How much is too much? (Classical vs. Modern)

I have always thought,”reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood.” I just learned that has a name, Chesterton’s fence.

It is easily seen when someone buys a successful and growing business and starts by changing large parts of it–because of ego–and then the business quickly goes away. This is true in the Martial arts as well.

Some people change things to make them “easier” or just so they can claim they are doing a different style and call themselves “Grand master.”

The other side of this is when people cling to “tradition” and will not change how they do a move even when a better way is discovered or a fatal flaw is literally discovered. Ironically this violates several principles of warfare, business and combat.

Henry Ford refused to change from the model T until he was almost put out of business by a far superior Chevy. Many businesses have done this until they were gone and forgotten.

There is an inherent obligation when you find a problem in an existing system to look for a better way to replace it, but you are not obligated to be the one who comes up with it.

When I was first learning, my Sifu said, “If you find something that you think works better come show me and I will show you what is wrong with it, or I will change the way we do it.” That is a really traditional way to look at things in Kung Fu. In the Shaolin Temple they started with the 18 hands of the Enlightened One for 250 years then the top fighting monk traveled around China and collected more moves that worked. He expanded the style to 75 moves, and later masters did the same to expand the art further.

Once again it comes down to balance.

Further suggested reading: History, Philosophy and Technique,  Tao of Jeet Kune Do: New Expanded Edition, and The Shaolin Grandmasters’ Text: History, Philosophy, and Gung Fu of Shaolin Ch’an

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