Martial training doesn't work if you don't get out of your armchair (though there are the well-known armchair martial-artists, those who practice tongue-fu!).

Only connecting the brain is bad. The body has to work to connect the information with the brain - only then is the lesson truly understood.

Are we doing each other, and every reader of the answers, a disservice by answering too fully? Should we leave something to the imagination, something to be worked out, so to speak, in order to give the body something to do?

Is there a parallel between the patent social growth towards intellectualism and mind-body split (earphones + TV while running on the treadmill so you're not "bored" when what you should be doing is focusing on what you're doing) ?

Are we a manifestation of this split?

  • 1
    Initially I was very skeptical of this question, but over time I've begun to wonder if I was too hasty. I don't think that MA:SE will damage our training, but I wonder if Trevoke isn't on to something. Martial arts are, in my experience, experiential and non-verbal (Can't remember the formal term). Does that mean that there is a disjoint between the types of questions that are appropriate for SE: (objective, empirical) are distinct from those that occur in martial arts.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 14:11
  • @MarkC.Wallace SE has subjective sites; there are a number of additional considerations for them. I would also argue that much of martial arts is indeed subject to empirical inquiry. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 16:41
  • Good catch. I think however that much of the discussion on meta has been about making MASE objective & empirical. Am I wrong about that? And wrt martial arts & empirical inquiry, that is a fascinating discussion, but we need to find a framework that will permit us to discuss that (along with "effective" and a few other problematic words.)
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 17:33
  • @DaveLiepmann Could you give us an example or two of such subjective sites, please?
    – Anon
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 20:04
  • 1
    @Trevoke Just off the top of my head, without digging in the SE blog, there's programmers, gaming, the defunct parenting site... Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 20:12

2 Answers 2


No amount of telling or answering is ever going to give the whole picture. According to Maxwell Maltz in his book Psycho-Cybernetics:

Experimental and clinical psychologists have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the human nervous system cannot tell the difference between an “actual” experience and an experience imagined vividly and in detail.

Speaking from first-hand experience, visualization is a key component in my training, and from the experiences of training, I was able to better understand spoken or written advice from my instructors.

The answers here are of no consequence or use to anyone without the will and training to understand them – to fill in the gaps in their own capabilities with the little bits of paste we squeeze out here.

This site is a tool – it's no different than adding a weight to your ankles. If you give it more consideration than that, you've lost sight of your own training and should consider taking a break.


Do we have a responsibility?

No. We don't at all. You, as the reader, have the responsibility to use what you absorb in reasonable fashion. I am not accepting responsibility for your actions if you have no sense.

Here, let me ask you the question another way: Why did the old masters, in the past thousand years, not put down into words all those things?

Words confer ideas, not the understanding of those ideas. The old masters (those that could write or afford a scribe) did put these down in writing – in Japan, they did so in densho and makimono.

Why did we have to find this out through our training? Why not through reading?

The problem is with the time period: Public education in the US didn't really take off until the 1840s when only about 55% of children recorded in the census (about 3.66 Million girls and boys) between the ages of 5 and 15 were receiving an education. Similarly, literacy in the bushi of Japan didn't increase until Edo jidai when the role of the warrior class moved from warfare to more administrative acts. In meiji jidai, by about 1870, estimates of people receiving an education were about 40-50%, and up to 90% by 1900.

So why did they not learn by reading? Multiple reasons:

  1. Literacy
  2. Ambiguity - Words convey ideas, not the understanding of those ideas.
  3. Even if one does understand the idea, one must act to train capability

Ultimately, training is the only way to take an idea and move it into capability.

Edit (Again)

There is a time for talking and a time for action. Many warrior cultures favored the idea of discourse and meditations of violence as a means of acquainting themselves with it and the experience of those who came before.

We do not do both: after training, we'll often have dinner on the weekends, or tea during the week. This is a time to reflect, discuss experience, and to discuss what we don't understand. This is time with Buyu, the warrior-friend whom you train with, and may or may not find yourself beside in a violent situation. As much as I train for my students to protect themselves, it's imperative they learn how to fight in concert as well; to know their buyu and be able to understand how they'd move.

In my eyes, even the most infuriating among the users here are buyu – I understand more about myself and my abilities through them and their experiences. This is tea after training.

As for responsibility, I understand and pursue my personal limitations. I hold myself responsible for my actions and my training; therefore, for me, this site has its purpose. It is never my responsibility to worry about whether or not the rest of you understand that for yourselves; it is each person's own responsibility to use this site in a responsible manner.

Let me put this plainly:

I am not your teacher, nor anyone else's here (so far as I know). On this site, we are all students.


  • Of course. However, people have a tendency to get in their minds too much. And minds can play tricks. I hate to say such basic things to a bujinkan player. This site is a wonderful place for people to get lost. Do we have a responsibility? That is the question I am asking.
    – Anon
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 18:03
  • Here, let me ask you the question another way: Why did the old masters, in the past thousand years, not put down into words all those things? I can guarantee you we're not the first ones to walk down this path. Why did we have to find this out through our training? Why not through reading? This is a serious question.
    – Anon
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 0:42
  • @Trevoke Across all of history, teachers did write down their teachings. We have wall murals from ancient peoples, written documentation of medieval wrestlers and knife-fighters and swordsmen galore. Many teachers (particularly the Okinawans and many Chinese) didn't write it down because they were about as formal as a parkour group, or they didn't have a printing press, or they weren't literate. They didn't look at DVDs and web forums and decide it was bad for their progress. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 2:33
  • @DaveLiepmann your comment has many generalizations and assumptions and I have a hard time getting its rightful value. Yes, some things are written down. Why are they images? We know more about the body now than we did then; yet that doesn't really seem to help us on the road to mastery. I say this because I do not think we have more masters now, proportionally speaking, than we did back then.
    – Anon
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 15:59
  • @Trevoke I disagree on both points. It's magical thinking to say that there were more highly skilled people in the past; we are in a golden age of martial arts, with more people spending more time, more efficiently, at a higher rate of communication and exchange of ideas, than ever before in the history of mankind. Any modern champion in MMA, sub grappling, knockdown karate, muay Thai, or boxing would demolish nearly anyone in previous eras. (In wrestling there might be some upsets.) Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 16:19
  • @DaveLiepmann Your comment is certainly matter for consideration, but it has nothing to do with what I wrote.
    – Anon
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 20:03
  • I've edited the question to add some more stuff. Stslavik: I know this. You know this. And you teach, I believe, so you must have awareness of what talking too much does to a student. Will this site do, albeit unwittingly, the same thing?
    – Anon
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 22:21
  • @Trevoke I posted my final edit on this discussion. I've said my peace. [tl;dr]: Not my problem.
    – stslavik
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 15:44
  • @stslavik I wish I could upvote this another two times--once for each edit. Well said and I'm glad to learn the new terminology. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 16:59

I think it's actually a good question, but I doubt we have to worry about answering questions too fully. Nobody knows everything there is to know about martial arts, so there will always be something left over to figure out.

Figuring stuff out yourself is good, but that doesn't mean you should go through re-inventing the wheel if someone else can impart you with their experience, so it really is best to try to answer questions as well as we can. That gets anyone reading it caught up at least as far as we are, and if they figure something else out, they might return the favour.

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