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Is Lineage Important in Martial Arts

February 22, 2011

People feel very strongly about this topic. There are many reasons for this. Obviously those that believe they have good lineage think it is very important. Those that don’t, think it is unimportant.

I think having a good teacher is very important. Without the right teacher you are left with only your own knowledge and experiences to draw on. Books, video, and training with peers can only help you so much. By having the right teacher you have two peoples lifetime experiences and knowledge to draw on for your training. Each teacher has had his own teacher or teachers as well. Each generation you add is a multiplier for the available wisdom and experience you can benefit from in your training. However if you learn from a teacher with poor lineage or no lineage, there are other potential problems. Without good lineage you could be learning something that isn’t effective, or worse something that could get you injured or killed.

When looking for the right teacher you should keep in mind, that having a great teacher doesn’t mean the student will ever be great. Therefore you can find teachers with good lineage that don’t have the knowledge and skills of their teachers. If they don’t have a true understanding of their art and can’t demonstrate it, they might not be the best person to learn from. Another thing to keep in mind is that even if they have the true system, they may not be passing it on to you. Many teach an outdoor version to the masses, and only teach the real system to a few indoor students. This is one of the reasons for the decline in popularity of traditional systems.

On the other hand if you learn from someone with questionable lineage, or bad lineage for a system you have other issues. They can’t possibly have a true understanding of the system being represented, so couldn’t pass it on to you correctly even if they wanted too.  Now this doesn’t mean that they might not have as much or more to teach you, then a person teaching the same system with good lineage.  They might even be a far superior martial artist. It just means that they can not be true to the system they claim to represent, unless it is a system they created.

I look at learning from an indoor student of a system compared to someone that learned as an outdoor student, or via other means like this. If you go into an Italian restaurant and order lasagna and they bring you spaghetti instead. It isn’t what you ordered, it may have mostly the same things in it and be as good, but it isn’t lasagna. Someone with no lineage might be telling you they are serving you steak and maybe they are but, then again you might get a hamburger.  People have to decide for them selves if that is important.


Mike Murphy


Categories: Concepts & Principles
  1. November 8, 2011 at 1:26 am

    We know that everything isn’t perfect after all. Learning martial arts is a determination of oneself. Each of one has its on lineage.Maybe, sometimes martial arts could be teach to those who have bad intentions but still it depends to the teacher what he/she will teach.

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