The English Martial Arts Podcast Show
The Martial Artist
In an increasingly violent modern society, can a man who teaches physical combat be a positive role model?
There is a seemingly obvious contradiction in studying a combat art and claiming to be a peace-loving individual but, just as the personalities and moral characters of builders, actors, footballers and politicians vary greatly, so too do those of martial artists and boxers. Much as the balletic grace of stylised movie martial arts – which can often be beautiful to watch – contradicts the bloody savagery of mixed martial arts contests, so too can the outside-the-ring gentleness of pugilists appear contrary to their chosen profession.
Although martial arts were formulated as battlefield techniques and were honed in countless wars and violent upheavals, they also contain elements of philosophy and codes of conduct which provide a blueprint for a way of life and morality.
The most obvious example of this would be China's famed Shaolin Temple warriors; the Buddhist monks who preached peace whilst training in potentially lethal methods of hand-to-hand and armed combat and yet their skills were born from a need to defend themselves against the violent street-robbers of the period. Likewise the 'gentlemen warriors'; the Japanese Samurai, who practised poetry and flower-arranging, alongside their swordsmanship and wished only to engage the very best of opponents in battle.
Perhaps the Shaolin monks' desire to learn the skills to physically protect themselves against bigger and more aggressive tormentors, is the very same one replicated today by millions of people the world over, who live in constant fear of violent assault, every time they tentatively step out from their front doors? But, what if those very tormentors also aspire to learn the combat arts in order to enhance their brutality?
In centuries past, the Masters of the various arts would accept a student based upon their character as much as their potential for mastering the physical aspects of the particular martial style / system but, in today's money-motivated society, can we still rely upon an instructor's morality to determine their acceptance of a new student?
I myself have trained with a few 'dubious types' over the years – including several instructors who abused their positions and physically hurt and humiliated students – but the vast majority of people I trained with have been a pleasure to know; with no obvious psychological or emotional problems.
On his website renowned martial artist Simon Lau reflects upon the negativity often directed against the martial arts: "The image projected is generally one of violence. Stories have been reported of attacks involving 'Samurai swords' and 'Ninja throwing stars' which, whilst appalling to everyone, in all probability did not involve trained martial artists, yet it is exactly that section of our society which suffers as a result of these stories...
This perception must be reversed but the only true way this can be achieved is by education of how martial arts can be of real benefit to a person's whole being. As martial artists we should relish the opportunity to show the world the enlightened ways of martial arts and to ensure that we show our arts and ourselves in the best light, with integrity and dignity. Like any other art form, be it painting, dance or acting we should celebrate in what we do and in what we have to offer society".
Much emphasis is placed upon codes of conduct and the immorality of deliberately hurting an adversary in traditional martial arts and some schools actively promote non-violent resolution to conflict; teaching methods of understanding emotional and aggressive behaviour and learning how to 'defuse' an aggressor's violent intentions.
Like any other art form, be it painting, dance or acting we should celebrate in what we do and in what we have to offer society
Brought to you by Frank Docherty of The English Martial Arts Podcast Show