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The Martial and Culinary Arts
Originally published December 2005.
Jean Ribiere describes himself as a master of the Culinary Arts. He's got thousands of dollars worth of cooking utensils, neatly organized in his kitchen. He has several aprons and chef's hats which he displays on his wall in cases when he's not wearing them. Jean also has a custom spice rack with over 120 different spices.
Every other day, he puts on his chef's hat and apron and goes into the kitchen. He takes out his knives and sharpens them. He makes sure the jars of spice are full and the cabinets are stocked with flour, sugar, and other essentials.
But Jean has never cooked a single dish; he's never even turned on his oven.
Granted, this scenario is pretty tough to believe and is even more unlikely to happen in the world of the Culinary Arts.
So why is it so common in the Martial Arts? If dressing up as a Chef and decking yourself out with all the accoutrements of Chefdom without actually cooking is asinine, why isn't dressing up as Martial Artists and practicing punching and kicking without ever trying it out on a resisting opponent? Unfortunately, thousands upon thousands of "Martial" Artists do just this.
The only explanation I can fathom is that many people are enamored with the idea of being a Martial Artist but aren't so keen on the part where you get your ass kicked along the way. These people don't want to do much more than learn to imitate fighting techniques, dress up in uniforms, and maybe even splinter some lumber. All of these things, to the uninitiated layman, appear to demonstrate fighting prowess. The progressive cheapening of the rank of black belt in Martial Arts, well known to Martial Artists, is generally unknown by "regular" people. Combine this with Hollywood's constant portrayal of Martial Arts experts as nearly (or sometimes even actually) superhuman, and you've got a recipe for attracting pretenders, poseurs, and roleplaying types.
What's the solution to this problem?
Well in a perfect world, I'd like to see everyone who attains the equivalent rank of black belt in an art be required to demonstrate their proficiency by actually fighting someone. No, I'm not advocating people run out and pick fights on the street, we already have an acceptable method for testing Martial Arts skills: Mixed Martial Arts competition.
I realize this will never happen, but it's what needs to happen, to fend off all the idiots who claim fighting prowess without having any idea what their skill level really is because they've never tested themselves. MMA rules, while not the best system to test unarmed fighting skill, are the best we have. Arguments to the need for including "girl fighting" techniques such as biting/scratching/etc are negated simply because there are no styles that I'm aware of that advocate their use to such an extent that they are the primary weapons in those styles.
Fighting, as most people with their heads screwed on correctly know, breaks down simply into two aspects: Striking and Grappling. You're either doing one, the other, or both in an unarmed fight with someone else. So fighting skill can be tested fairly easily given a ruleset which is designed to facilitate striking and grappling and place them on an even playing field. MMA, despite still evolving as a sport, is the best way of doing this testing.
But let's go back to Jean, who's now all decked out in his Chef's attire with his shiny pots and knives. What is the first thing a reasonable person would ask of Jean, if they encountered him in this state?
I don't know about you, but I'd want to try some of his cooking.