The martial arts world is changing, and the change is fast and the changes are big.
It's coming from a lot of different sources.
There is more information accessible than ever before. You want to argue endlessly about the lineage of some obscure family system, go right ahead. But if you keep doing it, the argument is the point, because we know someone who knows someone who has a cell phone who is right in the freaking village. If the founders's actual physical grandson thinks the argument is pointless...
Anyway, the combination of cell phones and "six degrees of separation"... which is actually closer to 4.7 degrees.
That's not even counting the internet, which has immeasurably increased the possibility of like-minded people getting together. Guess how many people who comment here are cops (or former) and martial artists of long standing with an introspective streak and a desire to understand and explain. Think there are more than a handful of those in any given area? And that's just one obscure blog. It cuts both ways, of course. People looking for new information and to be challenged can find that. People who want their personal flavor of koolaid praised and defended can find that as well.
The prevalence of video. You can actually see how bad stuff happens. No more excuses when you practice defenses against attacks that don't happen.
The rise of MMA. I don't think it's reality fighting or even a good laboratory for what I'm interested in. At some point, two guys of the same size planning to meet with several months notice at an appointed place and time without weapons and voluntarily using the same range of techniques became the benchmark for "reality fighting." That's a big WTF, as far as applicability to self-defense goes. But MMA and particularly the early UFC had a huge impact. It both made people think and question, which was valuable. And it made it unacceptable to hide behind tradition or received wisdom. Put up or shut up. Which was invaluable.
The RBSD...fad? Hard to tell if it is a fad. There is at least as much fantasy in the RBSD world as in the traditional. There are little battles about how real reality is. Is a bouncer's reality real? "I don't hide behind no badge." Is a cop's reality real? "We arrived on the scene..."
Does a RBSD system derived from military arts (designed around young men in peak physical condition and with ROE not related to self-defense law) automatically transfer to the needs of an undersized drunk college girl who badly misread the character of a guy she just met?
But just like MMA, RBSD is getting people thinking.
Teaching methodology, everything from adult learning models to Olympic coaching methods are changing the martial world. There may be a few dojo still practicing exercises known to destroy knees, but they are dying out.
But the biggest change, I think, is in the practitioners. Kris Wilder has been digging into body mechanics that I can only describe as Okinawan internal arts. That would be impressive enough and thirty years ago it would have been (hell, it was) a closely guarded secret. It's impressive that he is studying and teaching it. More impressive is that it isn't enough, not for Kris. He reasons that if the body mechanics are that good, they are universal...and he tests and refines them in judo competition.
When Jake Steinmann heard conflicting information from two sources he respected, he didn't feel a need to choose a side and get defensive. He felt a responsibility not to get his students killed and went to bang it out.
Teja Van Wicklen was a rough, tough martial artist... and then she found, eight months into a rough pregnancy, that none of her twenty years of training applied when she was truly and completely vulnerable. Another instructor might have ignored the truth or drunk some more koolaid or done something to feel better about the situation. Teja realized she needed to rethink the entire process from the ground up.
Jeff Burger... damn. Train with him if you can. Too long a story to go into here.
Testing. Challenging. Looking at real problems. Most importantly, I think, for the first time in martial arts (and this will ruffle a few feathers) we have a significant percentage of serious practitioners who are thinking for themselves. Not taking the word of a 'master'. Not pretending that techniques that failed worked. Noticing that sometimes, "We've always done it this way" has a direct correlation to "Every senior practitioner has had knee surgery."
It's not always cool. Along with the people who are hammering out the new things I hear a lot from people who are quitting. One who put his life on hold to train in Japan for a decade and a half doesn't want to deal with the politics, with the tribal vitriol of people who have never been and done and feel threatened by one who has. One talented instructor hit his funk, "I don't think what I'm teaching is what I think it is. I thought it was self-defense. I thought I was teaching fighting..."
Good people are considering walking away from something they love. That means they can see something big, so big that it frightens them. The rest of us... I don't think we see it as big. We see problems we can change and fix and as we talk and connect, it gathers momentum.
I don't think the martial arts of 2030 will look anything like the arts of 1990. The change we are looking at is big. Deep water stuff.