By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2012, All Rights Reserved
I joined the military right out of high school. I was from a small town and couldn’t wait to leave so as soon as I could I packed my bags and shipped out to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for basic training. I spent four years in the Air Force and serving my country is one of the greatest things I ever did.
One of the things that always stuck with me happened during the first week of basic training. My T.I. (training instructor, more commonly known as a drill sergeant) brought us into a class room, sat us down, and asked for a show of hands of everyone who joined the Air Force to earn money for college and numerous hands went up. He then asked for a show of hands of people who joined to see the world, learn skills they could use as a civilian, and who joined to do “cool” stuff like fly planes and drive tanks.
After questioning us about our motivations for a few minutes he nodded and looked down, and then he looked back up and got deadly serious. He then said something I’ll remember for the rest of my life; he said:
“Great! Those are all great reasons to join the military and each and every one of those are achievable. But…regardless of why you joined…you have to understand that we are in the business of conducting war. Each and every one of you, regardless of the job you do, can end up in a combat zone and it doesn’t matter if you’re a cook or an accountant…someone could hand you a rifle and send you out to kill the enemy. I don’t care why you joined, I don’t care what you think you are going to be doing while you’re here, and I sure as hell don’t care what your career field is…the military only has TWO JOBS! The TWO JOBS the military has are…1.) To Kill People, and 2.) To Blow Shit Up! Each and every one of you will either be in the business of killing people and blowing shit up, or you will be supporting someone so they can kill people and blow shit up! Those of you who joined to go to school or see the world…great! You can do that…but NEVER forgot the business you’re in. If you do you can get yourself, the person next to you, and possibly dozens of people…or more…killed.”
That brought it home for me. It was straight forward and it made sense. All the fancy technology and titles, and all the cool weapons and training, it all has one purpose. To put on the uniform of the US military and to forget the basic job that the military does it to put your life in jeopardy and do a disservice to your fellow soldiers and your country.
Now, how does all this apply to the marital arts? It just so happens that just like the military has two jobs, the martial arts have two jobs. When we fail to understand these two jobs we fail to understand the martial arts, and when we do that we’ve lost our way and we are putting ourselves and our students in danger.
The two jobs of the martial arts are: 1.) To enable us to cause injuries to people, and 2.) To enable us to not have to cause injuries to people. That’s it. Now sure, we can always go above and beyond that and add fitness, medicine, and spiritual development; however, if we don’t focus on the two jobs of the martial arts then what we will have won’t actually be martial arts. We have a lot of martial sports like Judo and Wrestle-Boxing (ultimate fighting) but they’re not martial arts (Judo and Taekwondo can be martial arts depending on how they’re taught but in most schools, like ATA schools where I learned Taekwondo, they are just sports).
The martial arts have lost their way by distancing themselves from the concept of violence. The martial arts in large have shunned violence as destructive and told people that good technique will overcome violence. The problem is that that doesn’t work. Who are the most successful people during a kumite or wrestle-boxing match? 9 times out of 10 the most aggressive and violent person is the one that wins even if their opponent is better technically.
Violence is the reality. To shun the notion of violence is delusional because guess what you will be encountering in a self-defense situation…VIOLENCE! Violence is not good or bad, it is merely a quality. Violence is defined as the excretion of physical force with the intent to injure or abuse; it is an all-out single minded intent to hit a target and cause an injury and it is what wins violent encounters. It is the reason that the old masters were more able to use martial arts successfully in self-defense than a lot of people are today; they knew that technique needs that single minded focus and intent in order to work.
The second job (to enable us to not have to cause injuries people) includes understand what the martial arts are for, having respect for our abilities, situational awareness, de-escalation skills, anger management, and everything else.
As instructors, if we embrace the truth of these two jobs it will help us to better serve our students. Also, if we sit them down and explain this to them like my T.I. did to me it will help them to better understand what they’re training for and help to keep the safe.