Friday, September 7, 2012

Conformity vs. Creativity in the Martial Arts

Why do you think it is that 'martial arts' in today's society remain so impoverished of actual artistic expression? Why is artistic expression so discouraged? At what point in any typical martial arts school is artistry encouraged? How can we change that?

To answer your questions.  It is because of business, huge profits are generated when you encourage people to be false.  If you are completely self-sufficient, you will not stimulate the economy.  The economy functions by you being guided by your desires to enhance your ego.  When you are a slave to your ego, the businesses will profit, when you are a Master of your ego, the businesses suffer.  Every University wants you to join their University; they don't want you to create your own. 

Most of every Martial Arts school will want you to pass on their lineage, they don't want you to start your own because then their school may not pass onto the next generation, it is an ego trip.  The mind becomes identified to your name, & then you want to pass that name onto the next generation, but in actuality, we are all born with no name, names are just used as a utility for us to communicate & identify, but it is not truth.  Truth cannot be labeled, but the ego will still try to label, & through labeling it will continually seek to survive.  

A Martial Artist will encourage artistry when he has decided to surrender his ego.  When you surrender your ego, you are no longer seeking to enhance it by having others carry on your name.  This is against business & this is certainly against all corporations.  If you are making a living from a profession outside of the Martial Arts, it may allow you the freedom to encourage all to be creative & not to follow.  But if your way of survival is dependent on the income generated by your students, it may be hard to encourage your students to be creative, as then you are promoting against your own business. 

When you enter a gym, the gym owner is not overlooking you & preventing your creativity within that gym.  You are free to train the way you wish to train based on the tools available in that gym.  But a Martial Arts school owner will seek to control your development as a Martial Artist.  If you give him permission, he will take control.  If he is not awakened, he will seek to control you until the very end, he will seek to turn you into a machine & discourage you from being creative.  If he is awakened, he will give you the tools that are required in order to be creative when the time is right. 

And the question is, when is the right time?  He may set the standard to be the black belt, the black sash, the gold shield, the Sifu title, etc.  In society you are not considered an adult by law until you are 18.  You are considered a child until you are 18.  According to law, you need to have experienced life for 18 years in order to gain more freedom.  With this greater freedom, you are expected to be more responsible.  Now your parents are no longer responsible for you, you are responsible for yourself. 

In the Martial Arts, your Sifu will give you the freedom to be creative when you are responsible & ready.  And when will you be responsible & ready?  Time will tell, the Sifu will see how responsible you are inside & outside of class.  If you do not continually demonstrate responsibility, you are not ready to be creative, it is safer to follow.  Not all will take the step forward to be self-sufficient & creative, most would rather choose to be dependent, it is easier to be dependent.  Those who are dependent are the ones who fund the school, the Sifu then must be able to provide a path of dependency & the path of independency.  The path of independency is the path of being self-expressive & creative, the path of dependency is the path of conformity & structure. 

The path of dependency is the path of business & corporations.  The path of independency is the path of the Artist.  The society promotes conformity & business; it does not promote independency & creativity.  The Sifu must be able to adapt to the masses in order to have the kwoon survive.  If the Sifu cannot adapt, the kwoon will shut down.  The Sifu’s artistic individual self-expression will stay alive as long as he is living, but the kwoon will shut down without the proper business structure that promotes conformity. 

The Sifu is caught between a double edged sword.  If he promotes independency, he is going against the business structure.  If he promotes dependency, he is going against the core values of what it means to be an Artist.  If the Sifu is able to find a way to generate income without the need of profiting from the Martial Arts, his teachings can remain pure & uncorrupted. 

The way this can be changed is if Martial Artists can come together to contribute towards a real expression.  But because there are so many egos involved in the Martial Arts, it is very difficult to bring together Martial Artists who will have the openness to work with one another.  If 50 Martial Artists came together and contributed $100/month, that would generate $5000/month towards the promotion of something real.  Then there would be no school owner that would have to result in corrupting the Martial Arts in order to profit. 

The money to run the school is already available; it would make no sense for the school owner to corrupt the Martial Arts in order to survive.  Through the support of the Martial Artist community, the power in the schools expression stays in the hands of the Martial Artists, not in the mass of society whom do not have any understanding of the Martial Arts.  With this Martial Arts community, they can slowly train the masses to understand the meaning of real Martial Arts; they can slowly work together towards educating the public on real Martial Arts.  The public will never gain power over the school because the school is entirely self-sufficient, even if there is not one student, the school still survives from the Martial Artists within the school who are contributing towards its survival. 

The Martial Artists within the school are all Teachers & Students.  The title of Shi zu or Sifu is just used as a utility to keep an organized structure in the governing of all those involved.  It is like an owner of a gym, he is there but he is not there.  He is there when he is needed, but for the most part, the gym will operate in efficiency without his presence.  His presence is only needed in major decisions in regards to the advancement of the gym.  May it be to build & expand, to add or subtract services that are offered, & things related to the overall management of the gym.  Those who participate in the gym by paying their gym membership, need not overly worry about any of this, they simply enjoy the experience of exercise within the gym. 

The Sifu is like the gym owner, he does not step in & tell the people how to exercise & how not to, unless of course the people ask for him to do so.  He allows them the freedom to exercise as they please as long as they follow the ground rules of the gym.  The Sifu determines the ground rules for the kwoon, those who do not follow the ground rules will be expelled.  Those who do not follow the ground rules for the gym will also be asked to leave.  But because a kwoon incorporates techniques that can potentially be lethal, more serious rules are established within the kwoon than in the gym.  It is like comparing the responsibility required between a security guard who is unarmed and a Police Officer.  A Sifu must be much more responsible with the operation of his kwoon than compared to a gym owner. 


  1. Thank you for responding to these questions Shi Zu. I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to be part of this journey with you. I never could have imagined that I would participate in a kwoon through online connection. If anyone asked me about this possibility a year ago, I would have laughed with the thought, "Why would you ever want to do that online, when you can work face to face with people just about anywhere?" But the fact is, there aren't a lot of sifus out there who are advocating healthy, holistic development and creativity the way you are. And despite what might ordinarily be the typical business model for martial arts schools, when you offer something that is rare, that can't be found in most businesses, you have a better chance of being successful. So I think you're going about this the right way, both business-wise and ethically. If it ever really sinks in among the public that martial arts schools are the only institutions of artistic training that actually discourage creativity, well maybe then we'll see a broader change. But they'll need an example of something different, and I think FMK can be that example

  2. It was great reading the thoughts of a Sifu on this subject. Most of the time, disciples come in a kwoon and they want so many things, that it's hard for the Sifu to cope with individual ambitions and at the same time, showing a way that does include self expression.
    As you underlined it, it is extremely difficult to know when a disciple is ready. I would add that a master also has to design the frame in which his disciple could express at his best. Just like painting includes composition and color types or music rythms and melodies, there will be a specific era where the artist will express his essence using all his potential.


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