a fine base art from the beginning? No. I know several individuals who have studied various martial arts in depth and never found sufficient satisfaction until they found a “home martial art.”
A good example of this is a martial artist whom I met in Victoria in February of 2001 when I was visiting Professor Presas. Mike had studied Yang style Tai Chi, Judo, Wing Chun, and boxing. The more he studied, the more questions he had. As he related to me, he was not satisfied until he found Aikido late in his martial arts career and this became his “home martial art.”  He is now teaching Aikido in his own school in Victoria. He is able to bring in his decades of experience in the aforementioned martial arts to understand and teach Aikido. In his own way, he is making the connection between the various concepts of Aikido to the other arts he studied.

My martial journey is similar to Mike’s. I started out in Kwan Ying Do, then progressed to Chung Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do, Vee Jitsu Ryu, Tracy Kenpo, Aikido, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu before I stumbled onto Modern Arnis 15 years ago.  Since then, Modern Arnis has become my “home martial art.” Like Mike, I’ve been making connections between the concepts of Modern Arnis to the arts I studied in the past.

In closing, as stated at the beginning, there is no magic formula. However, an inquiring mind and a willingness to ask questions often go a long way to helping you to make the connections between concepts and martial arts. I think that Musashi was correct in surmising that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.
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