This is something I've been working on for a very long time.
It's been something like ... forever.
I'm serious! What is "my martial art", is something I've been practicing as long as I've been formally practicing martial arts. It's been something I've been working on as long as I've been using my body and mind. It existed in the seed of my body and mind from my mother and my father since before I was born; that seed which can be traced back all through my ancestors ... Irishmen, mainlanders, cavemen, monkeys, fish, single celled organisms, stardust, and beyond!
If my budo is something I've been working on infinitely into the past, then I've also been working on it in the future. The entirety of existence has been the "when" and "where" of my honing of my martial art. Not before, or after, but the actual, it of budo.
Congratulations! I've made it, and I've always been here!
Enough of the very serious jokes. I do have a more concrete point I want to address here in this post, and it has to do with being a person who has formally practiced different martial arts over a period of 10 years. I really don't like using time as measured by years when talking about martial arts. It always turns into a game of comparing numbers. It is a silly game that doesn't necessarily lead to clarification. Actually, in the absence of a holistic explanation of the situation, numbers of years just make things more confusing. But, I will put my ten years here because ... it is a time within which I have been able to go through many phases of training. Years earlier, I wouldn't be so good at ignoring glaring details and I wouldn't be able to see the commonalities. It's given me time to see other martial arts that have broadened my experience. This is one of the first times I've been able to see such a thick and fuzzy singular current through it all. Ask me again in ten years, and I'm sure I'll be able to tell you infinitely more.
As for the different martial arts I've practiced and how they contribute to my martial art, I think the clearest way to discuss the specifics is through a list of each martial art experienced in chronological order. I haven't put equal time into each martial art, and I haven't even included all I consider "having practiced." To name two, boxing and hsing i have helped me out a lot, but they just don't quite compare to the others in the list. There are many overlapping points between the arts, but I will try and mention each specific point in the category of the martial art which reveals its quality most clearest to me.
-Use what works.
-Use what is most convenient.
-Use what is fastest to accomplishing your goal.
-Using your environment to your advantage.
-Not fighting as an option to solving issues.
-Doing anything possible to win.
-Being in physically good shape.
Tai Chi Chuan:
-Whole body utilization for individual techniques.
-Blending with a partner.
-Using a partner's strength to your advantage.
-Learning from oneself.
Ba Gua Zhang:
-Limberness of body and control of movement (balance, etc).
-Practicing various forms to learn one thing.
-No "fighting stance".
-Only expending necessary energy.
-Controlling an opponent/setting them off-balance.
-Relaxing throughout movement.
-Finding positions to be strong in, and others to give way.
-The need for good training partners.
-Maximum effort/focus towards a specific goal.
-Everything is "the point".
-Prioritizing attention to various matters in a movement.
-The need for a good teacher.
The listing above is meant to dissect my martial art with specifics concerning experiences in activities that are generally called "martial arts." But, all of the specifics I mentioned above are existent in all of the martial arts listed above. I utilize them all, all the time, but each practice allows me to notice them a little better. I don't need to practice these martial arts to have these abilities, I don't have to be aware of the abilities for them to exist. However, being aware of them, and practicing these different arts allows me to improve my technique. Why is this important if I've already forever practiced infinitely into the future and already mastered them, thus being perfect the way I am as is right now? Because that infinity is the honing process of martial arts. That that completion of all goals in the future is another version of this eternally perfect/imperfect honing.
So we have me: the body. "My martial art": the skeleton. The different martial arts I have practiced: the organs. But there are still a couple ingredients missing to bring this beast live.
First, there are my veins and arteries: the things that I do to connect all that exists within me. These are the things that make the art real. Some of these things are:
-Making my body limber so that it can perform at it's greatest potential.
-Specifically, standing. This is to clean the mind of unnecessaries, shake up and settle my body at the same time, and strengthen my tendons. Actually, trying to list this process takes many many more posts. I believe this is arguably, the single most important part of my martial art.
-Getting new material and inspiration to supplement the regular training, be it reading, videos, or seminars. Martial food for the artistic mind.
Then comes the last piece. The blood. The breath. The movement of it all:
Without this single aspect ... the "honing" process, which is the defining characteristic of existence, changes dramatically. It slackens. It becomes wasteful. It becomes weak and distracted. Practice is the sword to our warrior. The path and the intention. If there is something to do with our conscious effort in life, it is for a honing which is benefitted by practice.
But then again, my martial art is as ancient as anything else, and there is no such thing as practice.
So there you have it, my martial art. I look forward to taking a look again at this later to further see it's defining characteristics. I wonder if there is anything I've forgotten. I wonder what kind of qualities that are usually regarded highly in other martial arts are not included in mine. What does your martial art look like? I urge you to investigate, because you do have one, and it's probably pretty cool.