By Scott Shaw
To the untrained individual, a martial artist is the person who can defeat his or her opponent or even an entire onslaught of attackers in the most powerful and expedient manner possible. With punches, kicks, and throws the opponents are quickly sent to the ground. To the trained martial artist, they understand that the fighting arts are much more than that, however, only after years-and-years of training and mental refinement does the true martial artist emerge embracing the mindset that it is far better to not fight at all than to ever go hand-to-hand unless it is absolutely necessary.
In martial arts schools the novice and the long trained individual alike train their bodies to become the most proficient and effective self-defense machines possible. They initially learn and then master the basics of self-defense. After this point they constantly refine their fighting methodology to become not only the most competent self-defense technician that they can be but also the most thoughtful and complete human being that they can become. As their years of training progress, the true martial artist comes to understand that though they can most likely defeat any attacking opponent, they may not even need to forcefully do this as they can allow their attacker to defeat themselves.
When I lead martial arts seminars I oftentimes base the class upon something that Bruce Lee said in his film, “Enter the Dragon.” When accosted by a boisterous and sure-of-himself martial artist onboard the boat to Han’s Island, Lee did not respond to the man's challenges to fight. Instead, when asked what was his style Lee stated, “The art of fighting without fighting.” I believe that the screenwriter of this film truly captured the essence of the true martial artist in those words, for it depicts the ideal mindset of the truly advanced fighting technician – they don’t need to fight to prove who they are. Thus, they do not fight unless it is absolutely necessary.
In these aforementioned seminars I commonly teach the participants to defend themselves without the need to enter into a punch-by-punch, knock-down, drag-out fight. Instead, I teach them how to defend themselves in the easiest, most direct, least confrontational manner possible. Though this style of self-defense is the best way to keep yourself free from incurring the injures of a forceful fight; such as broken hands from punching or twisted body joints from grappling, the sad fact is, the person who is defeated in this manner is never the wiser for your fighting them in this fashion. They never say, “Thank you,” for you not tearing them apart though you could.
In my life I have encountered physical confrontations, generally, but not always, brought on by somebody trying to rob me of something. Instead of losing my peace, I have defended myself in the most rapid manner possible and then walked away. I did not beat them to a pulp once they were sent to the ground just because I could. In fact, in a few cases, I have actually helped the attacker back up to his feet. Did they say, “Thank you?” No, they did not. They usually walked away making further threats. There has also been times when someone has attacked me and though I could have easily defeated them very quickly, I realized that this was not the best course of action. For example, a man once charged at me when I was standing at the top of a staircase. All I had to do was sidestep his attack and perhaps give him a little shove and that would have been the end of the confrontation. The problem was, as we were at the top of the stairs, had I done that, through his own momentum he would most likely have plummeted down the stairs, face first; obviously hurting himself very badly. But, I consciously did not let this happen. I knew he was no competition so I took the initial hit and defended myself from that point. Did he say, “Thank you?” No, he did not. Did he say, “Thank you for not beating the crap out of me,” after I defended myself with a simple deflection upon his secondary attack? Nope, not a word of thanks.
The fact of life and the truth that you need to understand if you hope to rise to the level of a true martial artist is that your defeated opponent is never going to say, “Thank you,” even though you did not hurt them as badly as you could have in a confrontation that they instigated. Your attacker is never going to appreciate the fact that though you could have physically destroyed them, you did not. Instead, you took the high road. You may have defended yourself, but you did not send your opponent to the hospitable while doing so. You behaved like a true martial artist, not like some street ruffian.
I believe that it is better not to hurt someone, even an attacking opponent, unless you must absolutely do so. It is for this reason that the true martial artist takes the time to research and understand the true essence of the body dynamics of physical confrontation and from this understanding is willing to take the first-hit if that means that their opponent will not be seriously injured in the confrontation.
But remember, no, they are not going to say, “Thank you,” after the fact – though they most likely should. Why? Because they are obvious not a conscious enough person to understand the true facts of physical combat, nor are they a conscious enough person to understand that if they are the one instigating the confrontation they are the one who should be defeated.
The ultimate truth of the martial arts is to be more than your opponent. Not only a better fighter but a better person. Strive for this distinction.
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