Martial Musings: A bonfire for those Titles, Belts and Scrolls
If you are easily offended, don't read this.
This is a personal meditation on a few things I see rampant in Martial Arts...a few things I disagree with. This is not aimed at any one person or system, but rather a self reflection on the artistic expression I hold dear.
This week, a young 30-something man introduced himself to me as as a Grandmaster of not one but two different systems. I was left speechless by this marketing of his martial accomplishments. Undeterred, he insisted on being called Grandmaster and to be respected for his self-given rank in the Martial Arts. I obliged with polite smile, bowed and then walked out.
The word Samurai is thrown around far too freely. It evokes the esoteric imagery of the fearless warrior, principled life and honorable death. To the Japanophile or Martial Arts nerd, the word Samurai invokes a bunch of texts such as
- The book of Five Rings
- The Hagakure
- The Unfettered Mind
- The Lifegiving Sword
I want to take a step back - and set a few things right.
I heard police sirens blasting behind me. It was around 3 am and three of my buddies were really drunk and very loud. I tried to calm them down as the cop walked over, to my window, as we idled on California’s famed Pacific Coast Highway. The cold wind gusted and there was a weird fusion of sounds: waves crashing, trance music, sirens... and some very loud, happy guys.
In the 1990’s I saw a documentary by two brothers Lawrence and Lorne Blair’s who were exploring Indonesia. The documentary left me in an odd mixture of disbelief and awe. It was my first introduction to the esoteric world of Chi or Ki. They managed to get a very private and mysterious man who they called “Dynamo Jack” on tape showing some rather strange abilities.
“Stop being so formal, you are not learning a militaristic art. Learning a tribal art it is like having a BBQ with your favorite uncle while exchanging stories!” exclaimed James Keating, the Master At Arms as he continued teaching “You dont have to yes sir me to death, I dont own you. We share here like family and you just call me Uncle Jim."
Most students of the Martial Arts will have heard their instructor tell them to relax more. When relaxing, most students shake off their bodies and “try” to relax their muscles. Some of them may think of relaxing in terms of going dead or limp. However, soon they will realize that relaxing is a state of being that is also present when they move.
Relax Damn It! Let go, let the motion be, dont try to do the technique, let it flow through you. I have found myself saying these words over and over again in the dojo. And yet the words seldom sink in deep enough to cause real change.
Modern life, especially with all of the technology we have is driven by stress. Unless you actively get on a program to de-stress as a martial artist, you are in serious trouble. Why should you care about it?