Why Lineage is Peripheral in the Martial Arts

Perry Battles' Blog

“Traditional Shaolin Kung Fu.”

“The originalEight Brocades of Chi Gong.”

“My grandmaster, who can trace his lineage to [insert traditional master’s name].”

Lineage is one of the foremost pillars in a martial artist’s sense of self, and possibly the largest factor in the legitimacy of a martial arts school. The statements above are about as common as snow in Alaska, and accentuate this fact.

I feel that martial lineage is, in all honesty, overvalued.

Martial arts were developed for multiple purposes across the span of human history; sometimes for health, discipline, sport, even enlightenment; and, most commonly, for battle.

Traditionally, an art’s value and the value of an art’s practitioners would have been measured by its efficacy — not by its lineage or how true to a previous form it was. Lineage didn’t matter — survival and victory were paramount.

Over the years, it seems to have become custom…

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