A friend of mine – also a highly accomplished Martial Artist – posted a very thought-provoking video yesterday of a young man throwing a full-scale temper tantrum at his teacher. To feel frustration, disappointment, some upset is to be human – it will happen in life. But to get to a point of anger and rage is simply not okay. Ever. Even when there is no physical violence, the words and actions can still be as damaging as if there were.
He posed some very interesting points about why people react this way (because it isn’t a response, it’s a reaction), about avoiding the discussion because it’s too close to home, or because we have differences in opinions (which are nothing more than the lenses we’ve gained through our experiences)…
As a Martial Artist myself, and someone also studying a personal protective defense system, my priority is non-violence. My priority is to have enough wherewithal to exercise control of my person and my reactions / actions / words, even when pushed to the point of anger. I had coincidentally just posted a snapshot of an article I read on a plane this weekend speaking to the very idea of walking away, of non engagement. . .
This teen’s anger is horrifying on so many levels. Respect (in my own world) is of the utmost importance – the things that are said, and the actions taken, are testament to the complete lack of respect for another human being. . .and they can, as above, be as damaging as if the teacher was struck physically.
This also calls to mind the idea that help is desperately needed – but I wonder whether it would be sought, or if someone who knows him would every attempt to initiate that conversation. Sadly, I doubt it. I suspect he will go on to injure himself or others in some way…
It isn’t my training that has me thinking this way, though, but rather that I too am human and have never liked confrontation. Human beings are “flawed” by nature but we have the capacity to be empathic, compassionate, and loving – we have the ability to learn control of all aspects of ourselves and to do good in the world.
I commend the teacher for not reacting as I believe that is what might have kept him safe. The wiser man is the one who walks away from the “show” and doesn’t react to the anger with the same.
Martial Arts are a way of Life, no matter their origins, their focus, their techniques. At their core, they are – heroically and with grace – brimming with precious words of wisdom. . .ones which transcend all temporal confines.
That everything begins, and ends, with respect is not relegated to the Arts, but to Life, our relationships, our interactions, and ourselves.
To maintain respect in the face of adversity and calm alike is at the heart of being a warrior. . .and a solid human being. Like integrity and honesty it is a key pillar of a fulfilled, happy, and healthy Life.
Training the way you want to fight isn’t always so easy. . .but in a way, isn’t that supposed to be the point? That we train in order to potentially defend ourselves?
The tough reality is that what your muscles remember under duress – which is going to be what you have painstakingly programmed them to do in class, lessons, practice – is what matters. If you train to hand the gun back to the perpetrator – even with mindfulness and the knowledge that you *shouldn’t* – it may happen in real life. Terrifying it may be, I’ve actually heard of cases in which just that has occurred… Scary.
The other day in class, our Sensei decided to do a drill combining old school (as in centuries-old Ninpo) traditional movements with a modern-day scenario and vibe. We had to disable our opponent with a distraction or strike, get away (using those traditional techniques), get to and behind cover, and then “draw” our weapon. The drill was one of the most fun I think I’ve ever done…but I was also so incredibly excited to have another opportunity to flesh out a possible, modern situation. No matter how old movements, or kata, or patterns may be, there are gems within them that can be adapted for, and applied to the times.
I don’t carry, for one thing…so I’m not likely to have a firearm at the ready. But the idea was what was most important here, and learning to do all of those things – without the stress – was hugely valuable. What makes it stick? Repetition! Memory needs to be formed so that when we ARE stressed, we can still perform those functions. Just one day of that particular drill isn’t necessarily going to help me out if something really goes down. But…the principles and techniques ARE ones we use every day…
We learn to strike, distract, disable…that’s number 1.
We learn how to efficiently get away, and to not injure our bodies (or injure as little as possible!) as we attempt to do so.
We learn to asses for cover and get behind it if that’s what the situation requires (versus getting away.)
In practicing those things, our muscles learn on such a level that we work on “autopilot” after a point. And that’s what you want!
