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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

March 25, 2012

Okay, rant time: strap in.

Let’s be clear at the start – I’m scared of cage fighters.  They’re big, they’re strong, they’re aggressive, they have shaved heads with spikey haircuts and they’re often covered in tattoos.  They have a tendency to snarl through bloodied gloves when showing up on the covers of magazines, and have a strange habit of punching themselves in the head as they lurch their way in to the ring.   And they marry Jordan.

See what I did there?  That, my friends, was a gross and negative generalisation based on a small amount of evidence from a small group of the many, many thousands of people who now take part in MMA as a legitimate sport.  Easy to do, but patently incorrect when talking about the vast majority of people who practice mixed martial arts.

The truth is that mixed martial artists are very impressive.  They’re good at fighting, for a start.  Very good, in fact.  Pound for pound the best ones are some of the fittest athletes, with the strongest strikes and highest levels of endurance, as you are likely to meet.  If you want to learn to fight, and fight well, you could do a lot worse than spending some time, or a lot of time, with these guys.  They have my respect.  I doubt very much that they care, but they have my respect nonetheless.

Which is why it’s such a shame when I see so many (not all, of course) paying such little respect to anything else.  The other day I was looking through the website ‘Bullshido’ when I came across this comment:

“Has anyone met a Ninjutsu practitioner who was secure, socially adjusted and successful?”

This was followed by about thirty comments by individuals who delighted in throwing taunts, laughing and sneering. And it doesn’t stop there; page after page, blog after blog is full of people pouring scorn on anything that calls itself a martial art that doesn’t involve no holds barred sparring in at least 50% of its training regime.  And it’s not alone.  Everywhere you look on the web, or on Youtube, you are met with arguments and attacks on the more traditional, esoteric or soft arts from those who practice the more combative, hard and sport based arts.  I’m happy to turn a blind eye myself, but when I see people making unaccountable attacks online aimed at people because they are insecure, or not as physically fit as you, it gets my back up.

Martial arts change you.  Each one contains a philosophy of how to respond, treat others and move that pervades not only your physicality but your mindset, your mood, your entire outlook on life.  And each martial art has its own unique set of principles and philosophies, so it stands to reason that different people are attracted to different martial arts, and that as you train you take on the traits of your chosen art.

Fighting arts have evolved in to two distinct areas since it stopped being  appropriate to practice them for the purposes of warfare – tanks, guns and armoured strike drones have kind of pissed all over that parade.  The traditional martial arts have moved towards embracing life philosophies, focussing their techniques around self defence and developing the person.  Sport martial arts have focussed on testing their strength, skill and technique in the ring in a rule-based combat scenario.

Neither of these approaches goes anywhere near to matching what martial arts were originally created for – life and death warfare – and it is a mistake to think that either do.  But that in no way brings in to question the validity of either approach, or their effectiveness at what they propose to do.  Perhaps because their approach is born of competitiveness and chest –to-chest confrontation, many sport based practitioners seem to find it acceptable to pour scorn on to traditional based arts, because they do not fit in to the same set of values and methods.

This is a mistake – it is a wrong to project your own values on to another person or organisation, or measure them by your own standards.  To coin a much-overused metaphor, it’s like dismissing a square hole for not fitting your triangular peg.  But because sport based arts entire philosophy is based around testing, comparison and confrontation, they seem to think it is OK to apply this outside of the dojo or ring, in forums and in daily life.  It is not.

Let’s not kid ourselves.  None of us who practice martial arts are learning ‘the best’ art for self defence.  In our age of knives, guns and enlightenment, physical confrontation is NEVER the most appropriate form of self defence – the risks are too great, and the other options (police, escape, communication, common sense) are too numerous.  What we all do is have a hobby.  Yes many of us prefer to see it as a calling, or a vocation, but we must never forget that it is a game – not a life or death battlefield pursuit.  Yes, I know, many people employed in security or protection practice physical skills for fighting and defence but these are almost always far and away removed from either traditional arts or sports, and because they have evolved for professionals for a specific purpose are rarely fit for the purposes of layman self defence either.

Sure I would stand little or no chance against a skilled MMA fighter in a ring, but I bet most of them couldn’t swing a stick around as pretty as me.  Or use a combination of communication, situational awareness and evasion to ensure that confrontations in the real world don’t escalate in to violence.  We all specialise in our own particular areas, and it is wrong for anyone to spend time judging anybody else for the decisions they make, of those decisions in no way affect your own life.

I know it’s not everyone, just the noisy minority but, y’know, everybody chill out.  Live and let live.

One Comment
  1. Martial arts are great for mind and body.

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