Reconciling Violence and Compassion

This is the continuation of a group discussion of martial arts and compassion. Your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

As martial artists, we naturally develop a certain familiarity, or even comfort with violence. That is a good thing.

And at the same time, as members of a civil society, we are compelled to minimize our violent interactions. That is also a good thing.

Can these attitudes and skill sets be integrated? Synergized, even? Or, must gains in one area come at expense of the other?  Rory says,

Mindfully learning to crush a throat is incompatible with compassion- no matter how hard you visualize or how deep your meditation on your skills, if the first time you break someone’s bone or make them scream it bothers you, you weren’t honestly mindful- practicing violence to acquire a peaceful nature requires a willful blindness.

Gentle, Sweet and Mild? You Still Need a Martial Art

Outside the school gym, two men sat idly on a bench, waiting for Tai Chi class to begin. “If anyone were to attack me,” the first student offered, “I would simply run away, living to fight another day.”

A faint smile crossed his companion’s face, as both continued to enjoy the summer sunset. Allowing a respectful pause, the second man finally replied: “And how fast can you run?”

While it is true that a fight requires two consenting parties, a brutal beating does not. There are times when strategic retreat is not an option. We all know that martial arts experience is valuable in such times, for everyone.

But did you know that martial arts training offers special benefits for the kind and gentle?

Hagakure: The Way of the Warrior is Forgiveness

The relationship between real fighting and full-contact martial arts competitions is like that of the dog and the hot dog. Although they are composed of similar elements—striking and grappling in the former, meat in the latter—one should not be confused for the other.

The essence of a real fight is not found in tactics, or even in intensity. Genuine combat is defined by its absence of fairness and finality. There are no honored champions, and no nobly accepted defeats; in their place are uncertainty, postponement and escalation. Today, you win by knockout; tomorrow, you are shot in the back.

Even death is no denouement, considering its legal and karmic consequences—not to mention vengeful friends and family of the recently deceased, with their own troublesome interpretations of justifiable homicide.

Budo shuji by Kondo Katsuyuki

All martial artists know that budo is not for starting fights. Some have unfortunately been taught that martial artists should avoid them altogether. Honestly, avoidance is a tool for agoraphobics and drunks, not warriors; the true purpose of budo is to end conflict decisively.

What can the ancient Japanese code of bushido teach us about conflict resolution strategy?