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.