Yesterday I was talking about some events with the BDFS with a student of mine. I mentioned John Keehan/Count Dante and how he was training and thinking in 1960s. Specifically, how Dante had students drinking and smoking in class to simulate "bar room conditions" which was all part of simulating combat conditions. My student's reply was "That is like how you were training us, in street cloths and stuff..."
You see Dante was an influence on me later on in life (my 20's) and Bruce Lee was an influence during my teens. Both heavily encouraged cross training and as a Black Dragon Fighting Society member I have the benefit of doing exactly that, we aren't a single art organization. If you ever read any of Dante's writings on the martial arts you'll know he didn't want to create a "new art" but, he did want to improve existing one's. Much of Dante's philosophy and ideas mirror those of Jeet Kune Do creator Bruce Lee. Being an influence on me, I've always tried to find better ways of training. I remember getting in trouble when I was nine years old because I had this idea to swing the heavy bag to simulate a moving opponent; my instructor just told us to line up and practice jump kicks against the heavy bag & I found a way to improve to exercise.
Some might find that arrogance but it came from a simple thought I had, as a someone on the receiving end what would be my first reaction? To move out the way. So why not learn to hit a moving target? It all seemed common sense to me. You see to understand my frame of mind you have to understand my childhood, when I three years old my dad, high on PCP tried to kill my mom. I remember bits and pieces of it. Enough to know I wanted to be strong and being a child of the 80's I had a whole mess of martial arts flicks to convince me that learning martial arts would do that for me. Also consider that my mother was a black belt in karate and started teaching my at 2 1/2- 3 years old. A large part of my child was devoted to becoming stronger. Sure I had other influences like Dukes of Hazard, MacGyver and the A-Team that showed anyone with a brain could improvise weapons tools. Which lead me to studying the Anarchist Cookbook as a teenager, which lead me to Uncle Fester (of Chemistry Porn fame). All this shows the elements that came to my understanding of creates an effective system.
You see these elements & ideas stuck with me even though I was learning martial arts, and of course Bruce Lee's philosophy (which I was first exposed to) through his movies. My mom, didn't believe in limiting yourself to one style of martial arts. Most of all, my mom didn't believe in having me to learn from "Paper Tigers" people with rank but little actual application experience. So many of my instructors were not always highly ranked but had a good bit of experience using what they knew.
How you use your art is vastly more important then what your rank is. Allow me explain, I had 2 karate instructors who were both Sandan (3 degree black belts). One was a Vietnam veteran with a habit of mixing hand-to-hand combatives in with his martial arts classes (he taught more then one art) and other an outlaw biker. I don't know if Sensei Smalls even used his art in combat in the military however, he did use it in bar brawls and back alley fights as a younger man. Sensei Massey of course was an outlaw biker & used his art in much the same environment. Their knowledge earned from experience out weighed their rank.
Now do not get me wrong, I am not glorifying violence or criminality but your experiences, even the things you draw inspiration from like TV and music, shapes who you are by influencing your judgement. Think about how you have some people in your life who always tell you how pathetic you are compared to them or your "heroes" suck compared to their "heroes." These are the people who try to influence you to fail so that they can feel superior. There are people who try to make you feel you can do anything. What influences you becomes a part of who you are, because effects your actions and thoughts. Ultimately, you have to use your art and the conditions for which you use it influence how you define you art. Definition alone does not matter...
I come from a family of criminals, I've seen things many people are totally unaware of. The world is not as clear cut, black and white as people want to believe. Some would say that the apple doesn't fall from the tree, well guess what... I've seen apple trees in the woods alone in clearings, things change. That is the one constant in life, events, people, outlooks and understandings are mutable. My mom, before I was born had seen how mobsters taught their kids, how these people not only had kids learning boxing and wrestling, karate and judo but how they were taught about business and philosophy. So my mom having seen this tried to emulate by who she found as my instructors. If I were to be a criminal, I would be a very dangerous and influential one. This is not me bragging or pumping myself up... It is me saying that I know who am because of what I have done.
You see in my experiences, which do extend across the globe to South Korea, Beijing and Japan, people are very much the same... The people who have to pull out their rank of (enter martial art here) don't have a reputation or the experience to back up their hype. Martial arts brings many benefits: enhanced fitness, self-confidence, mental focus and self-discipline. So don't think I'm bashing martial arts, even the less combat effective arts have benefits for children and adults alike. The one thing not all martial arts do is teach you to fight effectively.
Now don't think I am bashing martial arts, I am not. What I am doing to simply laying out the facts, as I see them. I kind of got off track here, but the jist of what I wanted to convey was simply that one's applications and experience defines one's art. An enlightened approach is to know yourself and your art for what it is.