Martial arts techniques are physical movements and are amenable to motion capture, video, books, diagrams, notes, dance notation, and just about anything else you can use to capture physical movement. It would not be hard to preserve the shape of any practice.
In a more complicated aspect, the martial arts are also lots of stuff beyond the simple physical movements, and that stuff isn’t so easy to put into words, but then again, that stuff is largely self-learned through decades of practice so doesn’t really need to be preserved outside the practice itself. The old men all end up saying pretty much the same things about the arts, and it isn’t really “what they know” as “who they are” that’s valuable in this aspect of things.
Then there’s the cultural, religious, spiritual, historical stuff that differentiates and defines each art, and most of that can either be taught orally or put into books.
The question isn’t really “can” we preserve the old dying arts by these methods, but “why” preserve them. If nobody is practicing them what’s the point of the preservation of the shell? Sure arts get re-vived and re-created but ultimately it comes back to the teacher not what’s taught, and there are still excellent people out there teaching arts that aren’t in danger of extinction who can use those arts to teach you as easily as they can use some moldy old fossil.
So who cares right? What? You do I hear?
“How much?” I ask. If you really are willing to help preserve a small art on the edge of vanishing, an art that is essentially being offered by one single fellow willing to share it, you might want to consider going to Calgary on August 15 to 17 to study Kage Ryu with Colin Watkin. No not that Kage Ryu, the other one, the one that uses five foot long swords to draw and cut with. The last time I practiced I remember we got to throw shoto and ride a horse. Colin will also be teaching Niten Ichiryu which is a much more popular art, there are probably at least 200 people practicing that one world wide… maybe even 300.
Email Alex Cook for details of two weekends worth of practice (and you can visit Banff in the days between, it’s close to Calgary) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maybe I’ll see you there because I’m doing my bit, sacrificing to learn, probably going to visit the mountains and hang out with a great bunch of enthusiastic folk in Canada’s most enthusiastic city… Yep, in real hardship for the arts.