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Friday, March 9, 2012

Martial Arts does not teach violence...

How many of my martial arts friends out there have heard "Oh, I would never enroll my kids in martial arts classes because it teaches violence... "? I don't know how many times I've heard it, and not to mention the times I've heard "So, you don't have a 'real' job? "

Speaking of the martial arts/violence thing, I can see how parents can be misinformed about the nature of martial arts. TV, video games and movies can show the violent,  blood spewing, vengeful ("you killed my master! You must die!) stereotypes of martial arts. I'm not going to say that martial arts is all about learning from the old size man at the top of a mountain, learning about the secrets ofbthe Universe, because for the most part, martial arts techniques *can* be violent in its execution. It is also meant as a method of fighting... However when the need arises. (it is a "martial" art after all) Most level headed martial artists would never pick a fight, but would have no qualms about maiming an attacker if their life were in danger.

But, as a martial arts teacher, I'd like to share the benefits that martial arts training can bring to kids:

1)It helps them learn a "standard" and to find ways to achieve a standard.

2)Self discipline : Let's face it, learning to do things you don't know how to do,  takes a level of discipline if you want to get good at it.

3) Respect: To learn to see the goodness in other people, to have an open enough mind to realize that not everyone believes in the same thing you do.

4) Work ethics: Martial arts is hard work,  it's not some mere activity to take up time.  Children learn that hard work breeds success.

5)  Teamwork: Children can learn to work in study groups effectively,  to learn to contribute to a team effort,  and to learn how to incorporate different skills of team members.

6)  Recreation: Although it is hard work martial arts does have an intensely fun element.

7)  Self defense: kids learn that there is a difference between "fighting" and actual self defense.  They learn that it is perfectly okay to walk away from a bully,  but know how to handle themselves should the bully become violent. They learn to recognize potentially dangerous situations and to avoid them,  but should their safety be in danger,  to defend themselves with utmost commitment.  Learning de-escalation techniques is also a form of self defense.

8)  Appreciation: Kids learn to appreciate not only the skills of senior students or teachers,  but to appreciate the wisdom and experience of anybody else,  including their parents, school teachers,  etc.

9)  It teaches them that violence *does* exist,  and they're not immune because they live in a "good neighborhood " or are of high social status. This awareness helps them see why all of the aforementioned skills are important to have.

10)  It teaches body awareness, coordination, enhances confidence and self esteem with the support of good classmates.

So..... While the kicking,  striking, grappling,  and weapons techniques of martial arts are indeed "violent",  good martial arts teachers for the most part do not "teach" violence.  We must look at other influences they are exposed to if they are in fact "learning" violence.

These were just a few benefits..... I welcome other martial artists to chime in with other benefits.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Appreciation in context

A few years ago,  renowned violinist agreed to participate in a social experiment about conditions and context in a person's perception of value.  Here's the story and video...

Is "value " or "appreciation" of any art based on one's personal perception of what is best,  more pleasing /anesthetic or superior?  In the case of martial arts,  I find this to be true.

One day I was at a gathering of different martial artists,  when a student questioned my colleague's choice of stick techniques.  He went on to say that his pain tolerance was higher,  and that if he had a stick he wouldn't merely make someone "tapout",  he'd break an arm.... Insinuating that my colleague could not or would not do so because her art was "less effective ".  As I watched this unfold,  I stepped up and said to him "You missed in the demo that she had already bashed the opponent in the face before applying the locks.  She could not bash with full force of course, lest she injure her demo partner,  and she was demonstrating slowly so the audience may see.  You can see your own defenses *after the fact* with a slow demo... But remember stick fighting happens in real time.  Before you question the art,  pick up a stick and spar against an eskrimador. "

Of,  course,  didn't quite mean for it to be a challenge,  but when the man's cohort came up in a failed attempt to sound peacemaker,  I almost walked out of the gathering.  He said to his partner "Hey now,  don't question them... Just because there are arts that are *more effective* doesn't mean we can't learn from them"

WHAT!  Another passive-aggressive insinuation that our art was less effective than their art. I almost shouted a retort,  but let it go.

It was obvious that these two guys were proud of their "effective" art,  but their perception of value in other arts paled in comparison to their own. They did not see the value of our art,  seeing only the perfection and superiority of their own art. In this type of blindness,  they failed to see several things... 1) a longer weapon has more range than hands only and 2) pain tolerance doesn't mean much when your body goes into shock.  And 3)  there are dozens more aspects to Eskrima than just a stick.
We decided to walk away from the incident,  leaving the guys to their smug superiority. Which,  probably led them to believe that they "won" the debate.  *rolls eyes*

But,  does context and presentation in arts (any art)  really make a difference in your appreciation of it?  To an extent,  I do believe so. In the subject of martial art, jt depends on your perception of "effectiveness"..... But effectiveness in WHAT?  Self Defense?  Stress relief?  Lower body fitness?  Upper body toning? Quieting the mind?  Recreation?  Martial arts are effective for ALL of that.... But which is important to *You*? 

Martial artists,  keep in mind.... What you find "more effective" or "superior" is just more effective for *you* and meets your personal goals if you practice correctly.  Remember that not everyone joins martial arts to thumb someone in the eye or snap an arm,  or make someone tap out.  Some join the martial arts for community, traditional aspects, just fitness,  physical therapy,  etc.  Those reasons are just as effective.  To each their own.  I just wish the jocks on YouTube would understand that and curb the testosterone-fueled flame wars on "soft" arts.  To that,  I say "My Tai Chi elbow hits others just as well as an MMA elbow. It's the application that makes it effective,  NOT the label of "MMA" or "Muay Thai" etc.  Keep the stereotypes and context out of it... Rather than disrespect other arts,  just keep working on your own,  for Pete's sake.

Joshua Bell made less than $40 in tips playing in subway....people walking past, bustling to work.  But I bet these people would've sat rapturous had they paid $100 for a ticket to see Joshua Bell in a tuxedo in a large opera house. They could not "listen to the real music" because their minds had already assigned "beggar" and "street musician" to Mr.  Bell,  and their minds heard the music of a street beggar,  not a world renowned talent.

Learn to listen to the real music.