Sometimes I wonder, why do we bother with martial arts anyway? For sport and fun, OK, but for combat? Why would you want to learn an art that worked for someone else sometime in the past, possibly under different circumstances, legally, ethically etc... Not to mention all the useless shit you have to buy (gi, belt, hakama you never use utside the dojo) While combat is complex, it's not complicated. There are just systems trying to distrupt or destroy other systems. Combat is governed by anatomy and physics. Those do not change. Why is combat an art, not science? Maybe because carrying the legacy of the samurai/ninja/viking/whatever has much appeal to the monkey?
Complex versus complicated is something I desperately want to riff on. Later.
Why are people driven to study something that worked in the past? Possibly because the other option is to study something that didn't work in the past. Something that has never worked.
Which would you prefer: "According to the old legends, Sir Hackemup used these tools and these tactics to survive against insurmountable odds at the Battle of Last Man Standing."
Or: "We had a committee meeting with the University's Departments of Physics, Medicine, Kinesiology, and biology departments and we're pretty sure the best way to survive a close quarters ambush is to..."
There's no right or wrong answer to that (though I personally love it when scientists and historians agree.
My wife and I were talking about doing some minor home surgery. I was, really. K has a very non-scientific attitude about such things.
"We have professionals with the proper equipment right here in town," she said, "Why would you even consider doing such a thing yourself?"
"Because if we didn't have access to professionals, I'd have to do it myself and it's only practice if you don't need to."
Here's the deal with self-defense in a mostly civilized world and it's the same deal as trying to keep soldiers sharp in periods of extended peace, or keeping survival skills up when you are warm and comfortable... anything that you want to improve, you know must adapt, and yet you will not have a chance to test. Like home surgery.
I can tell you how to build a fusion generator, or how to fix a car, or how to amputate a leg, or how to defend yourself from rabid ferrets. But if neither of us have actually done it, we have no way to know if the instructions are effective or utter fantasy. And if I have done it for real and you haven't, we can have confidence that the instructions will work and absolutely no idea if they will work for you or if you can pull them off when you need to.
1) a high risk endeavor
2) with a very limited amount of actual knowledge (unethical to design proper academic experiments on fear and danger; statistically insignificant number of accurately reported incidents; witnesses under stress are notoriously unreliable)
3) that will never be personally tested by most students or instructors (and even fewer will have enough real encounters to get past the adrenaline effects and see accurately)
4) that people on a very deep almost Freudian level tend to tie their personalities around (how many people self-identify as 'warriors' who have never put their lives on the line, much less under orders?)
Reasons 1 and 4 are the drives. People want to know. They want to know they are good. They want to know they are safe. They want to know they have it. Reason 3 is why that desire will never be satisfied. #2 is the reason there will never be a certain answer.
When people have this big a need that can't be satisfied except at extreme personal risk, they seek outside validation. Lineage. Or pseudoscience. Or scientific studies that if you squint a little look like they might validate what you want to believe.
They want to swim in the deep water, but they need some kind of reassurance. They hold onto the side of the pool.