Let’s Make Sure We Are Fighting The Good Fight
In the end the greatest fight that you’ll fight is with yourself and for your own character. In entering that fight let’s make sure we are fighting the good fight.
This year will mark my sixty seventh year in the land of the living with fifty seven of those dedicated to the martial arts. I have been blessed to be able to make this journey. It has been a fantastic experience. As I continue my sojourn in this world my journey in the martial arts continues also.
I’ve been advised by friend and family alike to sit down and take it easy. They say I’ve done enough and I’m too old to continue doing what I’m doing. Possibly they’re right but for me this is a lifelong journey. With the many challenges that age presents and the effects of the many injuries I’ve accrued along the way training becomes more of challenge. I practice both internal and external martial arts but I still strength train. I even do a little teaching but my primary contribution to the arts these days has to do with sharing spiritual and philosophical insight and managing the organizations that I head and/or advise. In that vein I have an observation that I would like to share. Blindsided you with that one didn’t I? Probably not. Those who know me know that I’m a preacher and given occasion I will preach.
People study the martial arts for many reasons and on many levels. I often comment on that fact but I would like to revisit it with an eye on a particular aspect of that same fact. Any of the Eastern martial arts can be studied as a do or as a jitsu. For instance judo is an art. It is practiced as such with an eye on the ascetic. Jiu Jitsu on the other hand is a fighting system. It isn’t a sport and it isn’t taught to enlighten a student. It is and was created as a survival tool. It reached its pinnacle in dark allies and battle fields. In a word it was created to give a combatant the edge in a fight.
Many martial arts made the transition from combat systems to sports or ascetic arts. Consequently many of the more deadly techniques have been excluded and the techniques that were taught for combat have been modified to make them safer to practice with an opponent. For example the karate punch isn’t taught in its most lethal form. The seiken zuki (full twist punch with palm facing the floor) or tate zuki (vertical fist) aren’t taught in their more lethal form. The original punch was formed with the fist halfway between those two positions with the fist at roughly a forty-five degree angle. A strike that’s formed properly accesses the body cavities and nerve nexuses more efficiently. The difference can be devastating and isn’t suited for a sport application. In affect the more dangerous techniques were changed to allow those arts to be practiced in friendly competition.
Today many martial artists are sportsmen. They’re more interested in competing than fighting. I have no problem with that but to think that that is the original and sole purpose of a martial system is inaccurate. Martial systems weren’t created as sports. Nor were they created to advance spiritual growth or moral development in a practitioner. They were created to injure, maim or kill. An eye gouge is a simple and effective combat technique but don’t expect competition eye gouging to become the new rave. By the very nature of its devastating effectiveness it is suited only for life and death combat. That’s the nature of any real fighting technique.
The problem with the competition based martial arts is that their sport applications are being passed off as combat effectiveness. Please take my word for it, what’s effective on the tournament floor doesn’t necessarily translate to the streets or to the battle field. A baseball bat can be a lethal weapon and a hurled baseball can do some real damage but baseball players aren’t trained in combat. Baseball is a sport and should be recognized as such. If you think that playing in the little league qualifies you for combat you’re headed for a rude awakening. We need to be honest with ourselves and realistic in our expectations. You won’t become combat ready by practicing tournament karate.
I respect a tournament champion who is good at his trade. I don’t subscribe to that path in my martial training but I admire what he does. I’m pretty sure that I can’t compete with Bill Wallace on the tournament floor but he probably hasn’t been trained to survive on the mean city streets of Chicago or those like them in other cities. What he studies wouldn’t be applicable for hand to hand combat. That very sort of thing is what some martial artists train for. They train for combat effectiveness or for survival in the real world.
I am impressed by those who compete and make a name for themselves. They may do it for self satisfaction, notoriety or for fame and glory but if they do it well they have my respect. However I’m more impressed by those who train and teach quietly giving the tools for others to survive or grow. Whether they teach to enable their students to defend themselves or to train up model citizens and instill good moral values in them they have my support and admiration. The willingness to serve, minister and mentor is in my eyes the highest expression of the martial arts.
It’s nice having a large and lucrative commercial school. I certainly can’t criticize success in any legal enterprise. However I am more impressed by the sensei who teaches in a community center, in some damp church basement or in a park. The one who passes up monetary success to enable him to reach the challenged teen, troubled child or at risk adult. Those such individuals are my heroes. They give selflessly of themselves to be a blessing to others.
Whatever your path be true to yourself. You have every right to follow your dream. However don’t criticize those who seek a different path. We are all martial artists however we decide to pursue our dream and on whatever level we choose to do so. The tournament champion is no more a martial artist than the sensei who trains and teaches out of his garage. The instructor who owns a successful school is no more a martial artist than the sensei who has a backyard dojo. Some of Bruce Lee’s best students were trained in his back yard. Success isn’t measured by size.
It is my belief that we should give back. Those of us who have gained the most should be willing to give the most. Keep in mind that the sensei of the historical past were as much father and mentor to his student as fight instructor. I feel that that should be our endeavor.
I have rambled through several issues but let me end this discourse with the spiritual and philosophical truth; “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. In the end the greatest fight that you’ll fight is with yourself and for your own character. In entering that fight let’s make sure we are fighting the good fight.
Train hard my brethren and go with God.
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel