No martial art ever develops in a vacuum and all of them are a response to some kind of fighting that the creators have encountered. Today, people tend to categorize arts into things like combatives, reality based fighting, military, traditional martial arts, and so on. The problem with these kinds of categorizations is they seem completely arbitrary. All martial arts, no kidding here, all of them, grew up have similar back stories. Some of the traditional martial arts may have gotten watered down over time, some of the “new” arts may have rediscovered some of the old methods or the combative edge of fighting for your life, but they’re really just a reaction to a perceived lack of fundamental fighting aspects in some of the older arts.
In part, some of the watering down of the traditional arts came as a response to some of the craziness that happened in arts like Karate and Kung Fu back in the 70s and 80s. Back in those days, macho was the key to success and it wasn’t uncommon to see school fighting each other over perceived insults or other such trivial matters. In some ways, this was a good thing: it taught you to actually, you know, fight. In others, it was way over the top. I guess the whole “let’s go fight those guys because reasons” mentality came crashing down when one school showed up to fight another school and some young guy got run through with a sword.
Lawyers and lawsuits also made some deep cuts on the traditional martial arts because people would take classes that were supposed to teach them how to fight, get punched, and sue the school.
Plus, having to call your school a dojo and refer to your teacher as sensei or sifu was kind of silly. It was almost like cosplay with where you had to take on the persona of a guy (or girl) in 18th century Japan. Fun for a while, sure, but ultimately pointless since you really just want to learn to fight.
By the way, my Kenpo school uses gis, which may or may not be all that important, but they’re plentiful and easy to wear. I’m actually thinking of running a class or two in street clothes just so folks can get used to the idea of fighting in what we wear in real life. We call the school a school and my teacher is Mr. Gilbert. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to him as sifu or sensei or anything like that. We bow, but we don’t go over the top with it and we don’t pretend we’re in medieval China while we’re studying.
Anyway, all martial arts are a reaction to a perceived threat. It’s always been interesting to me to learn about as many as I can just so I can start to see different reactions to similar stimuli. Recently I came across a new one that’s slowly gaining some popularity. Apparently it grew up in the prison system and goes by many names including Jailhouse Rock and 52 Blocks. From what I can see, it seems like a seamless blend of wushu, boxing, and straight up fisticuffs. Pretty cool stuff.
Video of 52 blocks.