“Mordred’s Victory and Other Martial Mutterings” is my first martial arts ebook. Prior to this my written work took the form of the historical printed book, “The Legend of Salt and Sauce: The Amazing Story of Britain’s Most Famous Elephants”. Despite writing on several disparate subjects over the years, non-commissioned writers tend to write about what they experience in some form and there has been a steady stream of martial arts material since I wrote the article, “Respecting the Root and Branching Out” in 2001. This was upon my return from a two week holiday in South Africa, where I had visited friends and relatives. Whilst there I had the opportunity to intensely study the Chinese martial art of Choy Lay Fut under Eduann Barnard at his then full-time kwoon in Johannesburg and Zulu Stick Fighting with Pius the head of my family’s security at their lion park in Pietermaritzburg. I also had the opportunity to train in small firearms self-defence with my cousin who runs the park. The whole experience opened up my mind to different levels of cultural violence and I drew a few surprising conclusions, which went on to lead me to reflect on my future training.
I wrote articles such as “Prodigal Son: Rejected” and “Muay Thai as Self-Defence” as I started to hit the various problems affecting the subculture of martial arts. The former discussed my problem with trying to return to my base martial art and the latter provided a more in depth defence for Muay Thai’s strength as a form of self-defence. However, “Martial Academia”, which is where my ebook starts, was my first truly reflective work on martial arts subculture. It was totally unpartisan and was inspired by various debates I had had with martial artists who seemed to become totally abstract in their thinking.
It is interesting look back at this particular article to see what I have learned since. In some respects I have turned full circle. My teaching and training, which evolved from the time I wrote that article thanks to the great circles I was given access to, tends to reflect an activity-led approach. Where possible, I try not to lead with technique or a show and do approach. Instead I like to set up activities that help naturally reinforce certain constant principles. These principles might be regarding combat strategy and tactics or they might be relating to body mechanics. However, what I have also discovered is that just as there is an undeniable amount of abstract martial arts thinking out there that has its roots in an academic-heavy community, there is also a strong anti-intellectual angle that also threatens the progress of effective training.
Looking at both these issues ended up helping convince me to push more critical thinking in martial arts. This relates to the study of their history, development, objective and application. You can see how these ideas progressing throughout the newly annotated and re-edited chapters in the ebook. They lead into the series of works that will be at the centre of the next ebook: “Martial Arts Scepticism: A Manifesto”.