136) Martial Arts- A Case of Mistaken Identity: January 2017
Over the next couple of months, I am going to provide my opinions on the nonsensical, pissing contests that begin when people try and wax and wane poetically (mostly done in a less refined manner) about the superiority of the martial art that they practice. I will of course, finish off by expounding my beliefs about Aikido today (and it’s myriad of “flavors”).
Let us start out by looking at those two “special” words:
“MARTIAL”- The Merrian-Webster Dictionary (online) defines this word as: of, relating to, or suited for war or a warrior; relating to an army or to military life; experienced in or inclined to war.
“ART”-The Merrian-Webster Dictionary (online) defines this word as: skill acquired by experience, study, or observation <the art of making friends; a branch of learning; one of the humanities; an occupation requiring knowledge or skill; the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; a skillful plan; the quality or state of being artful; decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter.
“MARTIAL ARTS”- The Merrian-Webster Dictionary (online) defines these words as: any of several arts of combat and self defense (as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport.
Simply reading these sets of definitions should lead a person to begin the process of head scratching….. The term “martial” clearly refers to a military or war environment and the people who fight in that type of environment. The term “art” is clearly referring to an acquired body of skills or knowledge to produce something that almost always is creative in nature in it’s representation/expressed form. We should begin to see a growing chasm developing….. What we call “martial arts” today has precious little to do with modern day warfare. Almost all of the martial arts that is represented and practiced today came from the Pacific rim/Asia region and are archaic, stylized remnants of fighting traditions and methods that existed hundreds of years ago. There are some very old schools of martial training with a clear lineage that are quite old. It would be folly to say that they have not been modified over time and it would be considered psychotic thinking to believe that this training is directly applicable to a modern day, combat scenario. What we do is a creative, acquired skill based discipline that IS NOT representative of the reality that is war/combat based. The concept of self-defense is little more than a psychotic wormhole that people use today to create a sense of fear and danger about life that demands a degree of empowerment to stave off those fears and dangers. I addressed that in blog #79. If you need more specificity in regards to this area, please read that blog.
A good question to ask, would be why are we still practicing these traditions today. Certainly, there is an important cultural component that is being transmitted that helps to inform us and provide us with a sense of continuity about the culture that it came from. All of these practices do involve some degree of body training that can be beneficial to our physical and mental well-being. All of these practices do provide people with some type of skill set that is/was designed to address some specific type of confrontational interaction.
Once we move beyond these basics, we enter into a realm fraught with mistaken beliefs, over-inflated egos, and comical characters that provide many on-line forums (and other venues of discussion) with a form of entertainment best enjoyed while stuck on one’s throne. If a person is so damn enthralled with being considered “martial”, enlist in the military. Military organizations are always looking for a few good people! The benefits of spending your adult life (as long as it lasts) killing, maiming, injuring enemy combatants, destroying, degrading enemy combatant infrastructures should speak for themselves. Go speak to combat veterans, volunteer at a VA, do all that you can do to learn about the costs and benefits of living such a life. If that is truly for you, live it. If that is not really for you, STOP trying and pretending to be some kind of presentation of all that is martial. If you are engaged in that process, then you are little more than your own fluffer in your own adult movie about yourself. It is beyond tiresome to continuously read about how much more complete, better, tougher, superior, etc. one form of martial arts is over everything else out there. It has become exhausting to keep up with all of exploits and “necessary skills” that you can learn from one special human. These discussions simply make us all look like deluded fools, particularly to those who actually place themselves in combat situations (or have done so in their pasts). We should not need these artificial props to justify what we do and why we do it.
We genuinely need to get over our unnecessary sense of self-importance about the martial arts that we study, the awesome person/people we learn from, and the martial artist that we have become. If we can step back and simply take an honest look at what each of us does, we should be able to find some value in what we do, based upon a realistic assessment of what we do. Getting in great physical shape is a wonderful goal! Being able to do acrobatic moves with certain tools can definitely entertain others, while demonstrating an impressive degree of dexterity, flexibility, coordination, etc.. Being able to test yourself within well defined parameters against others can be entertaining to others, while provide you with a sense of accomplishment. We should be able to set clear goals for what we want to achieve, within the disciplines that we study without having to justify it’s worth by making what we do into something that it is not.
We should be able to market our martial arts based upon what we really do and not based upon false promises derived from a fear/danger based foundation. We all seem stuck in trying to market the “best thing”, which does little more than to create false promises to the consumers, while wasting our time trying to topple the “new, sliced, white bread.” We should aspire to function as a community, rather than a bunch of scavengers fighting over bones and sinew. There really is room for all of us to grow together.
Martial Arts today are creative representations that have been DERIVED from old fighting traditions. We practice them to be able to achieve some sense of accomplishment. We practice them to be able to help with our mental and physical well-being. Creative presentations do not accurately represent a greater reality. What many people do not want to acknowledge is that when we “test” or move beyond these realms into the greater reality of life, where confrontations lead to life and death consequences, we minimize the negative consequences, while maximize the positive consequences of the outcomes when the art meets reality. If you really want to engage in life and death encounters, you are best off entering a military service and get the best training possible so that hopefully you can live to talk about it later in your life. If you really do not want to do so, you should focus on the positive aspects of preserving and cherishing life, because we are all meant to die and the time that we have is finite and precious. Choosing how we spend that finite time is not a choice that we can redo later. Choose wisely grasshopper!
Marc Abrams Sensei