Where Do We Go From Here? – Toby Cowern


Let’s do a quick, ‘broad strokes’ trend analysis…

The martial arts ‘world’ has been going through a fairly steady ten year cycle of ‘dominant art’. The 70’s saw everyone focusing on Jeet Kune Do with the dominant cinematic releases of Bruce Lee films being the height of attention for many. The 80’s saw many a packed dojo, with Karate being the ‘go to’ art, most epitomized by the trilogy of ‘Karate Kid’ films of that decade. The ‘Ninjitsu’ nineties saw a fascination with the ‘mystical’ warriors of this stealthy art, and as we progressed to the new millennium the emergence of MMA took us across the threshold to the ‘naughties’ and from there everything had to be ‘street tested’, ‘combat proven’ and ‘operator approved’ as we looked towards more ‘combative’ arts and applications from 2010 onwards.

We see a comparative and equivalent trend in the fitness industry. From the spandex clad ‘aerobic’ eighties, to the ‘revolutionary’ concept of cross training in the 90’s, the millennium needed more motivation so ‘boot camps’ and intense group training took us through the early part of 2000, and so far in this decade ‘wearable technology’ has seen us obsess over ‘results formulae’ for our each and every workout.

Tied into the above we see each trend having not only a dominant ‘figurehead’ or company, think Joe Weider, Jane Fonda, Crossfit, Livestrong, Bruce Lee, Daniel ‘San’, but also it’s own ‘theme’ and or ‘catchphrase’. “Go for the burn”, “in it too win it”, “embrace the suck”, “stand and bang” etc etc.

With the addition of increased global communication and notably reduced attention spans, these trends will not only continue, but intensify and most likely (significantly) shorten. As each trend vies for attention and seeks to be the latest ‘viral’ product, competitions for the ‘top spot’ has and will increasingly so, intensify and rely on more and more sensationalist claims/themes. We also already see many ‘fusions’ occurring, where in order to ‘keep up’ businesses package their art/style/product to offer the most benefits in the most condensed format…

Now, I appreciate that running a business shackles you to certain actions by necessity, so I am in no way criticizing business owners for having to market, but it does beg the question how far down this route do we go?

A ‘course flyer’ appeared in my FaceBook feed just this week advertising a ‘Boot Warrior Tactical Shooting Camp’. Once things get to this stage, all you need to ensure is the course venue is ‘Valhalla’ and all course attendees will be issued a ‘Sheepdog Operator Zombie Killer’ certificate and complimentary packet of Tactical Pocket Sand for the complete ‘experience’.

I know, many people already recognize the ridiculousness of the current and developing situation, but apathy or mockery in this matter does not progress the discussion or stave off the problem. We within the industry can and need to influence the emerging trends. Martial arts, Self defense, Fitness and Survival all overlap heavily and leech off each other’s trends. By recognizing and acknowledging this fact it should encourage and enable many more to actively become part of the solution instead of ‘complaining about the problem’. The current trend does little to reinforce credibility, leads to wildly exaggerated claims and often promotes dangerous training practices (e.g. Shooting Range WOD)

CRGI identifies ‘Truth Before Tribalism’ and indeed the ‘tribal nature’ of many of these trends makes them difficult to counteract. But difficult is not impossible, and most of us are training ourselves and others to deal with ‘difficult’ situations anyway. Allowing this current situation to worsen should not be an option to credible instructors, so it is for us to promote far more healthy, positive and measured trends than we currently see. The intensifying and shortening of the trend cycle is notable in its effects, and the continued development and reach of social and alternative media means this situation is going to be here for some time…

So going back to the original question, Where do we go from here? Well, that’s all down to us… Where do we go with our training and skills? Credible, concise and competent? Or Short Term Circus and Paltry Pantomime? I hope, aspire and actively work for the former and, quite simply, the more of us that do so, the more likely it is to trend in that direction. That is the key. This is an ACTIVE process; we need to be the trend we want to see. This is something requiring consistent and persistent action towards.  So maybe the better question is; Where Are You Heading?

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