With the rise in popularity of MMA and jiu-jitsu over the recent years, many of the more traditional approaches to martial arts have fallen out of favor. Seen as artifacts of a different time, styles like kung fu and karate are sometimes given short shrift as “impractical”, “out of date” or “ineffective”.
Thomas Clifford - our guest today - challenges this notion. A lifelong practitioner and martial arts leader, his decades of experience training and teaching span both traditional and modern disciplines. He believes that practices from kaju kempo to the five animal frolics provide a deeper and more enduring value than they’re sometimes given credit for.
With their capacity to benefit participants on a physical, mental and emotional spectrum, they have become more than devices for self-defense or tournament wins - they provide serious insights, rare opportunities for self-development and invaluable lessons for inner growth.
But more than that, he argues that these practices develop skills and attributes we need in the world at large: responsibility, sustainability, accountability and maturity. We can learn flexibility of thought from the Chinese healing arts; an appreciation for our own shortcomings as we study our instructors and peers; and the importance of perseverance as we learn to lead and follow in the classroom.
Critic, thinker, provacateur, student, teacher - Tom Clifford is all of this and more. As a teacher straddling the classical and the contemporary (kung fu, kaju kempo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu), he challenges the conventional thinking around the division between what is “modern” and what is “traditional”. And he raises the possibility that the embedded wisdom in many of these older styles might contain the key not just to survival, but to larger-scale success.
This is an important conversation for all modern martial arts practitioners. We found it insightful, illuminating and engaging. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.
In this episode, we discuss Tom Bisio’s book, “A Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth”. You can find a link to it here.
If you’re interested in the MAM/BBJJ “Chop Wood Carry Water” t-shirt we mentioned on one of our other episodes, you can find it here through DojoPrints.
For more about Tom Clifford’s dojo in Pearl River, NY, you can head here.
And the Martial Arts Mind blog is alive and well. More episodes, essays and articles are here.