I grew up in Northern New Brunswick and my entire family on my Mother’s side were Acadian. This meant that I was bought up around a certain number of… shall we say eccentricities surrounding some of their customs and habits. One of my most hated customs was Sunday dinner at my Grandmother’s house. That probably sounds way harsher than I mean it to. The reason I disliked it so much was because of the Acadian “cuisine” my Grandmother would serve.
In her mind, feeding a room full of family members involved piling meat, potatoes and maybe two or three different vegetables into a large pot with water and boiling the entire thing until everything was soft. Usually served with rolls or plain white bread, it wasn’t what any person would consider a savoury or satisfying meal. But it was food, and having raised a family through the Second World War, she was raised on the concept of feeding as many people as possible, as cheaply as possible. So she can hardly be blamed.
I remember that on one occasion, I decided I wanted to try “spicing” things up a bit and politely suggested that she add something other than beef, potatoes and turnips. That’s when my Grandmother, without stopping what she was doing or even looking up at me said, “Too many ingredients will spoil the stew!”
At the time, I was mostly pissed off at the prospect of another bland meal (I know, I know… unappreciative little jerk), but the words somehow stayed with me and have applied to a number of aspects of my life. Not least of which is the martial arts.
Studying the martial arts is a life-long endeavour. Hey, I’ve been studying the same style for over 31 years and there’s still a lot I have to learn. Something that’s been asked of me on a few occasions is whether or not it’s possible to study multiple styles at once. I can tell you from experience, it is not.
Just to be clear, when one chooses to begin studying, it’s important to find a style that suits your needs and personality. Martial arts is subjective to the practitioner. A kick boxer may swear by their art, while a karate practitioner believes their style is tops! Ask them to exchange places and they would be lost.
But once you’ve chosen your style, it’s important to stick with it in order to stay consistent. For example, although I study Okinawan Karate, I occasionally dabble with other styles and techniques. As Frank Dux once said, “never limit yourself to one style.”
Although I can agree with that sentiment, there are certain signs that may point to the fact that you’re watering yourself down in your training. If your style mainly involves strikes, it can be beneficial to spend a bit of time studying some grappling. Although it can be good to add to your repertoire, if you find that what you dabble in is starting to interfere with your main style, it may be time to back it off a notch.
I, for one, have studied 8 different styles over the past 30 years and have obtained black belts in two. Although not simultaneously. And for each of those styles, once attempted, I had to make peace with the fact that they didn’t suit me. I could never study any two of those styles at the same time as many of them would have conflicted with each other.
Too many ingredients will spoil the stew. Without even meaning to, my Grandmother taught me an important lesson about the martial arts that I’ve carried with me for decades, once again proving that we can find knowledge in the most unlikely of places. ☯