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By Allen Woodman To begin is the courage and conviction to search for knowledge. It is that challenge within oneself to take that first step. To approach a true understanding of any martial arts one must have the desire to open one’s self up new ideas and philosophies. It’s the culmination of bridging a divide between what one knows and the unknown. Starting a martial arts system of training is one of the truest ways to find one’s own self and discover the history, culture and science of another. Within the martial arts there are so many various martial arts and styles that it would truly boggle the mind to attempt count. The martial arts of any styles or systems have their own individual nuances and traits that make up its approach to conflict. Each martial art separately has within itself a separate meaning to the individual that studies the art. Each person will retain the mirror of that which is put forth in training hours and study. The makeup of any martial art in my belief is held within each student. The basis of each students understanding of their art or system comes from their already pre-existing ideologies, concepts of balance and lifes affirming nature of self reliance and self defense. It is my most humbled opinion that all martial arts are basically equal. In their inception the separate art forms and systems have reached an entirely new pinnacle of understanding of movement and how it best suits an individual person. Each art is as different in its approach to learning and use different techniques and applications but ultimately find themselves at the same goal. To be able to defend one’s self or to defend another is the ultimate goal of every martial art. It is the methodology and concept that differ but, never the result. The countless defensive systems that are taught today are unparalleled in number. The range of arts varies from pure defensive to aggressive to cultural and even sport application. It is within these divides that we can peek in to the human soul and psyche to learn more about man himself. The history and context in which each art or style place themselves; defines the nature of the art. In the end the results are the learned skills that set each apart yet somehow connect each other to a whole. Martial arts are a collective. They borrow and bend techniques to build their own bridges of understanding. You will find that most martial arts can be rooted back to only a handful of original styles or schools of learning. Since the divination of man, the martial arts styles and systems have been broken apart either by politics or by

practicality. They have been separated only by the individuals that learn them. Where one wishes to give ground, another desires to take it. It is in each art that you will find the separations and small differences. It is what makes the system or style work and flow. Each difference breathes life in to itself and becomes the subtle movements and positions that form the very nature of the art. When seeking out a course of study the most important aspect to consider is the instructor of the art. Although the arts are somewhat connected and often formulaic, it is the teachers that will define how you as a student receive the information. The Instructor is the pinnacle of your learning. Because the arts and styles are so vast and complex, it is the instructor that will guide the student through the various aspects that comprise the art of study. The instructor should place learning and practice above all else. They are the beacon light for others to follow the path. A martial arts instructor is often placed in such high regard that they are many times seen as earthly bound deity of the study. Students who follow this path are losing the true sight of what they seek. Instructors of the highest caliber are heralded with title and status as a sign of respect for the knowledge and history that they carry. As it should be they are held to a higher standard and scope. The instructors are the students’ window to themselves. The Masters of today represent the future of martial arts in its entirety. The title Master is a sign of respect and honor. Often misused it conjures images of an untouchable priest like warrior. To be a true master one must only master one’s self. In the martial arts you can find the levels of mastery as many as the arts themselves. The first level is the Shodan (by Japanese standards). This is the entry point to become and instructor. Although many arts and schools of learning use other titles and names, it is the most accepted term for a black belt level instructor. This is the first level of achievement that demonstrates the competency and basic understanding of the art of their select. This person has a basic understanding of their respective art form. The second level is the Nidan (By Japanese terminology) A slightly elevated status of instructor showing that this instructor has devoted more time in their training. The steps of instructor ship continue upward from three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ultimately to tenth degree black belt. In most traditional arts the coveted tenth degree is the most highly honored and elevated level. This tenth degree names the instructor as the head or chief of the entire art, system or style. There would be none higher than this level in traditional circles of martial arts. This highest honor would be the pinnacle of training and mastery of the specific art form or school associated

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