It’s OK it’s art

Time and again I see the movements of forms dismissed as ‘art’ whether it is the movements themselves or the application that has been demonstrated. The idea that anything is OK if you refer to it as art is not one tht sits well with me. In this article I will be looking at the art argument.

Over the years “it’s art’ has slowly replaced the answer “I don’t know” ask many teachers about the application for a movement in a pattern and maybe they will show the mainstream application. At this point if the student questions the application he is quickly closed down being told it is the art side of TKD. This excuse has been used so much now that almost the entire style of TKD has been reduced to ‘art’, save the small handful techniques that you need for competition.

However if we look at the history and purpose of forms, to hand down fighting methods from teacher to student, then why would art be included? This would be akin to asking a boxer to perform a pirouette during a session of shadow boxing. It serves no purpose and if the forms were created by fighters for fighters then art would have no place in practice.

To take a more modern day view, if I paid someone to fix something in my house but instead they did a whole lot of extra work that looked good but had no practical purpose and in fact didn’t address the issue I needed fixing. Very likely I would call the police. However, this is exactly the same thing that happens when someone goes to a traditional martial arts school wanting to learn self defense. They are put through learning a whole series of applications that aren’t addressing the issue of self defense but is passed off as art.

What does the term ‘art’ mean in this sense anyway? In demonstrating these movements there is no high level of skill presented, most of the poor applications are not ascetically pleasing. In fact I feel the word ‘art’ in this sense only has one other meaning ‘fake’ a useless defense against a useless attack. This idea has allowed people to create any number of applications and forms that have no purpose. Is it any wonder then that respect for traditional martial arts have declined over the years.

In my mind what the term ‘art’ should be meaning is’ beyond skill’. When a person reaches the level that ever the most complex movements are part of their natural responses. As an example I also study the Filipino marital art of Balintawak, the movements of this style are vicious to say the least, but when you see two high level practitioners training together it Is impressive and beautiful. There are no wasted movements but just people acting and reacting. Like all other expressions of art to get to this level takes time and dedication. Most importantly it takes research into the real purpose of movements.

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