About two years ago, I became interested in the idea of/philosophy known as Minimalism. I read a few books, followed a few blogs, and got rid of a fair amount of clutter around my house. I'm still working on the last one, which I think may be why I started mentally revisiting the concept recently.
There was a brief period where minimalism seemed to be my latest passion, something that would deeply influence my life and thinking. I thought about how it might apply to the martial arts, to strength and conditioning, to everything around me. And then it passed.
I stopped reading books on the subject. I unsubscribed from every blog on the subject. Occasionally, I'd go revisit one, but I felt like I wasn't finding anything new.
Instead, it seemed that if I looked further down the minimalist rabbit hole, things just got crazy. Arguments about what, exactly, constituted minimalism. Who was really a minimalist? Can you be a minimalist if you don't have children? If you do? If you're single (doubly so if you're male and single)? Challenges to try and cut down one's number of possessions to some arbitrary number of things (and interesting manipulations to make those numbers work).
I say this not to mock the hardcore minimalists, because really, if you look down the martial arts rabbit hole, you find just as much craziness. Maybe more. Martial artists argue about some weird stuff.
I simply came to the realization that I had enough from minimalism to get me where I needed to go. So I stopped going down the rabbit hole.
I think there's a valuable lesson here for martial arts as well, on at least two fronts.
1. For the person interested in self-defense: learning to defend yourself does not have to involve years and years of arduous martial arts training. Some people seem to hold onto a belief that if you can't become a complete master of something, you shouldn't bother learning anything about it. Occasionally, when I tell people about PDR courses I'm offering, I'll get responses like "well, you can't master anything in three hours, so what's the point?" Which is true...you CAN'T master anything in three hours. But you can learn something. Quite possibly, enough.
2. For the dedicated martial artist: the inability to completely master something doesn't mean you shouldn't investigate it. I've gotten some valuable insights from martial arts systems that I will never master, and don't even have any intention of mastering. But a drill here, or a concept there sometimes can make a huge difference. Sometimes, picking up a little bit of something can be better than nothing at all.
There's value in going deep on things, of course, but we can't all go deep on everything. That doesn't mean there's no value in going shallow on occasion.