Closed Door and Open Door Systems
There are two approaches to teaching martial arts systems. The “Closed Door” approach and the “Open Door” approach. “Open Door” meaning it is open to everyone to see. “Closed Door” meaning they are hiding something behind closed doors from everyone. Most systems through the centuries started out as “Closed Door” systems to some extent. This was for very practical reasons up until the spread of modern firearms. After all the defense of your life, family, and property realistically depended on your ability to defeat attackers in a life or death hand-to-hand situations. With that in mind, knowing how to fight, and your opponent having no idea what you knew or how you fought gave you a distinct advantage. These fighting methods could be kept closed to specific groups using various criteria such as family, village, or students accepted into a school with its own criteria.
The spread of modern weapons like the gun is a major reason for the disappearance of many great martial arts systems. There were great martial arts systems, and schools all over the globe at one time. European countries had many schools (fencing schools are an example)and methods of martial arts at one time, but are lost today. I believe this to be because guns became prevalent there first. Once firearms are available the practical need for hand-to-hand skills becomes greatly diminished. This eventually spread all over the globe. The orient was the last place that guns became widely available and used.
A major reason that most systems of what is commonly thought of as martial arts today come from the orient is that it was that last area of the globe where guns became prevalent. Another major reason is that some martial artists living during the transitional phase in their societies, from no firearms to widespread use of firearms sought to preserve their arts.
To preserve the martial arts “Open Door” systems spread. Some new systems were created at this time based on various martial arts to enable the concept of a martial way to develop. If you see a system that ends in “Do” or “Tao” it means “Way”. This implies that it isn’t a martial art, but is based on martial arts. The goals are more lofty then a martial art. They are trying to spread the virtues developed by serious training in the arts. Things like building character, improving health. These arts tend to focus on techniques and training methods where you can engage in sport without seriously maiming or killing each other.