IntroWhat's it with all the ostentatious language, uniform, belts, etc. used by some "masters." What if your teacher or professor walked into the classroom dressed this way. Would you respect him or her or believe what he or she said? Why would you want to give your time and money to a power hungry, ostentatious, egocentric "master?"
Foreign terminologyMost of the martial arts used in the world had their roots in the Far East. The first use of these arts in Western countries was usually by servicemen returning from military duty in the Far East in the 1940s and 1950s, where they had learned the local martial arts. Later in the 1950s, their original instructors immigrated and began teaching their arts.
Since these servicemen originally learned their martial arts in foreign countries, they learned the foreign terminologies used in the arts, and they used these same terminologies after they returned to their home countries. After all, it was what they knew, and it sounded mysterious and intriguing to the locals. When the foreign instructors immigrated and began teaching, it was much easier for them to use their own language whenever possible, and since the local people had already been exposed to the terminology used by the servicemen, it was readily accepted by them.
For some martial arts, keeping the terminology in the original language has helped spread the arts throughout the world. It allows students that use many different languages train and compete together. For example, while stationed in Iceland, I trained in judo with Icelanders with a Korean instructor. He didn’t speak Icelandic, Japanese, or English, and the Icelanders didn’t speak Korean or Japanese, and I didn’t speak Icelandic. Japanese, or Korean, however, we all understood the common Japanese terminology of judo.
So, using terminology in the language of the home country of a martial art has its usefulness. However, the ostentatious verbiage created by pseudo-masters serves no useful purpose.
Ostentatious languageInventing ostentatious terminology makes the “founder” of a martial art and his or her followers appear knowledgeable and authoritative on the subject. This like the way street gangs or other cliques use their own slang to appear “different” and “special” in the presence of others. As for the regular public, we prefer to use our own common language in simple terms that everyone understands.
Just “founding” a new martial art is not enough for some “masters,” they also feel the need to complicate matters by using pretentious wording to describe the simplest of things in their arts. A good example of this is kenpo, where focusing a technique is called “gravitational marriage” and causing a taller opponent to bend over is called “height cancellation.” They also give some title to every technique they use, such as a left hook is called the “sword of destruction” and a two-handed push is called “alternating maces.” Then they explain simple theories as though the knowledge was handed down by the gods. All this unnecessary verbiage adds nothing useful to the art. It only serves to enhance the ego of those who pride themselves on their ability to use the terminology.
So, if you are a person who likes to create the illusion of intelligence by using slang words for common activities, then choose a martial art that does so. However, pretentious words and far-out theories with complicated explanations are not necessary to learn and be proficient in a martial art.
Ostentatious uniforms and beltsMartial arts that use ostentatious words also tend to use uniforms that are even more ostentatious, as do some other otherwise non-pretentious arts. It all seems to have started in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States when the ”in” thing to do was to fight the establishment.
Uniforms started appearing with different colors, instead of the standard white or black. There were rainbow colored uniforms and of course uniforms made in the pattern of the flag of the ultimate establishment, the United States government. Then, as more and more martial arts styles were “founded,” even more ostentatious uniforms began to appear.
Nowadays, uniforms of some styles not only have different designs and colors; they have numerous patches, shoulder boards, stripes on the sleeves, fabric patterns, embroidery, and other accouterments. Some uniforms of “masters” appear to be pseudo-military in appearance. They seem to believe that the uniforms make them appear as a respected, high-ranking military officer, when in fact; they either never served in the military or were low ranked personnel, and always wished they had the rank and prestige.
Instead of using a basic color belt with simple stripes, ostentatious martial arts use belts of every color in the visible spectrum along with patterns and symbols. The “master” has a super-wide belt that must be extra long to accommodate all the extra wide stripes and the fat belly.
The alternativeUnlike the ostentatious martial arts, most martial arts strive to make students better warriors and better people, not to build the egos of their masters and their followers. The highest ranked persons in these arts wear simple uniforms with a belts or sashes that indicate their rank. Their students know and respect them for their knowledge, abilities, and humility, not their pomp and circumstance. When searching for a martial art, you might try one of these arts.