Sunday, November 1, 2009

Our Martial Responsibilities

What are our responsibilities as martial artists? One never knows how he/she will react if actually attacked or accosted. In the classical martial arts so much of our training is toward skills not directly related to combat. There are combat systems that strip down the techniques to the essential necessary for fighting or self defense. But the classical systems are more rounded and aim for higher ends than just simply the ability to fight well. However, they are still martial arts and any self-described martial artist should feel comfortable with the prospect of defending him/herself. But, what then are our responsibilities to that end?

A well-executed Dim-Mak strike or a combat throw on a hard surface could very well end in serious damage or death to the attacker. Do we, as the potential defender, bear any responsibility for the safety and well-being of a person who is attacking us? I think the answer is, like most things in life, ambiguously yes and no. Please keep in mind that my answers are based on my own personal philosophy of life and morality; and that I think such philosophies and thoughts are by default subjective. So, this is just my perspective.

As an Aikidoist I believe in O-Sensei's ideal of caring for our attacker as a fellow human being, and therefore doing just enough to control the situation and try to avoid harming said attacker. But as someone who has experienced bullies, and sandlot fights and barroom brawls, I also believe that ideal has to be taken with a grain of salt. All life is sacred and should be protected. That does include the life of our attacker. But it also includes our own lives and the lives of our friends and loved ones. As martial artists we have responsibilities to protect our own lives, the lives of those close to us, and IF POSSIBLE the lives of those who attack us. But, in keeping with the tenets of Natural Law, once another person has taken aggressive action against us, they have compromised and jeopardized their own rights.

Training should, among other things, work to address how we handle attackers and how we respond under stress. Ideally we should know and automatically react with the correct response. I don't know if anyone really reaches this ideal state. But it is a part of what we should train for. The injunction to relax and control our responses is difficult, but crucial to being a well-rounded martial artist. I believe that if a person is truly aiming for this end, then he/she is justified in whatever reaction occurs if they are attacked. Again, Natural Law basically trumps here. If a person violates your space or your person, you have the right to react in whatever manner you find necessary at the time. For it will not have been you that transgressed, but the attacker. All you are doing is protecting your space and your person.


Matt "Ikigai" said...

I tend to agree with this philosophy and how you organize responsibilities. Personal safety and safety of loved ones comes first. Then, if possible, the safety of the attacker.

I grow uncomfortable when I hear martial artists saying things such as 'I won't cause trouble but if someone touches me I will plow them into the ground'. Even if they are justified legally they are still missing some of the more intrinsic and important goals of martial arts training.

Rodney said...

Thanks Matt