“I want to feel safe so I train. Now I have trained and feel confident, so I voluntarily place myself in a situation where I am in danger.”
This blog has been brewing in my brain for a long time. I have noted what to me is an inexplicable phenomenon in the thinking of many martial artists. Allow me to lay out the scenario.
Although there are many reasons for wanting to take up the study of a martial art, certainly the most common one is the desire to learn to defend oneself usually born of fear. Nothing surprising here. That was certainly the case when I began.
So one takes up the study of a martial art and, little by little, begins to acquire a certain amount of proficiency.
The realization that one has attained some skills often leads to an aggrandized ego, and a false belief that one will be able to handle himself in a violent encounter; this notwithstanding the fact that his skills are untested.
If one reaches the level of becoming a senior student in a martial arts school, in many cases there is pressure on him to begin entering competition. If the school can turn out “champions”, it is very good publicity to attract still more students.
If our hypothetical senior-student-turned-competitor does indeed enter the ring, and fares well, we have an interesting conundrum. Here is a young person who chose to study a martial art to learn to protect himself, to avoid injury. This same person places himself in harm’s way for recognition and perhaps monetary reward.
The fear of the inability to defend himself is replaced by the fear of the potential for injury during competition. The novice faced with violence may be in an unavoidable situation. The competitor in the ring is there as the result of an act of volition.
The competitive environment may be far more dangerous that a common fight against an untrained opponent. This time, the adversary is likely to be skilled in various fighting arts, and capable of dealing a deadly blow in some circumstances.
Perhaps it is the illusion of safety promised by rules that deludes the young fighter into believing he is not risking his health and well-being. Or perhaps the lure of fame and fortune clouds his thinking.
Why is there a doctor on hand, and medical equipment, and an ambulance on call? If you play golf or tennis or go bowling–all forms of competitive activity–such precautions are not necessary.
Do you see the fundamental contradiction? “I want to feel safe so I train. Now I have trained and feel confident, so I voluntarily place myself in a situation where I am in danger.”
This is not the aikido way. This is the realm of sports and competition. It appeals to the lust for blood and violence that is instinctive in much of mankind. Those that participate and those that spectate at these events share a common mentality and morality.
What should be the goals of our aikido training?
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