Grace and Beauty in Martial Arts?

Killer whale leaping Graceful and deadly

Let’s talk about beauty and grace. Do they have a place in martial arts?

My answer is a qualified yes. A good martial arts technique has beauty because it is efficient, with no wasted steps or motions. It is singular in purpose and will not be put off. If it is blocked, it flows into something equally destructive, like a cascading waterfall. It is beautiful as an elephant’s tusk; it is graceful as a killer whale.

There are styles that get caught up in the idea of gracefulness for gracefulness’s sake. As soon as they start down this path, their art becomes less combat effective. It may be as pretty as a ballroom dance. It might wow the average spectator. But it’s not a martial art anymore. It’s simply an art. And that’s fine, if that’s what one is interested in.

While our technique may be graceful, we should not worry about that. Leave grace to the ballerina, and beauty to the painter. Strive to be balanced, poised, relaxed, quick as a snake, ruthless as a lion, and efficient as the blade of a sharp sword. Remember your purpose, which is a martial purpose, the way of war, and the preservation of life and limb.

Seen from this perspective, we do not strive for grace and find good martial arts as a result. Rather we strive for efficient, balanced, rapid and ruthless motion, and if beauty is the result, wonderful. If not, so be it. Grace and beauty can take care of themselves.

Hapki! (harmonious energy)

Wael Abdelgawad, Founder
Hammerhead Hapkido

1 Comment

  1. I’m not saying that styles that strive for grace and beauty above all – Aikido, Hankido and Tai Chi come to mind – are not worthy of practicing. Millions of people practice these arts and enjoy the health benefits and calming effects. But one should view these styles – in my opinion – as exercises, community activities, or moving meditations, rather than fighting styles.

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