Most of you who read this know who I am and you know my reputation. You may not all like me or agree with me and that is not an issue with me. It certainly won’t make me disrespect you or dishonor myself or those who have trained me over the years and it certainly won’t make me by attack or try to discredit any of you. We each have a right to our own opinion and we supposedly have freedom of speech in our wonderful country. However with that freedom comes some level of responsibility. We should have enough wisdom or if not enough wisdom enough sense to sensor ourselves. In other words we need to be responsible what comes out of our mouth.
I have been involved in the martial arts for about sixty years and that’s only the formal training. My father tried to teach me some of the unarmed combative skills he accrued as a Marine MP in Japan during WW II. I was too young to grasp much of it at the time but should I care to include that time in my martial art bio I could honestly say that I have sixty three or sixty four years of involvement in the martial arts. In that time I’m seen some nobility and some insanity in the arts but I’ve never seen anything like I see today.
I have lived most of my life in Chicago and like many young black males in the inner city my youth was often fraught with danger and violence. I’ve been shot a couple of times and stabbed as often. I’ve been left broken and bleeding in the gutter more than once by multiple opponents, more often than not rival gang members. I learned to fight early and I learned to fight well. I’m not tall but I’m a pretty big fellow. I’ve always been exceptionally strong and I was gifted with good eye hand coordination and speed. I never played team sports in my youth. Instead I boxed, wrestled and trained in the martial arts.
In the tough streets of cities like New York, L.A., Chicago and any of the other major cities of our nation martial arts has to be more than theory. In some of the places that I’ve had schools in you had better be able to back up your claim. For me and many like me martial arts weren’t a sport or an esoteric art form it was about fighting and survival.
Enough about me. I just wanted to qualify myself for the statements I’m going to make. I’m not an especially critical person. I see no need to brow beat anyone, discredit them or tear them down. We each have a right to seek life on our own level and to our own ends. It’s the same way with those who study or teach the arts. People study the martial arts for many reasons. By the same token they study them at many different levels. It shouldn’t matter to any of us. We are all martial artists on whatever level we strive or for whatever reason. We should view one another as brothers in the arts since we share something in common. That doesn’t mean that we have to like each other or even that we have to agree with each other but we should respect each other as human beings if not as martial artists. In the areas that we don’t see eye to eye on we should be able to agree to disagree rather than behaving as immature children.
My involvement in the arts has little or nothing to do with sports. I’m not interested in competition nor are most of my students. Much of my teaching career has involved teaching combative or self defense skills to people in high risk professions. I worked in mental health, most of it on psych wards or similar mental institutions. I’ve also worked in hospital security, personal protection and as a bouncer. What I did for a living, where I lived and who I taught shaped the art that I taught. I have studied a number of traditional arts and I know the kata that are associated with those arts but because of who I teach I don’t have a lot of cause to teach them. Many traditionalists would say that that would disqualify myself from referring to myself as a martial artist. Not that such an evaluation by such a dissenter would bother or offend me. My purpose in life isn’t to satisfy their sensitivities. They can think and say what they like as long as they don’t make the mistake of getting in my face.
Every martial art teacher, master or grandmaster doesn’t satisfy everyone else’s concept of those titles. There are those who wouldn’t appreciate or embrace what they do or what they teach. On occasion some of the less expedient of those individuals might what to challenge the authenticity of whatever it is that that person does. Personally I think that that would be energy and effort that could be expended in something positive but in this world there are always some nay sayers. As a psych professional I question the mental stability of anyone who spends a lot of time and energy trying to discredit someone else. Get a life people. If you spend that much time focusing on someone else’s life it puts your own validity in question.
I have to wonder whatever happened to integrity? Whatever happened to respect and honor. Spewing bitter bile and hate and confusion doesn’t benefit any human being but it definitely doesn’t suit someone who has dedicated themselves to an endeavor that’s supposed to garner mutual honor and respect.
I know some very credible and some very talented martial artists who can’t even post a short statement without stirring up a bunch of cyber vultures. The nit pick, harass and back bit every word that that person says. Keep in mind that the people that they attack often have some level of notoriety while nine times out of ten no-one has even heard of the person harassing them. That would lead me to believe that much of their response is caused by envy or jealousy. I know of at least three individuals who are devastatingly skilled and effective practitioners and teachers who have schools all over the world and can’t answer the demand for their services. These same individuals are hounded by a pack of ankle biters who demand that they validate themselves. They only have to open their eyes to realize that the demands for the services of these individuals should speak of their ability. These individuals are in high demand for their knowledge, abilities and teaching skills. Meanwhile all you see or hear of their disclaimers is their caustic ranting on social media.
I don’t know of the knowledge or skill level of any of these individuals. All I see or hear from them is their negative statements against some other individual. I believe that if they have skill and knowledge let that speak for them. Apparently the people that they spend so much time criticizing do. I don’t have to discredit any practitioner or teacher of the martial arts. I have more honor and respect for that. I feel that every pot has to stand on its own bottom and in the end their skill or lack of the same will reveal itself. An old saying states that if it doesn’t come out in the wash it will come out in the rinse.
I’ll close this by saying that no-one olds anyone else an explanation about their background or lineage. That’s their own business and unless they care to share it it’s no-one else’s. If you don’t care for a person stay away from him. That doesn’t require a degree in quantum physics to understand. It’s a no brainer. The only one you can be accountable for is yourself. Don’t demand your idea of honor from someone who you have no knowledge, involvement or association with. You can only be honorable for yourself. Live honorably before others however you envision them. We teach by precept and example. Our individual arts are the precepts but we ourselves should be the example. Be responsible for the only person you can be responsible for. Exhibit honor in your own martial art career. Perhaps in so doing you can inspire someone to a higher level of honor and integrity.
God bless you, my brethren and friends
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel, MDiv, MA, PhD, ThD