I define marital arts as “an intelligent use of violence and injury as a tool for survival”.
Today a friend of mine came and saw a few minutes of an advanced martial arts/self-defense class I was teaching. He commented afterward that what he saw wasn’t martial arts; it was just people “stomping each other into the ground.”
I responded by saying, “Damn right!”
The thing is that if you are attacked by someone it will be with real violence, not a Hollywood or Disney version. Real violence isn’t pretty and it sure as hell isn’t fair or nice. Real violence is about stomping people into the ground and being the one that walks away. Maybe that’s not moral or “right” but that simply is the case of the matter, and to tell my clients other than that is to do them a dangerous, and potentially lethal, disservice.
Originally martial arts were not pretty or nice, they were solely about combat and stomping people into the ground so you could win wars and/or survive an attack by both animals and humans. It was in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when the west influenced and changed the orient’s culture, political structure, and economy to where the martial arts either had to adapt and charge or fade away as a major part of their culture. With a strong government and lots of guns martial arts just weren’t considered necessary by most people anymore. So, they changed them, repackaged them, and sold them differently. They moved from being methods of stomping people into the ground to a method of (first) spirituality and (later) exercise and health.
While the martial arts have changed and added principles of Buddhism, Taoism, and various oriental cultures, violence itself has remained unchanged.
The reason why most people today don’t respect the martial arts, the reason why people smirk when they hear that someone has a black belt, is that the martial arts have gotten away from the idea of stomping people into the ground and therefore they’ve gotten away from the reality of violence. For this the marital arts have suffered and become far less effective.
The martial arts have tried to pretty themselves up a lot over the last 150 years in order to be more socially acceptable in more peaceful times but when someone is actually trying to seriously injure or kill you the only thing that will reliably save your life is to be offensive and stomp them into the ground.
It’s not pretty but martial arts never used to be. Old Chinese Kung Fu masters used to say, “If is pretty, it isn’t real Kung Fu”. I say, “If it isn’t about injuring people and stomping them into the ground then it won’t prepare you to actually defend yourself from someone who is actually trying to kill you.”