I recently published an article about why I believe that martial arts are truly the highest form of art and self-expression (you can read it here). A significant part of that article focused on the fact that unlike many other arts, which put the self and the ego on a pedestal, martial arts are founded on a strict code of conduct of positive values (respect, humility, responsibility, dedication, etc.), that are supposed to teach one to control the ego and ultimately be a better human being.
But in order to balance the equation, I’d like to talk a little bit about the other side of martial arts; the side that is not so nice, and which I’d like to tie to popular culture and male-dominated sports. And it's not all stuff you're going to like... Ready?
The last two posts (you can find them here and here) have seen me, and hopefully you as well, sit at home and giggle, cringe and frown in memory of some of the more difficult and challenging people one may – no, in fact will – meet along one’s martial arts journey. And in fact, I have been some of these at various points, as I'm sure you have as well (hence the cringing...).
Again I would like to highlight that these are not reflecting on any one person in particular, rather things that I have seen, heard and, with some of them, have been.
So get ready for the final instalment of sweaty skirmishers, devoted duellers, rambunctious ronins and scornful Samurai who make our journey entertaining, challenging and, at times, a little frustrating.
I recently wrote about some of the curious characters, of which there are many, that we may meet along our martial arts journey (you can read about them here). These stereotypes are common in most martial arts clubs, and some clubs have a culture that invites, or creates, more of one or more of the other but most of us will see - and indeed be - some of these at one point or another.
After some requests from you for more of the same (thank you!), I've added a few more to the list for your reading pleasure... or horror.
Ready for today's list? Read on!
The dojo is a great place to meet different people. It attracts people from all walks of life, and training in a very real sense is a great equaliser. Religious belief (or lack thereof), ethnicity, income, gender, age and education – those things should not effect on what you accomplish at the dojo. On the mats we are all equal and the only distinction is made based on hard work and dedication, which ultimately results in a better skill set which we then share with everyone.
But as we go through our journey, we inevitably meet some curious folk on the way. And dealing with them can be a real test of our character… So who are these strange people?
The other day I saw a fantastic quote by Boxing legend George Foreman:
"Boxing is like jazz; the better it is, the less people appreciate it”
As a person who spent most of his life working as a professional musician as well as studied music quite extensively, I connected with this instantly.
When I shared this quote on social media, a large number of the people who responded were musicians. This was to be expected, seeing as they probably related to Jazz being a hugely under-appreciated genre of music, often only truly understood by other musicians.
It also made me think of the recent speech made by Meryl Streep, where she famously said that ‘Mixed Martial Arts… are not the arts’. It made a lot of people in the martial arts community – practitioners and fans alike – angry at the fact that another artist (and in fact one of the most decorated and celebrated artists in recent history) made such a claim.
Was Streep correct? If so, what’s the difference between sports and arts? At which point does one become the other? Can they overlap? What about combat sports and martial arts, can those questions apply to these two as well? What, in a bigger-picture sense, is art?
I want you to go through the following exercise in your head:
Imagine you’d spend your 20 years training in a martial art with the belief that you’d be able to defend yourself, but have never tested it out under extreme or real conditions or outside of your dojo. Imagine you would then have someone challenge you to try it on a fully resisting opponent, one whom you don’t know and does not respect you and your martial art. You try it, and it doesn’t work. Not even close – you get your butt kicked thoroughly.
Alternatively - imagine you’d been training to compete in a tournament, and have been beating everyone in your class easily. You arrive to the tournament and your opponent, someone who is less experienced than you, beats you comprehensively in no time at all.
Are you on the path to mediocracy or excellence?
How clean your desktop is could indicate how likely you are to survive a violent attack! Not sure why? Read on!
A while ago I discussed the ‘Dojo Syndrome’. I received some very positive feedback about the first three articles (you can read them here, here and here), with many instructors saying ‘this is exactly what happens!’ and had a few requests to post some more tips. I hope this helps you with your training!
There is a very common misperception in the martial arts world, that the sensei is always the best fighter and technician in the dojo; they are unbeatable and will never lose a sparring match to a student!
This is often very far from the truth... And here's why.
There's an old samurai maxim, which says 'a man who has attained mastery of an art reveals it in his every action'. While I do not consider myself a master, I am obssessed with martial arts and so I am always looking for parallels I can draw from training to pretty much everything else. While my experience in art revolves around music and martial arts, I believe that these principles apply to every other art, as well as to business, life, the universe and everything. Recently someone on Facebook shared this post about being a professional session musician. I was instantly amazed at how relevant this was to being a proficient martial artist, especially one who is interested in multiple disciplines and styles. I'd like to share my thoughts on this with you in the hope it helps you with your art, whatever it may be!