I recently received an email from someone asking, not about self-defense, martial arts, or even ninjutsu training, but rather about the concept of "martial science." I love questions like these because it tells me that the person asking the question is not merely reading the words, or watching the demonstration in the video, but really soaking in the lesson.
I also know that for every one student with a question like this, that there are ten, or fifty, or hundreds with that same question who are either afraid to ask, or who are sitting back waiting for me to get around to answering it.
So... I thought I'd take this opportunity to share my answer with you:
To answer the question... "What is Martial Science?"
We need to begin with what I believe is a misunderstanding that most people have with regard to the martial "arts." And, for you to understand my thinking, we need to start there.
But, to do that, let's look at what I consider to be the VERY overused term "martial artist," and think about what it means to be an "artist," regardless of whether a person is a painter, sculpture, or any other artisan. What do you think of when you think of an "artist"?
When I think of an artist, I think of someone who appears to work magic with their chosen medium. What that means is that the painter appears to almost have trees, people, and other objects just flow from the end of their paintbrush. The sculpture seems to always know exactly where to strike the stone so as to uncover the statue within - never taking more than needed, nor causing the stone to crack or break - the sketch artist seems to scribble on a piece of paper and have those seeming random lines turn into something not random at all.
Does this make sense?
What we see though, as artistry, is really the end of a long road of progress, the end of the process of learning and mastering a craft - this person's, the artist's study with this particular medium.
The painter masters applying paint with different types of brushes on to different surfaces - the sculpture with certain tools against stone, wood, or whatever they know best, etc.
They have spent time learning the "science" of how each tool works, and how to best use it with the material that they are working with. They have experimented with applying too much, and too little pressure or force to the tool to learn what it means to be "just right."
They have experienced the frustration of making mistakes, and the long, tiring hours redoing the same piece, or drilling the same skill until they get a particular technique down pat.
That's what makes them "appear" to be as good as they are. That's what "earns" them the right to be called an "artist."
I believe the same is true in the martial "arts." But, instead, as soon as someone steps out onto the floor in their new uniform - even before they receive their first lesson, it has become normally acceptable to call this person - for this student to identify themselves as - a martial "artist".
But, they're not an "artist," are they? I mean, they haven't learned anything yet. If they could be called an "artist," it would be with the same understanding behind calling a three year old an "artist" when they hand their mother a scrawled drawing.
And, even if they have learned more than a few things, if they're still copying someone else's style or technique - if they are incapable of looking like they are creating technique from whatever the opponent gives them, without effort, - if they look like they're "fighting," then they are not an artist - they are still a student.
In my opinion, they - any student - should consider themselves, and should be regarded as a martial "scientist" - someone learning the "science" of what makes the techniques, etc., work.
And, "martial science" by definition, is the science (the study) of warfare.
Martial = "warfare" by definition.
So, martial science is the study and perfection of not only the "moves" of any particular art, but also the "invisible" skills - the principles and concepts of warfare - that are universal, regardless of the art or style being studied.
Martial science is the study of:
Strength and Weakness
Controlling your opponent's perceptions
Deception and manipulation
...and many more areas of study than merely memorizing a string of moves or a set of skills set down on a list for belt rank or to be deemed "official."
It is the exploration of the different types of attacker mindsets, understanding what causes conflict and why a particular personality would choose to resort to physical, mental, or emotional attack - and the means that each personality type naturally gravitates toward.
This is what I teach, because it is the heart of the real lessons that have been passed down, not just by the current generation grandmaster, but every master before him who understood true survival and the meaning of the words "martial," and "warrior."
To be called a martial "artist" means that you can appear to "break the rules" that govern how things are "supposed to be done", and create something unique. It's knowing "when" to follow the rules and structure, and when to break those rules.
Most students of the "martial arts" should be seen, not as martial "artists" but rather "martial scientists," until they reach that point where they know the principles and concepts so well that they not only understand exactly why the techniques and technology of their art were created, but when they can apply those same principles and concepts against any opponent, in any situation, and against any attack -- in the most effective and energy efficient way.
They can do this because they understand the "science" of why things work, and have not merely memorized a way of moving or a list of pre-established strings (kata).
Does this make sense to you?
If not, please feel free to tell me where you need more clarification and I will do my best to help. Again, I think that this is an excellent question.
I really believe that others have this same question and have just not brought themselves to ask it. I thank the student who sent in this great question for doing so, and hope that my answer has helped you to understand the concept much more clearly.