On Writing about Martial Arts

One of the best practices I ever did  for either aikido or writing was the Aikido Notebook, the massive Word document written for my second degree black belt and revised for my third degree test.  No other activity made me work harder on the two processes at once as this one did.

From the standpoint of writing I had to organize all of aikido into something that made sense to me on paper, not in my head.  It couldn’t be just technical either, but also conceptual and philosophical.  Techniques like shiho-nage and irimi-nage became “families” or loose collections of similar and discreet scenarios.  Each family had to have a basic description that not only explained what each partner did and when, but also why.  Each description had to be precise but also open enough to allow for all the variation involved.

As for martial arts, I had to know  what I thought I knew.  Each entry I wrote, each section created, produced a new set of questions that had to be answered and could only be answered on the mat.  Every lesson  learned had to be retested.  New scenarios had to be devised and responded to.  Nothing could be taken for granted.

Writing about the technicals of martial arts requires an understanding of more than mechanics.  Like medicine, martial arts is a science that must be applied through art.  Nuance and variation exist for nearly each individual.  The result for writing about martial arts is an elasticity, a necessary acceptance of exception, that envelopes even the most sturdy principles.

It is a great challenge for any writer and any practitioner of martial arts.  It is also the prime reason I suggest every new person in martial arts invest in a sturdy notebook and some pens.  Writing about your martial arts practices clears up all of the muddled mass of information formed during practice and is lost before your first cup of coffee the next morning.  The record is forever and always beneficial, even after your development takes you farther beyond your earliest entries.

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