After all the recent training with instructors of other styles of Jiu-jitsu, it was interesting for me to note the differences in philosophy when it comes to teaching the art. It seems to me that there are two main approaches to a martial arts style, with their own benefits and drawbacks. They are as follows.
1. The Specialists. In some martial arts styles, they take the approach of choosing a particular skill and putting the majority of their focus on it. BJJ focuses almost entirely on sport ground grappling. KoKoDo Jujtutsu focuses primarily on pain compliance using joint manipulation. Yoshinkan Aikido, on the other hand, has a slightly different take, focusing on body structure control using joint manipulation. The list goes on. Specialists usually focus on a skill that requires a lot of training in order to become proficient (i.e. a fine motor skill). The advantage of this approach is that students of a specialist style become really good at the particular skill that is focused on and when a high level of skill as attained, the students may learn to apply that skill within a wide variety of defensive contexts.
2. The Generalists. Other martial arts styles focus on a wider variety of skills, with the goal of teaching people to apply their skills in different defensive contexts. My style, Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu is one such example. We teach with the goal of transmitting practical self-defense skills therefore our style comprises of striking, takedowns/throws, ground defense, and weapon defense. To make up for the broadness of our base, our core curriculum is designed to use more gross motor skills (especially striking and certain types of takedowns/controls) to make them easier to learn and apply, whereas fine motor skills are taught more as advanced training. Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu is another example. They teach also teach the same types of skills as I listed above, but with a stronger focus on throws and joint manipulation as the core of their curriculum.
Neither type of style is right or wrong. Take the metaphorical knives I used for each category. Is one “better” than the other? It depends on the context. If you want to have a sharp knife that’s great for cutting food, the Ginsu is the superior knife, even if it may fall short in other contexts. But if you need a tool for a variety of purposes, Swiss Army Knife is a better choice for convenience, though it may fall short when compared to the associated tools specifically designed for one purpose.
I think we’re best served by having both types of martial arts styles. As a practitioner of generalist style, I appreciate having the opportunity to go to specialist dojos to further hone specific skills. I’ve trained in BJJ, boxing, joint manipulations specialists (Jiu-jitsu and Aikido), etc, all of which have contributed to my learning. That being said, I will always appreciate the base that Can-ryu has given me as a generalist school.
Now I’ll turn the question over to you. What type of style do you study and why?