Talking with Wayne A. for the last couple of days... good talks-- he's smart, skilled and comes from a very different background (martially, upbringing, and professionally) than I. So lots for me to learn.
One of the conversations was about community, inclusiveness and exclusiveness. I'm almost paranoid about groups and organizations in the martial arts. They stagnate or splinter, dissolve or become dogmatic. I can think of a single martial organization that lasted beyond the death of its founder and stayed both coherent and effective (judo). But even my beloved judo appears to be changing.
In martial arts instruction, a lot of people have observed that people come for self-defense but stay for other reasons. Wayne says that they stay for the community, and I see that. There was a time when I would talk about my 'martial arts brothers'-- we bled and sweat together. We were tight. So I get it. the judo team was tight. Direct interaction with pain and sweat. Also, nature of judo, it was hard to get away with being a poser. Everybody rolled with everybody every practice. But add one layer of abstraction... College politics or the AAU or the Olympic community all appeared fragmented, political and nasty. There were at least three organizations all vying to be THE umbrella organization for judo in the US (two big ones, actually and a couple of fly-by-nights). All hated each other and it was all about power... if you can consider writing rules for sweaty strangers to be power.
I think it's worse in martial arts that don't have a strong competitive aspect. Doesn't make sport better, but it makes it clear about what you are doing. If you have competition, and you aim for competition, you have immediate feedback on whether your stuff works for competition when you compete. If you aren't sure on what you are measuring or what you value, there's a lot more weasel room.
Self-defense? How can you know when such a small percentage of your class will ever use it? Deadliness? You can't know unless you kill people. Authenticity/lineage/etc. --hard to measure, even assuming you have actual documents and can read an archaic version of a foreign language. And even harder to show that it matters in any real way.
When people don't have a good metric, they tend to rely on received wisdom. On dogma. When you can't know, you want to feel sure. Dogma makes you feel sure.
That was mostly a tangent, but it ties back to community in a big way. People want to be sure and have identifiers. "We are the (insert name here)." Once you have chosen your tribe, your tribe must be the best, and since no tribe (or style or school or method or nation or family or team) is or can be the best (too many different measurements of 'best' for that to be possible) your excuse-making brain goes into overdrive.
And a big piece of that process is coming up with an excuse to deny any information from a different tribe.
There is an exception, though. Certain high end teams, the VPPG, and the valued friends that I refer to as 'honorable enemies'-- all have the same concept. We exist to challenge each other. To push and shatter illusions. "A man sharpens a man as steel sharpens steel."
I don't think it will ever spread very far. Don't think a group like this will ever get very big or last beyond a small group at a certain time of life. Most people want comfort and certainty. The few I know who seek discomfort and doubt tend to be the men and women who bet their lives on their skills and can't afford certainty, comfort or similar illusions.
I believe it is completely incompatible with teaching subject matter (may be wrong about that-- competition teams are an obvious exception). Preparing for high-chaos, high-risk environments, I'm confident you can't be dogmatic and continuously improve.
Would it be possible to create a long-term community dedicated to challenge? I wonder, because the people who seek groups also seem to like to crystalize them.