Monday, September 23, 2019

When did teaching martial arts become not enough?

When did teaching/learning martial arts become not enough? Is teaching/learning martial arts relevant anymore?

I am continually seeing fitness appended to martial arts when advertising or promoting one's teachings. My old school, or at least the school that emerged from my old school, rebranded itself from Jan de Jong Self Defence School to Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness. The WA Institute of Martial Arts advertises 'Martial Arts Fitness is here.' I just saw another advert/promotion directly coupling martial arts with fitness.

Is a dojo now also a gym? What is the focus of the teaching, martial arts or fitness? Do you ever see cricket, football, basketball etc directly coupled with fitness? 'Football fitness is here.' 'Netball fitness is here.' You don't see other physically activities desperately trying to establish relevance by appending their activity to fitness.

If the focus is on fitness, what impact does that have on martial arts teaching?

Efficiency is a feature of Jigoro Kano's teachings. Efficiency means less effort. The more efficient your tactics and techniques the less effort required to execute them. Does that mean that teachings which teach efficient tactics and techniques are less because they don't focus on fitness which requires more effort?

I understand the marketing impulse to try and extend the brand from martial arts to the fitness industry given the interest in martial arts appears to be waning. But does extending the brand mean that the brand loses meaning? Or that the product is over extended? Is aikido a means to get fit rather than to learn aikido?

When I teach, I am only interested in fitness insofar as it contributes to martial arts effectiveness. I am not interested in teaching fitness for the sake of fitness. If you are unfit and effective, it's all good to me. If you want to get fit, for whatever reason, join a gym. Go for a run. Stop driving your car and walk to work or school.

The two best instructors in the Jan de Jong Self Defence School were Shihan Jan de Jong and Sensei Greg Palmer. Nobody would ever accuse them of being fit, however, they were extremely effective as practitioners and most definitely as teachers. When I wanted to learn martial arts, I'd go to them before any of the other 'fit' instructors.


  1. "kodokan judo" by jigoro Kano. Chapter 2: principal and aims of judo- judo as physical education

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful and knowledgeable comment. I appreciate those types of comments to my posts as it challenges my ideas and work. Your comment formed the basis for my next post. Thank you again.


Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.