Visiting the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank is an inspirational and reflective experience. Enjoying the tour with my son, also testing for his Black Belt this year, made the experience even more fulfilling.
The combination of history and inspiration is most obvious in the displays of weapons, uniforms, AV presentations, and timelines. But spending time absorbing the exhibits gives a glimpse of the significance of martial arts through history.
It was interesting and exciting to see TKC’s influence represented in the museum. From the very beginning when we walked into the museum, the gentleman at the front desk (founder and president Michael Matsuda?) asked us what brought us to the museum. When we told him we are Black Belt Candidates at Team Karate Centers, he immediately spoke very highly of TKC and Sensei Fariborz as instrumental in the founding of the museum.
It was exciting to see Sensei Fariborz on the cover of Martial Art magazine (posted right next to Mr. Miagi), and to learn that Sensei Fariborz is in the Hall of Fame. I felt a sense of respect – maybe some pride for being a TKC student seeing that some displays were donated by TKC. And seeing Sensei Benny’s championship belt and Muay Thai shorts along with a description of his fighting career and achievements, and knowing that he still visits TKC, gave me a better understanding of TKC’s – Sensei Fariborz’s – impact on martial arts in Los Angeles over the years.
I never realized how many cultures had their own versions of martial arts. I knew there were many forms, but I really never fully considered that they all came from different times and places. The museum’s mission, “to promote an appreciation of America’s cultural diversity by using the martial arts as its gateway into sharing how Asian history became part of American history” stands out. Even in my relatively short vision, I learned a lot about the history of martial arts and especially that many cultures developed their own versions – and over time they have crossed paths and likely melded and impacted one another as they evolved.
It’s interesting to learn how the different versions of “martial” techniques were born from different cultures in different regions largely with the common goal of self defense, but also many times disguised as dancing or something else until it was needed for safety. It appears that from their origins, the different forms of martial arts served common purposes: self defense, exercise, discipline.
It was interesting to see how some weapons evolved from simple tools. The Kama on display (donated by TKC) and the Hapkido Cane both were described as originally being tools for farming or walking through rugged terrain, but then doubled as weapons when needed. And techniques were developed to make them effective – and lethal.
Another prominent message throughout the museum is the relationship between martial arts and the entertainment industry – at least in Los Angeles. How pop culture (driving by TV and movies) made people aware of martial arts, and attracted people to martial arts. Similar to the recent article in the Los Angeles Times about the impact of The Karate Kid movies and Cobra Kai TV shows, older movies that featured stars like Bruce Lee had an obvious and largely positive impact on the martial arts community in the United States. I know that I was very attracted to the action movies and characters when I was younger – Bruce Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I loved them all. Played “ninja” as a kid. Jumped all over the house and the yard, and threw throwing stars and knives into the side of my family’s carport cover (until my parents found out and I had to stop).
I enjoyed my visit to the museum. I learned a lot, and it gave me a greater respect for martial arts’ origins and the variety of forms that have evolved. The museum also reinforced the message that studying martial arts is an ongoing, evolving, and potentially lifelong process.
The history of martial arts – dating back to before 425 BC – speaks to its evolution over thousands of years, and is a reminder that no matter how much I practice, I will always have more to learn, I will also have room for improvement, and I will always have to accept my limitations. There is no destination, only the journey.