The difficulty in this particular environment is that we don’t have real firearms, and we aren’t truly hurting our “attacker.” On a range, in a special type of training, an individual who DOES carry can certainly practice his or her ability to draw, aim, shoot, and make the weapon safe – frankly I think anyone in a job in which carrying a pistol is required SHOULD be doing that anyway!
For us at the dojo, we are working on handling whatever is coming at us as quickly and smartly as possible – but again, there are some strikes we simply cannot do. In Ninpo, strikes can be highly unorthodox and nasty – breaking fingers, ripping ears, gouging eyes…it goes on. It’s tough knowing we aren’t going 100% in this case, but we can’t exactly… So we have to keep in mind that in real life, were our safety on the line, we can’t play the but-he’s-a-nice-“uke” (opponent / attacker) game. It’s a challenge, honestly – how do we bridge the gap, then? I’m not sure you really CAN because none of us are out to break another classmate’s limb!
This is – for me – where the repetition comes in. Learning to master even basic movement can take a lifetime, forget years! But in the daily (or as many days as can be managed!) practice helps solidify as many of the effective ways in which to handle a particular threat. There are – keep in mind – an infinite number of movements available to us, and if we could study every Art and master it in a lifetime, we’d be golden. Not the reality, sad to say! Learning to even do a handful of “go-to”s is great – learn to do them properly, to do them well, and to do them with all shapes and sizes (some techniques are really tough with a HUGE partner!) If you want a real challenge, do them blindfolded.
It’s a very “wax on, wax off” concept – the drills help our bodies to do these things as involuntarily as possible so, should the need arise, we actually CAN do something about it. We don’t always have the luxury of training exactly how we fight – this isn’t the Colosseum, after all – but we *can* do everything in our power to focus, to drill, and to get our muscles so familiar with the movements that they will come to our aid when we need them most.
I have to say, Mr. Rogers, you let me down!
The streets here are not exactly tame, depending on the block – happy-go-lucky mindlessness and handing out “hi, neighbor!”s is a surefire way to get in (possibly serious) trouble.
When I began Martial Arts, it wasn’t because I wanted to be “badass” or that I thought I’d need to fend of a gaggle of muggers, necessarily. I was a lifetime athlete – primarily a performing one (ballroom dancing, figure skating, ballet, and the like) – and I wanted to up the ante. I wanted more power, newness, and something that combined athleticism with artistry (which figure skating, for one, manages by default.)
That said, I was enamored of Martial Arts in general from an incredibly young age. It had nothing to do with being a female, by the way – I’ve never felt that I couldn’t achieve the same thing the “boys” did, and in sports the men were more my idols than the women. The grace and fluidity were something my body already knew how to create inherently, but the power and strength of male athletes inspired me on a whole other level.
Martial Arts movies were common enough in our household – older brother = badassery. And watching them, in and of themselves, made me feel empowered – imagine being able to do those things, and hold my own, for myself?!
I didn’t start (Taekwondo, Hapkido, dabble of Kumdo) until the third decade of Life, but I still don’t think that was “too late.” My current Arts are Ninjutsu / Ninpo, and Brazilian Gracie Jui-Jitsu. I feel that the combination of the former, and being in a new, and much tougher city than those I’ve lived in before, has prompted me to develop and even stronger situational awareness. I notice my surroundings, but also am more attuned to the details – how someone is walking, if they are carrying something, if they look in shape and strong, or less able. . . It’s sort of just “there” and it makes me feel even more thankful for my training.
I can’t say whether or not my muscle memories would kick in – I certainly hope so – but I definitely know I am far more prepared than the average person, and have some chance of submitting, escaping, keeping my life. I’m also more aware in general, a direct result training with people, so I can possibly be more proactive.
It may not always be a “beautiful day in the neighborhood” much that my happy-empath spirit would like it to be. Mr. Rogers let a little me down but I picked up the slack and have trained my ass off in the last ten years just in case a “hi, neighbor” leans a little too hostile for my taste!