Judo was created from jiu-jitsu. The irony of judo is that Kano removed the more “dangerous” moves from practice except for in advanced kata, yet this concentration of “safer” moves practiced at full speed against resistant partners made his students superior fighters (at least for modern un-armed, non-feudal battlefield fighting), with representatives from the Kodokan school winning most of the 1886 Tokyo Police Department full contact matches. This approach of “safer” full speed training in grappling continues to the present day in the mixed martial arts sport, with judo and related arts sambo and BJJ well represented by various fighters. Some might say BJJ emerged from the same sort of innovation process, largely removing unnecessary stand-up from judo (I’d consider throwing more important for self-defense and becoming more prevalent in mma – though not a fight ender in the ring that it might be on the hard street, pickups, throws, slams are used to set up ground position. Also BJJ seems more of an extension of the “revolution” judo first did than the same amount of revolution but what do I know as an armchair theorist.) and adding more ground game to judo’s already good ground skills. Though now (and probably always) it’s mostly what individual is best, not what style is best, despite these notable innovations and clear initial dominance by those stylists.

That history leads me to wonder – what if internal arts like taijiquan had gone through some evolution process like judo from jiu-jitsu? The closest thing in internal arts to Kano’s randori is push hands, but there is no “canon of taiji throws” or other moves in the same way there are the original 40 Kodokan Judo throws with standardized names all participants around the world use. You could say the 8 gates form a sort of standard but the curriculum and interpretation and understanding is not standardized. I guess Kano was not just a martial arts genius, but an educational genius as well. It seems that xingyi dominated some historical “nhb” full-contact tournaments, and yiquan was on a path to show clear superiority under Wang, but unfortunately no internal arts luminary succeeded in standardizing a curriculum/training approach and vocabulary and propagating a style that still proves itself over and over again around the world like Kano did.

It’s too bad in some ways because I wonder if I and other average students might be able to learn something faster or better instead of picking up this and that from here and there. I suppose there is some artificial “research” process that people enjoy as if they’re “discovering” secret keys, but there is a difference from internalizing lessons and reinventing the wheel. I can admit I have no particularly great talent at this stuff and would do better to learn from sensible curricula that far more qualified, talented, and skilled people devised.

In taijiquan things are all over the map from school to school and teacher to teacher, even among “good” (depending on one’s definition which is also all over the map) teachers. And most of it is more health related. Who knows what “the truth” really is or was. One can pick up this or that. Quite often a this or that might be quite a great nugget but most other times there is a lot of crap or contradictory information or outright confusion. That isn’t the same as cross-training and doesn’t really best help improve the state of the art. Some have a sort of reformist approach that may assume the original state was much higher – of course who can know exactly how much. Others say to study what the founder studied. Taking that argument to its logical extreme, we’d have to go back to throwing rocks and picking up sticks and throwing swings like a bear. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what the “learn fighting first, learn martial arts later” approach is like. That does seem like a great idea but for other reasons. It doesn’t help much with this problem of arts decaying due to fragmentation and the corresponding loss of knowledge. And in the case of BJJ and judo, I don’t think people really see the need to go back too far. In aikido, that might be more interesting. Ueshiba is considered a genius, and Aikido is considered internal and seems to have a fairly uniform standardized curriculum around the world, but then it gets about as much respect as taijiquan and taekwondo from folks who use “martial” arts for fighting in sports, on the street, or in life or death military combat. These are not the go-to hand-to-hand styles. Yiquan seemed to have come close to making great sudden strides in first half of the 20th century, but even Wang lamented that despite his and others’ accomplishments, the average student in Chinese internal and other arts was not doing as well as the average student in various foreign arts such as judo and Western boxing. Yiquan’s star does still appear to be on a slow rise, including in the relatively modern san shou sport format, but it seems unlikely it or any other style, internal or otherwise, could ever see the huge success of a judo or BJJ again. In modern martial arts, there is so much cross-training, convergence, and open-ness, any remaining weaknesses in ranges, styles, strategies, tactics, and training methods are filled so rapidly, there really isn’t a “market opportunity” for a style to repeat that kind of seemingly sudden and startling yet lasting success.

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