I find it slightly amusing that quite often when I talk to other martial artists, some of them get so worked up about what's practical and what isn't. In one discussion, we were talking about martial arts weaponry including bo staffs and swords. This one fellow was commenting that swords are not practical since we don't usually carry around swords anymore but sticks can be found anywhere, which can substitute for staffs.
This is the same type of fellow who would discredit the fancy moves in many bo staff forms, especially the open and extreme style of weapons forms since they are not practical for the streets. Although he has a point in all this, he is missing something that will be very relevant for many martial artists.
Although many of the fancy moves in both weapons and non-weapons martial arts forms as well as unpractical weapons such as swords have very little use in real life combat or self defense situations, one should not forget that there are other purposes with these.
Many martial arts techniques and activities, no matter how unpractical they are, can still be done for the pure enjoyment. There's the exercise involved, which benefits health both physically and mentally. There's the show aspect, which entertains audiences (and what's wrong with entertaining audiences?).
There's the progression of skills involved, which help with confidence levels to do other things in life. This is certainly practical for one's own personal development.
There's also the lowering of boredom because a bit of variety in martial arts enables people to train and keep interested in martial arts much longer. The evidence in this is for those who take up martial arts just to learn practical techniques and nothing else, their years spent in martial arts are often relatively short because after they learn the practical aspects, they just become bored.
Yes, we've come a long way in the martial arts world in terms of realizing what exactly is practical and what is not. This may have started out with Bruce Lee when he pounced on classical and traditional techniques. Of course, he had strong points which ultimately led to mixed martial arts or MMA which are so popular these days.
At the same time, open style martial arts forms became more exciting and extreme in the competition circuits and this includes the introduction of Chinese wushu. These developments may seem to be in complete contrast to the MMA mixed martial arts movement.
These seem like two very distinct and distant camps in the martial arts world. As a result, many martial artists from the practical side would be quick to discredit the 'fancy' side. But really, there's no need to.
So there are many other aspects to martial arts besides just the practical techniques. The whole enjoyment that non-practical, i.e., the fancy stuff in martial arts, should not be discounted. Martial artists can train with these other techniques no matter how useless they would be on the street just for the pure enjoyment. Train for similar reasons why people choose to play tennis or golf. For the pure enjoyment.
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