Some Disjointed Thoughts on Ceremony, Magpies, Art

Magpie Culture

I can’t listen to all the good hop hop that is out there to listen to. And if I can’t listen to all of the hip hop that’s out there, there is no way I can listen to all of the good country music out there, or rock music, or trance, and electronica and all of the other music that I could and perhaps should be listening to. There’s too much. I can’t read all of the books I want to read, and I can’t read all of the great writing, good articles, and interesting blogposts that are out there either. It’s impossible. There is an ocean of great content being produced every day, and I could never take it all in, even I spent ever hour of the day reading and listening. The stream is endless, and if I can’t handle what is created in a day anymore, how could I possibly read all of the amazing literature that was created by man in the past?

— Eli Sweet

We were talking about MMA as a hodgepodge art, as opposed to the traditional matial arts – such as Muay Thai, Kungfu, or Greco-Roman wrestling for example. An argument was made on a Fightland post I wrote that the idea of MMA as an authentic, powerful new art is flawed, because it is merely a dilution of many authentic arts, designed specifically for combat sports.

I put forth the idea that MMA is a reflection of the times, which is not new, but I tried to connect the rise of a “hodgepodge” art with the evolution of our society toward a hodgepodge of ceremonies, traditions, and beliefs that make up something other than the clear and established identities humanity has had for centuries. Even that is really untrue. Identity has always been in flux, but just glacially so compared to now. I tried to describe MMA as both a symptom of the Stream of Ideas carrying us away from any strong moral pillars, and the response to that, which is a yearning for authenticity and stripped down truth, in an age of countless competing narratives.

I read an article once about a new “magpie culture” – this article was specifically targeting hipsters – a culture that is composed up of bits and pieces gleaned from all over the human experience. And when I look at my peers, it makes absolute sense. We are Buddhist and Taoist and rebellious and slightly Christian, all Western yet slowly globalized into more than that, less than that. We are conservative wage earners and transient freelancers who come together under weed, Southpark, #Occupy, Christmas as an excuse to be with family, and Halloween as an excuse to party. What we are and who we are has become a possible “everything and nothing” and a lot of the conflicts we have today, sociologically and otherwise, are the results of this breaking with the past. It’s natural, its recurring. It’s different this time, but will be repeated again.

Can MMA, something that is perceived as more “real” and authentic than that which was before – boxing kungfu kickboxing et al – be “our” martial art? We need new ceremonies to take up for the Gods who failed – church, state, even family. Is MMA a symptom of magpie culture, also known as youth culture?

In a conversation with Moses Baca. He grew animated, and told me of 5 year olds studying MMA as an art, as opposed to Judo, or Taekwondo, or even Brazilian Jiu JItsu. What does one learn, in MMA class? For Moses, it went back to his mentor and team mate, Nick Diaz, and Diaz’s approach toward martial arts. Diaz, according to Moses, focused on the space between styles, the transitions. Master the space between, and one moves fluidly from one level to the next, reactively and proactively, the true style with no style, an echo of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kun Do and Musashi’s Five Rings.

“Be Water My Friend” said Bruce Lee …

A generation of kids studying a “new art” called MMA, an aggregate style. Those who focus on one martial art, such as Judo for example, may feel the pressure to assert themselves, and the identity of their art, in the face of amalgamation. Quite common, to hear the argument that MMA dilutes as it combines, that mixing the arts in order to compete in combat decreases the depth, and eventually we will have gladiators only, and not a single martial artist among us.

We will have a million bloggers, but not a single writer. An interesting idea, I think the extreme though, and unlikely.

I  think often of what I should teach my son, which traditions and stories, which fairy tales and which holidays. Which ceremonies will tie our little unit to its wider clan? My gut tells me that I would send the boys to a kungfu master before I send them to an MMA gym. Actually, my gut responded to that sentence immediately, and called for both. And winters in Thailand getting his shins kicked.

Dedication requires absolute focus in the stream, raising anything but transient magpies covered in other peoples’ symbols requires careful planning, deep thought, and meticulous execution. Over time.

Does MMA require an internal element eg qi gong in order to be a true art? And if MMA suddenly adopted fasting and meditation as a form of training, would we be speaking of gyms as temples in years hence?

I can’t help but search for the deeper sociological implications of combat and fighting, because the alternative, that MMA is basketball, and interesting merely for replays of athletic feats, is depressing.

Ceremony in place as the prerequisite for society. Violence tempered with spirituality as the prerequisite for art. Is there a parallel here?


Written by:

Published on: May 5, 2014

Filled Under: Kung Fu Lore

Views: 21177

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *