I was, recently, reading a friend’s blog that covered some very good points on “Heritage”. (You can read it here: https://two-old-oaks.com/2018/04/27/heritage/.) He makes some good points, so I hope you’ll read it. Anyway, it got me thinking of something martial arts related: The attitudes and egos expressed by modern sports-orientated fighters. Just look at the Mayweather vs. McGregor pre-fight exchanges for examples. Mayweather making homophobic comments, and McGregor making racists comments – all laced with vulgarities that would make a sailor blush.
It all goes back to something very important that my friend talks about in his blog. As he discusses his life and be-ing where he lives and his life and be-ing experiences, he comments:
This is what heritage is about: holding onto old ways not for fear of new but for the simple fact that what we had and what we did back then was in a lot of cases good enough. Sure it may have been a bit more work but we were given strong legs and a back to bear it. No soul ever slept better than after a long day of good honest work.
Heritage…..its not just a marketing term. It is about remembering and honoring the people who used these things to get by, to build the foundations which have put us where we are. It is about using what we have until it is no longer an option and being frugal, enjoying the pleasantries and shouldering the pain for others like our mothers and fathers did for us. Its keeping tradition so we don’t forget and grow spoiled or soft.
Today, our children (and everyone else who watches these sporting events) tune in to listen to the “trash talk” between fighters, forgiving their racial, homophobic, and vulgar comments as well as violent actions (e.g., McGregor’s actions in Nevada that harmed others) in the name of pre-fight “showmanship” and “marketing”. In reality, there is no excuse for this type of behavior. And, the promotion of these types of actions are contrary to the very things these fighters claim to promote: self-defense, fighting ability, (mixed) martial arts, etc. How? Well, just trying walking into a neighborhood of people, pick someone out, and walk up and talk to them that way. What do you think would happen? I’m willing to bet you’ll upset more than the person you’re speaking to, and the likelihood you’ll end up facing more than one person and/or a weapon is extremely (and, according to the FBI, statistically) high. Only in these pre-fight, pre-arranged environments do people get away with this type of garbage. And, it’s beyond time it stopped!
When we look back at the origins and purposes of developed self-defense systems (like Wing Chun, Praying Mantis, TaeKwonDo, Tai Chi, etc.) we find that the culture of the times required something real to be developed for the survival of a people. These systems didn’t teach trash talk; rather, they focused on a way of life. You see: If a principle or condition of being is so important that it has to be exercised and trained into a person who is fighting, why would they abandon it when they aren’t training or fighting? When one abandons those principles they open themselves up to misbehavior that harms the self and prevents it from being in that condition the moment one is surprised with the sucker-punch. (Thus the name Kung Fu, or “way of life“, in Chinese cultures.) These people didn’t care what others (outside their community) thought of their looks (e.g., how they looked when they went about their life/living), sexual orientation, race, etc. What they cared about was securing the condition of self that would allow them to handle attackers/invaders of their be-ing (i.e., culture, community, life, etc.).
For these founders of martial arts, enough was enough. They were content with be-ing, living, and the process of be-ing, living, that defended the self (and community). Ego wasn’t important. Popularity wasn’t important. Winning an arm wrestling competition because it meant you were physically stronger than everyone else wasn’t important. Doing one’s job incorrectly just to get it done quickly wasn’t important. Having the loudest voice wasn’t important. Life and well-be-ing were! They understood the difference between wants and needs, and the balance of life that embraces both. And, they understood that the protections of be-ing, life, don’t come with be-ing lackadaisical about your relations with others. On the contrary, as we’ve seen in the example I gave you above, it does the opposite.
All of that said without, as my friend puts it: “remembering and honoring the people who used these things to get by, to build the foundations which have put us where we are.” Are we showing them respect when we contradict the principles they embraced to give us the foundation we use for our own successes, wealth, joys, strengths, etc.?
All of that said without considering how we’re building up or eroding that foundation for the next generation. Are we teaching the next generation to respect those principles our ancestors left us that helped us to the greatness we enjoy in our lives, or are we eroding that foundation and leaving the next generation less (and attitudes that will continue to erode that foundation) stability and opportunity than we took advantage of?
As martial artists we have a responsibility to more than ourselves. As Grandmaster Ip Man (of Wing Chun system) taught:
Remain disciplined – uphold yourself ethically as a martial artist.
Practice courtesy and righteousness – serve the community and honor your family.
Love your fellow students or classmates – be united and avoid conflicts.
Limit your desires and pursuit of bodily pleasures – preserve the proper spirit.
Train diligently and make it a habit – maintain your skills.
Learn to develop spiritual tranquility – abstain from arguments and fights.
Participate in society – be conservative, cultured and gentle in your manners.
Help the weak and very young – use your martial skill for the good of humanity.
Pass on the tradition – preserve this Chinese art and its rules of conduct.
We, here at the Yost Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy in Terre Haute, Indiana, embrace these principles and train “diligently” in kung-fu. Because we understand that if we’re ever called to use these skills, the cost of misbehavior is too great (on everyone) to take the principles of well-be-ing and life for granted.
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