Friday, November 27, 2009

On "Interpretation" of the Source Martial Arts Literature

I hate the term “interpretation.” I personally prefer to never use it. In my opinion, the time for interpretation passed when we could read what the Masters told us. When one is looking at pictures alone and trying to figure out what they were showing us, that can very reasonably be called interpretation. When the Masters tell you what to do, there is no more interpretation; there is right or wrong; effective or ineffective.

One “interprets” through modern dance. When it comes to martial art, one does or doesn’t. No one ever says they "interpret" a technique from any modern martial arts book.

There are only three ways to “interpret” what you see the Masters convey in the medieval/Renaissance martial art books.

1. It is what the Master meant to convey (in which case I have never had reason to doubt its effectiveness).
2. It is not what the Master meant to convey but effective (something the Master would still approve of, even if you’re not quite doing what he meant).
3. It is not what the Master meant to convey, and ineffective (outright shite).

Of course many of the former in numbers two and three in particular are calls that are often argued over by those who do not yet have a sufficient understanding of what they are doing. Thus internet discussion is formed.

The term “interpretation” is simply a feel-good term so all the bumblers out there can have some ego-padding when they are obviously bumbling around and making up absurd hypothesis and showing techniques that they do not understand. There is no shame to say that you haven’t “figured something out” yet, as opposed to doing something in a poor, shoddy, or outright incorrect fashion and saying it is your “interpretation.”


copyright Nov. 2009, Benjamin "Casper" Bradak


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Lessons on the English Longsword said...

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