My brothers and friends, please let this old man take a moment of your time and intrude into your day to day doings.

Any police officer who interview witnesses to a particular incident knows that it wouldn’t be unusual to get as many versions of the incident as the people that were questioned. Does this mean that the witnesses are trying to mislead, misrepresent or distort the facts? Not particularly. Most of the witnesses would have no stake in the incident and would have no reason to lie or exaggerate about what they saw. That doesn’t mean that one, some or all of them were lying. Perception varies from person to person. Often what we see depends on who we are and is filtered through past experience. People often interpret what they see by what they think or believe.

Tell something to someone and ask him to pass it on. By the time it got back to you it will probably bear little or no resemblance to what was first said. This is human nature. It’s what makes us individuals and what makes us different. We have different opinions and ideas and more often than not we see things different. Does this make one right and another wrong? On occasion but more often it doesn’t. It just expresses the individual differences of various people. We aren’t nor should we be carbon copies of each others.

Fighting and combat is pretty strait forward. There are only so many ways to hit, kick, throw or lock up someone. Yet there are many martial arts that approach the simple fact of physical combat totally different. Some prefer kicking and hitting while others may prefer grappling. Some are attracted to and swear by the internal arts while others prefer the external arts. In my opinion, there are no superior arts just superior artists. It doesn’t make sense for one art to put another one down because they don’t do things the same way. The various arts attract their practitioners often because of personal preference, different body types, different needs, availability and any of a number of other factions. It offers something for everyone in spite of body type, personal needs, temperament and etc.

Mutual respect between different systems, arts, organizations, schools and yes, individuals make the various martial arts and martial artists one community, or so you would think. Unfortunately, pride, ego and politics too often drive a wedge between us. While we should be trying to work together to benefit the arts and all of our growth we are busy threatening, disrespecting and tearing each other down. This hurts all of us, the one throwing the dirt, as much as the one it’s being thrown at. We are one community. One family, or at least we should be. For the most part, what hurts one of us hurts all of us.

Too often we are like a bunch of middle school boys scrapping in the school playground. This is bad enough among kids and adolescents but it is totally unacceptable in full grown men and women. I am a minister first and a martial artist second but I have dedicated well over fifty years of my life to these arts and I love them and the people that study, practice and teach them. It grieves me the way we attack and disrespect each other.

There is nothing wrong with seeing things differently. There’s nothing wrong with having different philosophies and agendas. There is something wrong when we want to destroy, wound and disrespect one another in the prospect.

Disagreeing is only human. It’s part of our nature. Disagreeing shouldn’t make us abandon our integrity or lose respect for one another. The Bible tells us to be angry and sin not. I get angry like everyone else. Knowing this I realize that I must be even more careful about what I say and do and how I treat people. I can’t afford to let my emotions or my ego get involved when I’m dealing with people. All of us have put time and effort into learning how to hurt, maim or kill another human being. Most of us are capable of doing terrible damage to another person but is that why we trained in the arts? No one with good sense wants to maim or kill another human being. That figures even more so to martial artists because of our capabilities. We can’t afford to let our anger get out of hand.

In the long run we must embrace rather than hate the differences between us. Mutual respect and brotherhood should figure in our ranks even more than amongst the common man. We above all people should advocate peace and respect in our ranks. I have a terrible temper and it can get out of hand if I let it. Knowing this, I work to harness it and I’m especially careful about what I say and do and how I treat my fellow man. I am held responsible how I treat people as are each of us. There are arguments and disagreements in families but if we value family relations we don’t let it cause a rift amongst brethren.

Disagreeing from time to time is common, but if we disagree we must disagree gracefully. We should agree where we can and agree to disagree where and when we can’t. Life is too short for a lot of confusion. I can only speak for myself. I am in my mid sixties and I don’t have the time for a lot of foolishness. It is my intentions to show respect to every person I come in contact with. I may not like what you think or say but as an American I have to recognize your right to your own opinion and as long as you aren’t wounding someone else in the process I’ll defend your right to say it.

My martial arts brothers and sisters; we are human beings first and martial artists second. Let’s exercise our humanity and act respectfully and responsibly toward one another. We all deserve decent treatment regardless of who we are or how we think.

God bless you, my martial art family. Let’s make peace with one another and exercise mutual respect.