After my previous post, I had a conversation with Chad Eisner, aka Darth Nonymous, founder and Headmaster of Terra Prime Lightsaber Academy. He had a particular critique about the section on Weaknesses in the Forms. The following is from Chad, with permission to present here:
“–I could not disagree with the part about weaknesses more. From a literary standpoint, sure, but it still seems a prosaic way to view martial arts.
For one, it’s not really true. While some arts today have specific specializations and applications, in the historical sense, arts could not afford to have “no ground game” or be only effective form a certain range. Arts that evolve around a specific weapon will have limitations based on the weapon, but they would be far from helpless with another weapon of similar, or not, design.
Different arts will solve the common problems of fighting in different ways. But any historical art used in life and death combat will strive cover ALL the basics. Any ‘weaknesses’ or short comings can, in my opinion, be attributed to the teacher, the student, and/or the natural tendencies of what type of fighting is most frequent for the time and place.
The idea of engineering something that you are going to have to work almost tirelessly to avoid is as well a dubious instruction. It is reminiscent of artifice and mythical ideas of these arts (which are very practical). The entire point of training is to be constantly identifying weakness in your form, thinking, or application and working to be rid of them. Weaknesses will be natural no matter what you do.
It is very close to an idea that I have labor hard to try to dispel. That arts have strengths and weaknesses inherent in them. They don’t. One’s experiences will have many gaps and as they train they will work to overcome their personal challenges. IF you go by the old trope of “Karate is a striking art, just grapple with them”, you will probably get your ass handed to you. Another good one is; “Boxers don’t know how to kick or do anything but punch, they would be destroyed by a muay thai fighter”. Careful how you place yoru bets.
Lets take this example: Wing Chun. Wing Chun is the one traditional martial art that is given the most grief for being limited in scope. People say it’s short range, it only strikes, it is too static, etc. etc. The best one is “Wing Chun has no ground game.” I have seen a wing chun guy get tackled and mounted getting set up for the ground and pound. But, that’s not what happened. The wing chun fighter had his back to the ground nice and solid so they started chain punching the living hell out of the guy on top of them. When they came in to squeeze the neck they got cracked with an elbow. Before you knew it, the wing chun fighter was on top and smacking the other guy silly.
Lesson: arts don’t have weaknesses and strengths. They have specialties and focuses. The weakness is always our own.”
The discussion became one of agreeing at different angles. It was more or less agreed that the problem here is a linguistic one: the word ‘weakness’ brings on a conotation that does not apply in real life martial arts. However, and I can’t stress this enough, the information on the limits of scope tells us a great deal about its character which is paramount for translation. So while ‘weakness’ doesn’t work, defining ‘Scope’ does.
Using the term weakness also gives a false sense of Rock-Paper-Scissors between the Forms, like one will beat the other. One of the reasons I began researching the Forms was because people in several of the groups kept telling me that Shii Cho user would always lose to a Makashi user because Makashi’s strengths were to the detriment of Shii Cho’s weaknesses. That didn’t track to me, otherwise why teach the Seven Forms and not just the ones that were better?
These Forms were meant to be worth their own study as well as requirements to learn the more advanced styles. These were Seven fully realized, though intrinsically connected, martial arts.
I cannot stress this point enough to people studying the Forms: Do not see one Form as being superior to the other. One style is not stronger than another, just has a different way of handling situations. Some may be more adept at situations than others and some may not and the user can always augment them. Remember that you’re dealing with a person behind the sword and the form and not just the sword and the form.
And while we’re speaking of Scope, allow me to address the scope of this blog. There is a wide birth of people interested in lightsaber combat that I speak to. Performers, choreographers, martial artists, writers, game designers. This blog is meant to take the information we’ve had over the past 30 years and distill it in a way that can be used by everyone for whatever purpose.
So this is not a Martial only blog, though you will hear some martial ideas. This is not a choreography or performance blog, though you will definitely get some anecdotes about those. This is a lightsaber combat blog and all that entails within. I am a geek writer who happens to have martial arts and performance in my background. If you notice any glaring blindspots, or have a rebuttal, or have a different perspective, by all means share. I’d love to have different perspectives of Lightsaber Combat on this blog.
Sorry for the radio silence recently. I was working a gaming convention and running several larps, including being a character for a Star Wars larp. When I get the chance, I’ll share some of the photos from the game.