As a martial arts instructor I meet all kinds of people, and get challenged often. While most of these challenges are from people wanting to intellectualize something or judge someone else (i.e., me) without confrontation, they present interesting lessons on life. A week or so ago, I shared one such story under the heading A Failure to Adapt. The person in that example allowed me to demonstrate the realities of fighting and our (fighters) need to adapt to the situations we find ourselves. I’d like to share another example.
About two years ago I had a young man come into my kwoon (i.e., school) who wanted to inquire about me and “your Wing Chun”. He insisted that a friend of his knew Wing Chun, and taught him some. He was more than willing to demonstrate what he learned, so I let him.
One of the first things this young man did (he was 22 years old) was try to use the mook yan jong (i.e., the wooden dummy). While doing so, he attempted to step forward and perform a bong sau (i.e., wing arm) technique, but got himself caught up in the upper two arms of the dummy. The young man did so because he lacked structure, fluid brushing and cutting technique, and used improper footwork. However, that did not deter him. He moved on to discuss proper fighting techniques. . . .
This young man contended that a Wing Chun practitioner does not use lethal force; rather, they use passive techniques to subdue their opponents. When I asked him to demonstrate on me, I allowed him to attempt his arm-bar (his choice of technique, not mine). When he settled into position, I asked him, “Do you got it?” He responded, “Yes.” I then moved out of the arm-bar and proceeded to disarm him (i.e., his structure was broken and he fell to the floor).
This young man’s eyes told the story. He was surprised – even if he’d never verbally express it – that he was so easily manipulated from a position he’d previously thought controlling, secure and over-powering. Which leads me to three points for this article:
- Know who (the hell) you’re learning your martial art system from. There are a lot of people out there who just want attention and praise, and they’ll use you to get that praise. Others just want to make money, and they don’t care if you ever really learn to fight. As long as they’re making their money, they’ll string you along. On this note I’d encourage you to read my blog: Warning Signs of a McDojo.
- If you’re not learning something legit from someone who’s legit you could be putting yourself in danger. You see: These fake instructors have nothing to lose. You go out, get into trouble, lose your butt, . . . what’s it costing them? You show up and complain, “Hey, I did what you showed me, but it didn’t work!” And, they respond, “Show me what you did.” You do, and they respond, “That’s because you didn’t do this.” (Then laugh their way to the bank.)
- Don’t assume anything. One of the biggest traps for any martial artists is their ego. It wants to say, “I’ve arrived!” when, in reality, “We’ve only just begun!” One of the most important things you should learn in martial arts is how to develop your mind and tie that condition to your body. (It reminds me of an old Japanese saying: “Meditate, for it is the mind that directs the arm that holds the sword. And, what good is a sharp sword wielded by a dull mind?”) In a future blog I’ll write about something psychiatrists call “pattern interruption”. For now, know that assumptions are like relying on luck. Luck doesn’t guarantee victory. It the lazy man’s way of hoping he’ll survive when things get bad. For a martial artist, they want to work to guarantee their lives and the lives of those they’re responsible. They put the work in to put the necessary work out – and survive.
Today most people are willing to move job to job in order to build their career resume and gain the promotions they seek. They adapt to the needs and understandings and requirements of their industry in order to become contributors in their industry and find socio-economic prosperity and position. This is something many martial artists don’t do.
When we seek to grow as true martial artists we must be willing to adapt to the realities we grow into and the cultures we live. If, for example, you started in a program martial art system for children that didn’t deal with self-defense issues – rather taught technique and katas and forms and exercises – you may mature into a kwoon that empowers you to build and express yourself in real combat situations. There’s nothing wrong with making that change.
Likewise, you may have enjoyed sports-fighting for awhile, but realized (either before or after a negative event in your life) that there’s more to a street fight than the competitions you participated. If that’s the case, you may decide to seek out a kwoon that will empower you for what you’ve been missing. There’s nothing wrong with that change, either.
Likewise, you may find yourself, like this young man did, learning from someone who is taking advantage of you and hasn’t empowered you at all. In these situations you owe it to yourself to seek credible instruction.
Adapt to your life’s needs, flow with your ever growing understanding and maturation, and empower yourself with the things you need to continue that growth, life and well-being.
Empower yourself to life!™
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