It’s easy to laugh at the QAnon followers who stormed the capitol in the belief that Donald Trump would pardon them of their crimes and there was a secret revolution about to happen, but there are plenty of equally delusional beliefs in martial arts.
I found an article on the Martial History Team blog recently that quotes from a longer article by Paul Bowman about why martial arts history seems to matter so much to some people.
There are plenty of gems here, but I like this quote:
“Unsurprisingly, in much scholarship on Asian martial arts, the matter of history remains freighted and weighted down by the same popular myths; so much so that even much that passes for scholarship seems to refuse to face up to the evidence that suggests that, quite frequently, martial arts that present themselves as ancient are hardly even old.
So many massive social mutations occurred through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that most ‘traditional’ martial arts effectively have at best little more than a century of continuous history to them, rather than the vast eons of allochronic time that so many seem to want them to have spanned.
I emphasize the word ‘want’, here. This is because wanting appears to be a key issue to consider when approaching questions of martial arts history and culture. For instance, it seems that the perpetuation of fantasy histories and the fetishistic fabrication of lineages in ‘traditional’ martial arts evidently have everything to do with wanting.
Practitioners want taiji to be ancient. Many want there to have been a Southern Shaolin Temple which was burned down, scattering the few surviving kung fu monks to the different corners of China. We want Okinawan farmers to have fought samurai with rice flails. We want Yim Wing Chun to have been a real proto-feminist warrior. We want the skill that wielded the weapon that killed Magellan to remain alive today. And we want ancient warrior armies to have flown at each other through the air, kicking each other off horses with flying sidekicks and jumping spinning back kicks.
Just because you want something, it doesn’t make it true.