Monday, April 21, 2008

Martial Arts Teaches

In reflection, the least important thing I have gained from martial arts, is the ability to fight. Most martial artists, with true skills they are confident work, avoid confrontation whenever possible because they fully understand the deadly power of which they posses.

Bullies and cowards are the ones who prey upon the weak. They face an even tougher inner battle. The purpose of martial arts is not to teach you to conquer an opponent (that is just a by-product), the real purpose is to conquer self.

A good martial arts class will teach you to overcome your own fears and weaknesses. You explore and test the limits of your mind and body. A good martial arts class will build your character, coordination, endurance, precision, confidence, deductive reasoning, grace, speed, power, muscle elasticity, and much more.

A good teacher will instill in you humility. Soke Shiyogo (also spelled Shogo) Kuniba said, “humility is Karate’s greatest virtue.” Kuniba had high degrees in many arts*, yet he was one of the most gentle and humble men I have ever had the pleasure to meet and study under. He was also one of the most deadly. His school, founded by his father, was called Seishin Kai (pure heart).

Today, most classes are watered down to be more commercial. You choose your teacher and school. In the old days, the teacher chose you. You had to qualify to be in his class. You had to display a willingness to learn and retain what you learned. You had to possess a certain amount of patience, and persistence. It wasn’t just a sport or an activity you were learning, but more a way of life.

A friend of mine, Paul, who went to Okinawa while he was in the armed forces, informed me that he wanted to learn from the great master there. They originally tried to teach him the kind they taught American servicemen. But he insisted on the real thing. Finally, he got to meet the master. But, he had to clean the man’s chicken coops for a whole year before he got to enter the school. He was being tested for his resolve and dedication. He now possesses some true skill with his black belt. (He taught me tricks on the speed bag that some boxers would envy.)

Many great masters are often sought after as healers even more than doctors. It is their exploration of the body and how it reacts to various things which give them great insight. They know how to balance the inner workings of the body and the mind that causes these ailments.

Martial arts, like religions, contain scoundrels, saints, sinners, and saviors. It is a journey where you meet remarkable people in pursuit of remarkable things. Much of what I have witnessed seems to defy explanation. I feel privileged to have experienced the lessons of some great men and women.

All that is not to say I did not have more than my fair share of skirmishes. I was fortunate there too, because I survived them without any harm to myself. I was in a different state of mind and environment then. I tested my techniques in real life situations. My best, most useful, technique then and still is a “look.” This “look” is foreboding and warns people not to continue bothering me; to cease and desist immediately whatever they were doing to warrant such a “look.” It is the one technique I still practice regularly because I don’t ever want to hurt anyone again when I can avoid it.

*Some of Soke Kuniba's rank when we met him:
  • 3rd Dan --Aikido
  • 3rd Dan --Kyu-do (Bow & Arrow)
  • 4th Dan --JoJitsu (Short Stick fighting)
  • 4th Dan --Iai-Do (Sword Arts)
  • 5th Dan --Judo
  • 7th Dan --Okinawan Kobudo (Ancient Weapons)
  • 8th Dan --Motobu-Ha Shito Ryu
  • 8th Dan --Go Shin Budo