Have you ever been to the Scottish Games in Woodland CA? Or maybe visited Mission San Juan Bautista during a Native American festival or attended a Cinco De Mayo event? All of these venues are steeped in tradition and culture. You most likely enjoyed the display of artifacts, and were in awe of the traditional art forms and dances that were performed. Maybe even deeper, you may have felt a pang of longing and thought to yourself, “Wow, I wish I had that type of culture and tradition to pass down to the next generation in my family.” If you’re like most of us something inside you secretly idealizes signing up to learn an art form that is rich in culture and tradition. In reality however it may not have made sense if you are, for example, not of Irish decent like Michael Flatley of the famous Irish touring River Dance.
There in lies the beauty of martial arts, it’s culture and tradition is for everyone. Since martial arts came to the Americas in the early 1920s it has spread all across Canada and Europe as a universal art form for all. The practice of martial arts is steeped in culture and tradition that anyone can partake in and is not subject to one ancestral background. Martial arts blends tradition of culture from many countries including China, Japan, the Philippines, Brazil, Thailand, Israel, and many other countries.
There are so many rich cultural nuances in the forms learned and in the traditions preserved through martial arts that you may not even be aware of. For example when yielding a weapon like the Bokken training sword students are taught how to pass the sword to their neighbor in such a way that it gives the receiver the advantage, if they chose to take it that is. Traditionally, this interaction between Japanese swordsmen was a sign of ultimate trust and respect.
Another tradition rich in culture is the bow. Bowing on and off the mat is an ancient practice that symbolizes leaving your troubles of the day at the door or mat and emptying your mind so that you are focused on the here and now and open to learning. This is referred to as Emptying Your Cup. Students are taught When "emptying their cup" to imagine that they’ve balanced a cup of tea on their head, except instead of tea it is full of the thoughts and experiences of their day. (Homework they've been assigned, what happened earlier that day, what’s for dinner that night etc.) Bowing at the door of the dojo empties their cup of those thoughts taking away outside distractions, allowing their cup to be refilled with the knowledge and positive experiences from their Martial Arts class.
Additionally the Philippino martial art of Arnis practices forms using bamboo Eskrima sticks that are both elegant and protective. If you’ve ever seen two martial arts students practicing Sinawali Heaven and Earth with two sets of a Eskrima sticks it’s truly something worthwhile to see and beautiful in its own right.
We have found that when we instill tradition into our daily routine our students become the very best versions of themselves. So no matter your cultural background or ancestry martial arts is a culture for everyone, it transcends all boundaries. It’s a culture and tradition that everyone can partake in.