Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Pajama Factor

My wife and I are watching a martial arts demonstration. Two people wearing gi with hakama inside a beautiful dojo with shrines on the wall and polished hardwood floors. They turn gracefully and one slams the other to the ground in a spectacular throw.

She turns to me and says, "This is kind of like LARPing."

For those of you who don't know LARPing is Live Action Role Playing. It's usually something reserved for those dressing up as orcs and paladins and other such characters from dungeons and dragons who whack the crap out of each other with foam weapons.

"They're participating in a cultural heritage," I say.
"I guess," she says and she turns her attention back to the demonstration.

She does have a point. The clothing and decoration of the dojo is inconsequential to the caliber of the martial arts being taught. It's just as easy to practice kata in shorts and a t-shirt than it is to practice in a gi. It's still the same kata.

In some ways the clothing legitimizes the techniques or the practice in some way. The other day someone said to me "I thought you did karate without shoes?" As if being barefoot was essential to performing karate techniques.

One expects the expert to look a certain way for some reason. If the uniform isn't covered in patches than it should be plain, but old and tattered from hard use, a different kind of decoration.

It's hard to tell sometimes where the cultural heritage ends and the fantasy begins. Whether it is respect or infatuation. I think most of the time what is being sold as martial arts is just a role playing game.