Contributed by S. Cockell
Within the martial arts world there is a developing trend of combining different skills from different martial arts to form a system which fighters can use in the ring. The desire is to form a martial art that is not restricted by a singular doctrine of thought as in the case of styles such as judo, karate and boxing .This trend which is sweeping the modern world and can partially be attributed to the rapid rise of the phenomenon that is No Rules Fighting.
This allows us to see the evolution of a new combat style in its early developmental stage. To understand this trend we should travel back in time to see how the ancient martial arts styles have evolved. From this we will learn that what is happening today is just a case of reinventing the wheel. All warriors of past times have added new skills that were acquired in a variety of ways to their combative arts in order to survive. This fact can be seen throughout the history of humankind. The fighting arts have evolved into a huge number of amazing systems that continue to develop over mankind’s hundreds of years of survival.
The human body, consisting of two arms, two legs, a torso and a head has a finite number of tools at its disposal to use in battle with another human and until we evolve by growing another head or limb our combat systems will be based on this fact. From our earliest survival needs when our mammalian ancestors needed to use their teeth and claws to defend a piece of meat to insure their survival these tools have been used under many different names. Every fighting art has a name for the clenched human fist. The creative and adaptive nature of the human mind allows us to develop many different ways to use these skills; from instinctively lashing out with our hands or observing and mimicking animals fighting to mystical dreams that tell us how to overcome combative situations. Humans have formed systems of fighting that utilise the natural human weapons such as fists, feet, teeth, finger nails, knees and elbows as well as systems using weapons that we have constructed. More on this subject later.
As human understanding of anatomy developed we learnt where to strike to cause maximum effect and damage. In the early development trial and error would lead us to discovery “Wow! If I poke him in the eyes and he can’t see therefore, he can’t fight effectively.” Actual first hand experience and survival in combat is the best teacher. A mentor or master could pass on the knowledge that would instruct us where to hit or what to do in a combat situation. Later texts and manuscripts would also pass on the knowledge that warriors had obtained if he had learnt to write.
In the fighting elite circles these ideas would be exchanged with trusted allies to enhance your chances of survival on the battlefield. Other areas where martial arts would be combined were monasteries of fighting monks, away from prying eyes, secret techniques could be perfected. The Shaolin monastery in China is a prime example of this. Monks would travel far and wide in search of knowledge and then return with their experiences and skills they had used to survive in battle. Many secret societies Hashishim of Syria, the Ninja of Japan or the Thugee cult of India developed successful fighting systems that combined many styles to benefit the clan, group, or monastery. We can see that the combining of combative knowledge appears throughout the history of humankind.
These combined systems consisted of fighting techniques that were effective and survived because they accomplished the desired result e.g. defeating your opponent or opponents. It is a natural process and to quote the late and great Bruce Lee “keep and use what works and discard what doesn’t, hack away the non essential.” In olden times the warriors and “Sensei” would have been men who killed and survived in the battlefields with their fighting skills and these skills were a desirable commodity, after all you don’t learn combat survival skills from someone who has never been on the battlefield. Students would travel for miles to learn skills from these warriors. Experienced warriors such as the legendary Miyamoto Musashi were invited to stay and teach at Warlords estates and schools of martial arts and gained a lot of respect, victories and wealth from this.
The fighting elite were amongst the most feared and respected members of their society after all “the man holding the sword over your neck holds the power.” Every culture in humankind’s history has such warrior elite Knights of Europe , Mamluks of Arabia , Samurai of Japan and Kshatriya of India to name a few .They all would have had fighting systems known only to them that they trained , honed and used in battle to conquer new lands or defend the survival of their culture . The same can be said in the development of Ninjutsu from which the Maai Hyoshi is derived.
In the 1580’s the Samurai Warlord Oda Nobunaga started to exterminate troublesome warrior monks (known as Sohei), bandits and Ninja of the Yamashiro, Ise and Iga provinces of Japan. The reason being, that they posed a threat to his intended position of Shogun. The Ninja would have started to combine their fighting techniques with the bandits and warrior monks in order to survive not through any desired learning or friendly exchange but a pure need for survival. Their numbers were too small to match Nobunaga’s army and the retreating warrior monks and bandits needed all the support they could get. It is only natural that these defeated clans would merge for survival purposes. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” has meaning when applied to this situation. This fusion of tactics and techniques by fighting along side each other is another way that martial arts would combine. The fusion of ideas and hard earned battlefield knowledge is how we at the Maai Hyoshi Dojos view the combining of Ninjutsu with other systems.
The skills that would have been exchanged would have been simple, effective and brutal because they relied on surviving in the battlefield. It is understandable that a warrior may have only had four or five such techniques but they would be honed to perfection and would give the warrior an edge in battle. One can then see the value in keeping these skills secret.
The idea of secret and mystical fighting methods has always had great appeal. The thought of disappearing into an ancient monastery to learn some ancient martial art intrigues us all. Just watch the movie Batman Begins to see a comic book example of this. In today’s times with encyclopaedias, the internet and youtube one can find martial arts any where. This has lead to less and less "secrets" in the Martial Arts, this is partly due to the fact that in most cases the loser of a fight, especially in mixed martial arts competitions survives to fight another day .The loser has the chance to analyse how he lost and what skills his opponent used to defeat him . In life and death combat the loser had no such luxury because the loser was usually dead or if he was lucky??? maimed. Imagine having the skills that had defeated many men - would you want to share such knowledge with every Tom, Dick or Harry - If it could be used against you at a later time? When you lose a fight and live you can retrain or learn to counter the techniques you lost to and therefore you combine your techniques to further your chance of success next time you fight. This gives us insight into why mixed martial arts competitions are becoming so popular. Miyamoto Musashi is a warrior who defeated 60 men in duels to the death and never lost. He had a philosophy which is very insightful to this development “study and learn all styles , but my style is best” seems to sum up what modern martial artist are doing very well , as to does the late Helio Gracie, one of the founders of Gracie Brazilian Jiujutsu, with his quote “To defeat Brazilian Jiujutsu you must learn Brazilian Jiujutsu.”
Insight into your opposition can give you the edge in any confrontation .In the early 1990’s Brazilian Jiujutsu or BJJ became the dominant fighting art. No one had seen this way of fighting before, with Royce Gracie, son of the Late Helio Gracie dominating the No Rules Fighting scene with stunning displays of endurance and ground based fighting he went undefeated in three of these ultimate fight tournaments. But from his success, people learnt his methods and styles began to form and a new breed of fighter began to appear. One who was more of an all rounder in his fighting capabilities. This fighter took skills from all styles of martial arts and honed them to perfection just like the warriors of old. Try to envision a fighter with the boxing skills of Mike Tyson, the Muay Thai skills of Saenchai Sor Kingstar, the Greco Roman Wrestling skills of the great Russian Aleksandr Medved and the submission skills of BJJ exponent Royce Gracie all rolled into one package and you begin to understand how and why combining martial arts works.
In modern times we see martial arts clubs forming that do the same thing a Boxing gym merges with a Muay Thai stable and they merge with a BJJ school and a hybrid system is formed that allows the student to develop a skills base form all of these styles. This then allows the student to compete in mixed martial arts competitions knowing he has the skills to give him the edge over the opponent who only trains in one school. Having the ability to adapt to fight in different ways can lead to victory. Take you opponent away from his strengths and fight him where he’s weak. Remember what the warrior scholar Sun Tzu states “know yourself and know your enemy and you’ll never be defeated in one hundred battles.”