Over the years I learned to separate good martial arts practitioners into two categories: Preservers and Creators. Of course there are many more categories you could use to slice the population, but let’s stick with those two for now.
Hilmar Fuchs, the best example of a life-long creator that we were fortunate enough to train with.
The majority of practitioners – students and teacher alike – are what I call preservers. They study the arts with great passion and try to learn as many techniques and forms as possible. They strive to learn and copy those techniques (and often also their teacher’s quotes) as precisely and verbatim as humanly possible.
Most are really good with that and I kind of envy them, because my memory usually fails me when I try to learn things by heart.
Preservers are important to keep a style alive the way it was envisioned and practiced by his creator. They are the historians and librarians of martial arts and the styles. However they often run the risk of thinking that they practice the only correct and legitimate way.
Only a few martial arts practitioners go beyond the limits of what they were shown. They focus on the principles rather than the exact preservation of the movements. They eventually will push beyond what they learned from their teacher and style.
Very often creators will get inspirations from different arts and bring them back into their own art and style, making it richer and more diverse along the way. They will also go down a wrong path much more often than preservers, who stick to the known and tested. Rather than keeping the art precisely as it is, they will help develop it further with time.
Amongst their martial arts peers, creators are not always looked upon too nicely as they don’t stick to the official teachings. However, in the end only creators move the art ahead and keep it alive. If you look back, you will realize that every style and art started with a creator.
One of the trickiest parts about being a creator however is to keep the creator mindset alive. All too often creators become preservers once they found their style and from there on insist that everyone follows their rules to the detail.
Uli and I were fortunate to learn from two great creators and martial art pioneers, Hilmar Fuchs and Roland Habersetzer, right from the beginning. They did spoil us for other teachers though and set a pretty high bar for teachers that we would follow.
While both preservers and creators have their important role in keeping the arts alive, there are two more types that need to be called out. Please try to not be one of them.
I met a few over the years. Collectors have a goal to ‘master’ an art in a certain time. They collect forms, teachings and teachers with great passion and effort very quickly. They usually make progress very quickly but then drop off completely after a relatively short time.
While there is no harm in doing that, I feel sorry for the time they invest without following through and therefore missing the insights and benefits that can only come over time. They burn fast and hot, but not for a long time.
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. (Bruce Lee)
Randomizers do not spend enough effort and time to learn an art. They practice but their knowledge remains shallow because their heart and mind are not really at it. Usually they like to practice, like to sweat or just like the company, but they don’t care deeply enough about learning and thus don’t invest the time and effort to overcome the pain and frustration that true learning always entails.
Most of them do little harm but some become teachers due to tenure in a style rather than qualification. Learn to spot randomizers quickly and try to stay away from them, especially when they pretend to be teachers (you can often identify them by their dogmatic approach).