Enjoyment Is Its Own Reason

Why practice a martial art that is not “the best?”

There is a lot of criticism in martial arts circles these days around what are seen as impractical or ineffective martial arts. These are martial arts that do not participate in sportive sparring, competitive bouts, or resistance-based training. At the top of the list are arts like aikido, hapkido, kung fu, and any so-called ‘traditional’ style that is not seen in, or has been shown to be ineffective in, mixed martial arts (MMA). These styles and their practitioners have come under great scrutiny, and even mockery, as MMA becomes more popular and mainstream.

As someone who spent twelve years of my life dedicated to traditional Korean hapkido and who discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) after receiving my black belt in hapkido, I can say that I understand the criticism. Hapkido did not prepare me for submission grappling. It took me a long, long time on the BJJ mats before I had anything that resembled competency. Not only was it humbling, but it was also paradigm shifting for me to get my butt kicked in BJJ after so many years in hapkido. I realized very quickly that there was more to martial art training than what I had seen or been exposed to.

Still, I loved hapkido, the group I trained with, and my teachers. Instead of quitting, I just trained twice as often, but I divided my time between both hapkido and BJJ, trying to reconcile in my mind and my body the disparity I felt between the two skillsets. Over time, my path shifted and hapkido led me to Taikyoku Budo, but I continued with BJJ. Taikyoku Budo, like aikido, hapkido, kung fu, or any other so-called ‘traditional’ style does not claim to be the best martial art for self-defense, for competitive sport, or even for physical fitness, so why do I continue to dedicate so much of my time, energy, and thought to it? Simply put, I find it interesting, fun, and full of limitless potential. For me, that is enough.

-Robert Van Valkenburgh teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Kogen Dojo

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