Style VS Method
Style is individual! The representation of one’s expression, creativity and natural attributes. It is not to be copied or taught.
Method is a standard! It is a procedure of attaining a specific goal. A method can be shared and used by many in the attainment of a specific objective or goal.
When discussing martial arts it is necessary to understand that style is the individual expression of the artist and method is what created the artist.
A good example would be boxing. Everyone understands what boxing is. Boxing is defined by its rules, the athletes have a clear understanding of what they are setting out to do, they are going to out box another boxer! How they box is their style, i.e. the slugger vs the boxer!
How they were trained would be the method that was used to aide in the development of their style.
Methods can be associated with coaches or gyms. Methods could contain strategies, drills, exercises and conditioning.
The coach or teacher would use the method in order to develop the athlete’s boxing style.
However, in the world of martial arts it is a common belief that the martial arts are divided by styles.
This common cookie cutter approach encourages the artist to represent his chosen art by tactics and techniques leaving little place for individual expression.
Furthermore, this approach also creates segregation and animosity between styles which is the prefect breeding ground for encouraging prejudice!
This is further compounded by the confusion of combative sports vs contemporary martial arts. Both of which can further be divided into subgroups defined by rules, appearances, uniforms, languages, etc…
This has not always been the case!
There was a time when martial arts were built out of necessity for pragmatic purposes. They were made to suit a need, the need for self-preservation. This need was common across the globe. Every culture or region had this need in common.
What might have been different could have been things like environment, weapons and or cultural beliefs. All of which could have created different methods to satisfy the need.
But these differences would have been less significant where environment and weaponry would have been similar.
Common methods would have evolved independently across regions and cultures. Just like the boat was invented to satisfy the need to sail on water.
Style would have been the domain of creativity, logic, intelligence and natural attributes, all of which are individual from human to human.
In this way of thinking the art would be the method and the style would be the individual’s expression or end result of the artist.
This is not a free for all approach this is simply not allowing yourself to be a prisoner to your “style”.
Morinobu Itoman was a police officer during the golden age of Karate, here is what he had to say about learning martial arts.
“Following, breaking and transcending involve a student first copying the form of his teacher and restraining himself from making personal changes to it. Next, he breaks or separates his practice form that of his teacher trying to exceed him. Finally, he transcends his teacher’s instruction and finds his own unique military art.”
This was firmly understood by the ancient masters.
Styles were not created by the ancient masters, they were created by social and political reform, cultural pressures and student’s attempts to honour their teacher compounded by evolution, entertainment and propaganda.
Martial arts need to unite and share not divide and segregate!
As martial artists we need to remember that we have more in common that unite us then differences that divide us!