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Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Stick Grappler commented on this post

"I find I have too broad a focus in my training, and should just narrow it down to 1 or 2 aspects/styles. Too many choices, not enough time to train them all."

Edited to add: Stick Grappler's comment got me thinking. This post isn't directed at him, particularly. The comment just made me think of this stuff.

Martial arts instructors often look down on the dabbler. The person who studies a number of different arts, often with great enthusiasm, but who is trying to learn so much that they are hindering their own path toward mastery. The disdain, on a certain level, is understandable. Most instructors have found a system, or small set of systems, that they have devoted themselves to mastering. And those on the path to mastery are rarely satisfied with just being okay, or even pretty good, at their chosen discipline. They want to be the best they can possibly be at it.

I get that line of thinking. But, in thinking about the dabbler, I have to wonder...are they so awful?

Will someone who spreads their training out amongst four or five different arts ever be as good at any one of those arts as someone who devotes themselves solely to one of those arts? No, probably not.

As a concrete example of this: I have watched good MMA fighters box with good boxers. The boxers always win, hands down. It's not that the MMA fighters aren't good, or tough, but they are in the boxers' world, and in that world, the boxer is king.

As I think of that, that's actually a very illustrative example.

The MMA fighter will not be as good at any single discipline as the boxer, Nak Muay, BJJ specialist, or Judoka. The MMA fighter can't be. For every hour they box, the boxer will box for five. If it's a race, the MMA fighter is losing.

But it's not a race: the MMA fighter doesn't need to be able to out box the boxer. That's not his sport. The MMA fighter needs to be able to fight in MMA, not boxing.

(Of course, MMA is a specialization of it's own at this point. The example isn't perfect. Still, it sort of works, especially if you take it out of the realm of the competitive athlete and just look at the average trainee.)

If you have two hobbyists: one spends a year doing nothing but boxing. The other spreads his training time between boxing, Muay Thai, and BJJ, with an occasional self-defense class. At the end of the year, the one who devoted all of his time to boxing will be a better boxer. Both, however, will probably be in better shape than when they were sitting on the couch. Both will be more competent than the average, untrained person in hand-to-hand combat. And both, presumably, are having fun.

So...what's the big deal? Really? That the dabbler will never be a master? If the dabbler doesn't care, why should the coach? Not every student can be a master. We know this.

If the dabbler is meeting their goals, having fun, and being a good student when they're in class, I'm having a hard time finding much fault with them.


Stickgrappler said...

Hello Jake,

*red-faced with embarassment*

*trying to recover and puts left palm to right fist and bows*

Hmm...martial arts instructors look down on me, but you don't find fault if i meet my goals, be a good student and have fun?


Seriously though, it really depends on what the individual martial artist is looking for ... are they trying to be well-rounded and not get caught lacking at one range/aspect/phase of the 'fight'? Are they looking for self-perfection? Are they looking to relieve boredom and explore out of their base/foundation style/system/art?

Personally, I've not really found my base (yet) - still exploring, hence my dabbling in this and that... however, i have a slight leaning towards the FMA.

Very truly yours in the MA,


Jake said...


Actually, I should be embarrassed. I meant to put a line in (and will edit appropriately) specifically saying I wasn't calling you out. I wasn't. Your comment got me thinking, that's all.

If nothing else, it was partly a reminder to myself not to be an arrogant prick as a teacher. :-)

No embarrassment necessary on your part.

I absolutely agree though--it's all about goals. Hence the MMA/Boxing example: one man's expert is another man's dabbler.

Stickgrappler said...

Yes Jake I neglected to post that your boxing/MMA example is very apt

And I was joking - sorry that didn't come through. Luckily I have slightly thicker skin than that - lol at me

No embarassment on your part.

Thank you though for a deep post. The one challenge Man will not overcome,perhaps never is vs Time.

Very truly yours in the MA,


Jake said...

Well, that's good. Both of (or neither of us) is embarrassed. Or something. :-)

Glad you enjoyed the post.