View Full Version : "What does the martial arts mean to me?"
"What does the martial arts mean to me?"
This is a question I am often asked, generally by non-practicioners, or new practicioners, and it is a question which I have yet to answer, for the simple fact that it is difficult to condense 23 years (this June) of training and living, into a 15-second sound bite.
On the several occasions that I have sat down and considered this question, I have found that I routinely come back to a quote from Terry Dobson, part of which is reflected in my signature line here on GlockTalk:
"The secret of focus is virtuous intention. Nothing else. Any fool can concentrate; the real life, and deathness, comes in why you are focusing. If you set out to hurt, you will be cut down. If you set out with virtuous intention, you will go right through the opponent."
The martial arts, for me, is a life-long exercise geared toward understanding the nature of that 'virtuous intention'.
Someone, and I forget who, said "Perfection is attained, not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away", or words to that effect. This is absolutely correct. For me, the purpose of spending decades in the pursuit of something which will never be completed (the course of training), is to continually learn to refine and apply our sense of virtuous intention. Through the crucible of training, we burn away preconceptions, "conventional wisdom", artificial limitations, and any other impediments, with the goal of having a purely virtuous intention.
Training becomes, then, the lens through which we view everything- and every experience we have, no matter how insignificant, becomes a part of our training. It's an on-going process, which (for the serious practicioner) never ends.
So, what does the martial arts mean to you?
This is almost a metaphysical question.
For me, it means having an extension of your family. Most MAs have a teacher student relationship. Bjj does also to a certain extent but it has a much looser structure also, meaning that the teacher becomes more of a uncle-like figure. It is somewhat hard to explain unless you have experienced it. Also, it means having confidence in myself KNOWING that I can handle myself because I spar at full speed against a resisting opponent. I has brought me a lot of joy.
It is a metaphysical question! And one which demonstrates the breadth and depth of the martial arts, which is usually unseen by the general public (and sadly, too many of those who practice, but not seriously).
It's funny you should mention "Uncle" relationship- Several sensei that I have known, have described the sensei-student relationship as being somewhat like the relationship between father and son, but without the biological connotation. In describing it to non-practicioners, I've often used the analogy of a high school sports coach, using the noun "Coach" fondly. So, "Uncle" is pretty close to this, as well, if a little less formal (which is how you described it).
I have been practicing since 1963 and I cant give you an answer. It is just a part of my life. Maybe even a way of life. I wouldn't be the person I am without the arts.
I will say this and it will probably anger a lot of people. The "Martial Arts" today are not what they were a few years ago. I take my students to tournaments and see people doing Kata that look more like dances or gymnastics than fighting. I see people performing weapon Kata that look more like baton twirling contest than fighting.
All that is cute. But it IS NOT Martial Arts.
After all Martial Arts is WAR! Guns, Swords, Knifes, Sticks, Whatever. It is to protect yourself or kill others. If it is anything else it is not Martial Arts. It is for sport.
I have had Black Belts come into my Dojo and tell me that in their school they were not allowed to hit in the face. How can you be a Black Belt and never been hit in the face?
I know, I know, I'm old and set in my ways. When I was coming through the Ranks, ETC, ETC.
Probably didn't answer your question but gave me a chance to get this off my chest.
You hit a very interesting point, Sensei, and one which I make frequently: The Bastardization of the Martial Arts.
Without going into extreme, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-inducing length on the subject, the "modern" martial arts really have become a vineer of the traditional schools. The hard training (and I mean HARD!), the hard contact, the enlightenment and self-discovery, are all gone, substituted with fluff which offends as few people as possible, in order to bring in money.
My occasional intellectual sparring partner, Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny (http://www.dogbrothers.com), has a motto for his school: "Higher Consciousness Through Harder Contact"; and this is absolutely true. The more one must endure, the greater one's understanding of all things.
Or, as a gardener friend of mine says, "The more ya' worked fer it, the better is tastes".
EDIT TO ADD: Dog Brothers link.
I also posted this on Warrior Talk (http://www.warriortalk.com), and this is a reply from "Guantes", which I liked enough to post over here as well:
I fear my answer will be a meandering mish mash compared to your tract. But let me wander on.
On the question of adding and taking away. I recall a story about a sculptor. I don't recall who, was sculpting (lets say a bear) and was asked, "How did you create such a magnificent bear?". His reply was, "It was always there, I just removed anything that wasn't part of it.".
Martial Arts (not just training) in any form (empty hand to guns) is the embodiment of honor. Be it under any of various guises, from Bushido to The Code of Chivalry, it is the ethical codes guiding the manner in which warriors practice the profession of arms and how they live their lives. Warriors are honorable because to be otherwise is cowardly. Having moral rectitude as the only avenue open for one to proceed down provides a unique perspective of life. Warriors aren't arrogant, but live with the dark knowledge that their profession may one day call on them to kill other human beings, and they are quietly confident in their physical, emotional and technical ability to do so. Warriors without honor quickly become tyrants. Only warriors understand other warriors.
As an aside, along the lines of personal power, the story of the Tea Master and the Ronin has always been one of my favorites.
Oh no, not mishmash at all, it looks good to me.
Something to ponder: Could "honor", for the warrior, be the codification of the "virtuous intention" I am describing? If not, how are they different?
Most arts nowadays are geared towards sport. It is getting harder to find one that emphasizes 'Warriorship' over a trophy. The sad part is that people 'do' martial arts on Mondays and Thursdays and bowling [or whatever] on Tuesdays and Fridays. That is how they place the arts. Few live the 'Martial way'.
It is one thing to roll around on a nice soft mat, in a controlled environment trying to get an arm bar. It is quite another to face a determined attacker in the parking lot with glass, parked cars, possibility of weapons and perhaps multiple adversaries.
Just my 2 cents.
Joshua M. Smith
What martial arts mean to me:
Peaceful existence with the ability to maintain that peace should anyone wish to take it from me.
No offense, but for me, it is purely just a self defense issue. I just want to be able to survive with minimal injury an othwerise unavoidable physical conflict. I want a self defense system to be as simple and efficient as possible. I have no other interest. Sorry to dissapoint.
Although, I really like Josh Smith's post above, BTW.
As has already been stated it is difficult to sum up a lifetime of experience and committment in a few sentences. Still, for me the essence of my training is overcoming personal fear. Fear is what stops all of us from attaining what we want. Not just the fear of walking down a dark street alone or fear of intimidation or violence, but the deep fears that prevent us from succeeding and sometimes from even being happy.
The study of martial arts has helped me to have the courage to be happily married to the same woman for over twenty years. Exploring my personal demons through training have enabled me to build a successful business, be a good citizen, and a positive influence in my community. Being a student led me to being a teacher which required speaking in front of people, now public speaking is a part of my business and something that I enjoy.
The experience of training in the martial arts is a microcosm of life in general. When you practice with someone you can tell who is honest and forthright, who is bold, who is inquisitive. You can also tell who is cowardly or mean spirited or brutal or dishonest. I also believe that if we try we can view ourselves and if we are willing to truly face the fear we can change. I am not saying this in some airy fairy way, this is real stuff that applies to self defense or just being happy. To me it is this concept that elevates true martial arts above basketball or bowling or aerobics.
Martial arts is a lifelong pursuit because you can never learn everything no matter how old you are or how much experience you have. Martial arts should work too to be called martial arts because they were made to work in the first place and then later on the sporting aspect came.
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