This I Believe is an international project engaging people in writing and sharing essays that describe their core values. More than 90,000 of these essays, written by people from all walks of life, are archived on their website.
Naturally, some essayists shared their beliefs on, and experience with martial arts. Here are a few of their stories.
Life Is A Spiritual Struggle
by Joseph Laycock (Brighton, Massachusetts)
Over the din of boxing gloves pounding against leather bags, I struggle to hear this Brazilian explain yet another way to choke someone unconscious. This is a martial arts gym. Most of the regulars are amateur fighters with dreams of going professional. When they’re not here, some of them work as firefighters or bouncers. I’m definitely the only schoolteacher in the room.
My students take interest in my training. Sometimes I’ll enter the classroom with bruises or a slight limp from the gym. In world history, I’ll discuss the cultural significance of the fighting styles I study. In Thai kickboxing, the eight striking weapons — fists, shins, elbows and knees — represent the eight-fold path of the Buddha. Brazilian jujitsu has more improvisation than Japanese martial arts, which reflects different cultural attitudes towards tradition.
Every class asks me the same questions, “Have you ever beat anyone up?” And, “Why are you a teacher instead of a professional fighter?” When I tell them the truth — that I have never been in a fight and have no aspirations to go professional — I get a range of reactions from disappointment to accusations of cowardice.
“So why do you do it,” they always ask.
I believe that life is a spiritual struggle. My battle is not against another fighter but against the unjust and apathetic system that is attacking my students… [continued]
by guest author Lucas Gregson
Most adults feel incredibly capable of functioning in their day to day activities. They have bought insurance, put locks on their doors and generally adhere to the standard commonsense notions of maintaining their personal security. Occasionally they will be caught unawares and become the victim to some form of crime. After bemoaning the loss of their wallet or iPod, they will either assume that they could not have avoided the burglary or will step up their precautionary measures and go back to feeling safe and prepared.
However, simply buying pepper spray or watching fights on Jerry Springer will not ensure your ability to protect yourself. There is far more effort and introspection involved in appropriately preparing to protect your personal security. For the purposes of this article, I would like to approach the subject matter from a self defense standpoint, wherein the first objective is to avoid harm, and not from a fighting mindset. There is a huge difference between doing everything possible to avoid a physical interaction with a would-be assailant and standing your ground and meeting the challenge with equal if not greater force.
Recognizing the need for personal protection… won’t do anything at all if you aren’t prepared to use it.
Step 1: Recognition of a Potential Problem. Most advocates of personal security devices and training are happy enough to list off the potential dangers inherent in our everyday activities. They can tell you the local crime statistics, and rattle off a laundry list of situations and scams that you should be aware of and take steps to avoid. They can scare the pants off of you and make a condition like agoraphobia seem like the sanest approach to personal security. They may not tell you this one fundamental truth: you can’t prepare for every possible contingency.
A contractual relationship with your martial arts school could end miserably; former classmates and I know this from experience. Despite this experience, I believe that the potential benefits of a contract to the student outweigh the risks.
Before I explain the benefit, let me tell you the tale of an Aikido dojo gone sour.