Picasso is sitting by a small table. Yes, the famous artist Picasso.
In front of him he has a white, blank, paper. He is quietly focusing on his task at hand. To his right he has a palette full of colors, and some extra if he wants to mix his own. To his left he has brushes lined up, ranging from the smallest – perfect for details – to the largest – good for covering big spaces. The sheet of paper in front of him is still white, but not for long…
Five meters to the left of Picasso is another man, sitting by an identical table.
It is Leonardo da Vinci. Also a famous artist.
He is sitting with his eyes closed, focusing on what he will do in a short while. Mentally preparing you might call it. Because… in just a few minutes they are going to compete against each other.
They are not alone in the room, no, no. Behind them is the audience. Hundreds of people have come from near and far to watch this showdown. Some guy is wearing a “GO PICASSO” hat that looks hilarious, and a woman seems to have “DA VINCI 4 EVER” painted on her face. They have their own fan clubs is seems. So you would think they are screaming, but not anymore because it’s about to begin any second now. It’s quiet.
Picasso and da Vinci are sitting still.
Did I mention the judges? Oh yes, you can’t compete without judges. Five judges with flags are sitting in a circle around the two competitors. The flags are red and blue, same as the color of the robes the competitors wear, so it’s easy to distinguish between them. And easy to judge – if you think one is better, just raise “his” flag. Couldn’t be easier.
Suddenly, a blast from a whistle is heard. That means start!
The competitors, Picasso and da Vinci, are painting furiously. They know there is a time limit, so they have to work fast. Paint is flying in the air, brushes are being changed every second or so, details are checked, some more paint, change water, change brush, add a few strokes here and there, change water again….
And so it continues for five minutes.
The whistle blows again. It’s over. The competitors have to stop.
Picasso and da Vinci are looking exhausted. Sweat. Red faces. Green, yellow and blue faces too, from the paint I think.
Two assistants pick up the paintings. They walk around in a circle, showing the masterpieces to the judges.
The judges will be focusing on a lot of points and details, like correct technique, stroke length, softness and hardness of the strokes, the usage and mixing of colors, how different brushing techniques were applied together, which school or style they represent (cubism/realism/naturalism), if they did any apparent mistakes, how well the whole paper was used, which color scheme is dominant and so on.
There are more details than one might think…
So, after thinking for a couple of seconds, the judges raise their flags. A winner is declared! The audience screams and claps their hands, “wohoo!” One gets a gold medal, the other can go home and practice some more.
Oh, you want to know who won? Picasso did.
da Vinci just couldn’t make that woman on her painting smile enough for the judges to like it.
End of story.
So, what do I want to show by this story? Well, painting pictures is an art, right? And Karate is an art too (a martial art). So, can you compete in an art? Which one would win, Mona Lisa or Whistler’s Mother? A bust made by Raphael or by Michelangelo? It can’t be decided, because the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
If you want to compete in art, you have to remove the art itself, so that only raw skill remains. A competition is based on judgement, which is based on facts, rules and regulations. And that is the exact opposite of art.
Art bends, twist, flips, shakes and inverts rules.
It all begins with learning the basics. How to mix colors, techniques when doing strokes and so on. When the basics are mastered, fine paintings are made, after years of study. Carefully following the rules that were learnt a long time ago. But eventually, the “rules” are absorbed. They so deep, that the artist transcends them. He (or she) doesn’t need the rules anymore, he takes the rules to a higher level.
The rules have limits, and competitions have rules. Imagination doesn’t have limits.
The artist creates new rules. He breaks the rules while at the same time following them. He has mastered his artform. He is a master.
He is his art.
It’s impossible to compete in art. You can compete, of course, but then it’s not art anymore. It’s just… painting. To regular people it might look like art. But in the eye of an artist, it is not art. It is simply skilled painting. The same applies to making sculptures or… doing physical moves. Like dancing, figure skating, gymnastics…
Competing in anything is hard, and if you are an athlete, no matter what sport, you deserve respect for diligently honing your skills, training hard day after day. It’s certainly not everyone can do.
But no matter how beautiful the sport is, it’s not an art. Then how do you know if something is an art?
Just ask yourself this:
- Are you more concerned with mastering others, or mastering yourself?
- Are you more concerned with the product or the process?
- Do you think victory defined excellence, or does excellence define victory?
I think Karate-jutsu is great. Because “jutsu” translates to “practical art”.
Isn’t that perfect?