CliquingYesterday, as with most Tuesdays, there was a meeting of the instructors and other officials at the school where I teach. Part of the meeting debated the differing cliques that exist in the school.

Most martial arts schools deal with some clique groups. In straight-up Karate schools the Black and Brown belts do not generally hobnob with the white or green belts, and vice versa. In a multi-art school like ours, rank isn’t the divider as much as the arts themselves, to some degree.

It isn’t really that the arts group together. Some arts and sciences blend together nicely, Jeet Kune Do and Kali for example. By definition, Jeet Kune Do (JKD) should blend with everything, as it incorporates all areas, striking, ground work, weapons, forms, et al. But the participants of some of the other arts and sciences do not blend well into JKD, grapplers are a good example. While grappling is taught in JKD, very few grappling purists migrate into JKD.

As the discussion progressed, it was recognized that the MMA folk will mingle with the grapplers and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clan, though very few of those people tended to mingle with the JKD and Kali group. An astute observation was provided by one of the instructors; there seem to be two camps, the sport camp and the self defense camp. BJJ, grappling, MMA, and the like, are all sports related. JKD, Kali, Wing Chun, and other arts and sciences like them tend to be thought of as self defense skills.

It occurred to me that Muay Thai, which is often thought of in the JKD line, is really a sport. And interestingly enough, the participants seem to follow the trend spelled out. Muay Thai participants will often join in with the MMA or grappling set, but rarely partake in the JKD, Kali, or Wing Chun offerings. Muay Thai simply enhances the primary observation, sports versus self defense.

As I thought on this, I had an epiphany. This is really one of the oldest schoolyard clique groupings there is. While we think of JKD as self defense, its practitioners are often as interested in the art and science itself as they are in using it for combat. The real divide here is not sport and self defense. It is the football team and the band, the basketball players and the chess club, the track team and the glee club; it is the jocks versus the nerds.

I can say that because I am the biggest nerd of them all, and I do not take the word offensively. Someday the nerds will rule. But to the point, the clique grouping that is taking place comes from some fundamental personality preferences that are so strongly rooted, they are evident as early as the first grade. There are those kids that want to think about things, and work on intricate little parts, and remember lines of song or dance. And there are those kids that want to run and jump and play kick ball and tetherball, and always seem better at it than the kids that read a lot and focus on the school play or join the A/V Club.

We would think as we move on in years these old divides would fade. And they do fade, but I do not think they will ever disappear completely. Some folk simply do not care about points or trophies from the act of defeating another, while others do not notice points or trophies obtained through mental exercise. Both are valid. Both have their purpose. But each is its own clique.

About Sifu Keith Mosher

My new book, "Astro Boy, Sensei, and Me" is available now, as is my Sci-Fi joy ride, "On a Sphere's Edge". I have a Bachelor of Media Arts degree from USC. I have been an Audio Producer / Engineer, a Law Office Manager, and I am currently an Author and a Martial Arts Instructor.
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