I have encountered martial artists who like to focus on the differences between martial arts. My perception of these martial artists is that this is done to distinguish their martial art from the “other” martial art. Oftentimes, it serves as the premise of an argument proving the superiority of their martial art over the “other” martial art. This is unfortunate and off the mark.
I think that there is more to be gained from seeing the similarities between martial arts. Some call it “making the connections.” The late Professor Remy A. Presas often emphasized to his students the importance of making the connections. “It is all de same” he would often exclaim when pointing out the connection. For example, he would often point out the similarities between single sinawali and the down block of karate.
Doesn’t single sinawali look like the karate down block? Why, yes! See video here.
Those of us who encountered Professor for the first time were often astonished at his ability to point out the similarities between the arts and seeing the possibility of a vastly expanded understanding of the principles, concepts, and techniques of disparate martial arts.
This was one of the underlying themes of Professor’s joint seminars with GM George Dillman and with GM Wally Jay. Very often, overlapping concepts of their respective martial arts resonated with the seminar attendees and considerably expanded their knowledge base.
As mentioned in a previous post, I recently attended a Silat Suffian Bela Diri seminar taught by Maul Mornie. I saw a lot of overlap with Modern Arnis and Vee Jiu Jitsu during the two-day seminar. Thanks to the influence of Professor Presas, Master Chuck Gauss, and Master Ken Smith, I am much more prone to look for the connections and similarities, knowing that doing so will expand my knowledge.
If instead, you are prone to looking for the differences between your style and others, you may be missing out on opportunities to stretch your martial horizons. Most of the time, the problem is not so much as the martial art itself but has much more to do with the practitioner. I find that a lot of martial artists often handcuff themselves when it comes to self-education. When they nit pick at other martial arts, it may be a sign that their cups are not empty.
Think less of the differences and focus more on the similarities. Once you do that, you will see the connections.
There are several ways in which you can look for similarities and hence the connections:
(1) Go to a martial art seminar outside of your style: Look for similarities of movement and motion and build on that. You never know what could happen. Some are life changing. For example, Master Chuck Gauss and Master Ken Smith’s martial arts paths underwent a profound change attending a seminar by the late Professor Remy A. Presas. As a result, they started seeing the connections. So a seminar may be worthwhile!
(2) Watch videos of other martial arts: Check out YouTube videos or instructional videos and look for the connections. This could be a good alternative if you cannot afford to attend a seminar or if a seminar is too far from you. Or you could watch YouTube videos in conjunction with a seminar. For example, I watched several of Maul Mornie’s YouTube videos after attending his two day seminar to remind myself of some of the material he covered.
(3) If you have studied a base art and started studying a second martial art, start consciously looking for the connections. Your patience may be tried at times but stick with it and you’ll eventually see the connections. For example, it took awhile, but once I saw the similarity between single sinawali and the down block (see the gif above), the possibilities of techniques expanded.
(4) Train with an instructor who excels at pointing out the similarities between different martial arts. Why not? If you have a prior martial arts background and you have the opportunity to train with a talented instructor, take it! An instructor who embraces the connection and shows them to you is GOLD! Don’t pass up the chance.
Bottom line, look for the similarities rather than the differences and you’ll start making the connections. I tell you, those “aha” moments are quite fun! You’re only robbing yourself if you look only for the differences.