I’m not a psychologist but I do play one on TV; or so the saying goes. However, after training in the martial arts for almost 50 years (since high school) and running my own dojo for the last 20, I’ve had the “opportunity” to watch a lot of disturbing tendencies in prospective players who visit the dojo, some of whom actually passed the initial screening and were on the mat for a time before leaving (or being invited to leave).
Some, a few, not all that many but a noticeable number of prospective deshi walk in the door with an innate belief (if only on a subconscious level and not even in the front of their mind) that the mere possession of testicles (along with a carry permit and a game boy controller) makes them skilled drivers, lovers, and street fighters. From a practical (and coldly) analytical view of the Budo-verse we know that this is fantasy and simply not the case in spite of how low they lower their voices to growl, “I’ll be back ….. and will start next week”.
Driving a car with too-loud mufflers (that for the world reminds me of an angry bumble bee) and claims to stud-status (“Yo, Adrian”) are topics best left for another day; but the street fighting/martial arts aspect is too obvious to pass up. I am supposed to be blogging on martial arts, right?
Yes, there are natural athletes. You have dealt with them all of your life and we all remember that guy in high school who lettered in every sport he ever tried out for, generally made team captain, dated the head cheer leader, and who may have been known for pushing Casper up against his locker during the lunch break in the quest for King of the Hallway status during lunch break.
The natural athlete (sports) argument aside, humans are not “natural” martial artists in that high-level physical abilities dealing with potentially life & death scenarios are very much learned skill sets. I have yet to see a 6 year old who was fully able to intuitively cobble together (and correctly work) a hein kata, a Tai Chi long set, or a decent wrist lock.
These skills are taught, learned, practiced, and ingrained intuitively only with innumerable hours of practice under a qualified instructor. Anything less is simply giving the kid a hammer and telling him to sit in the corner and beat on a block of wood, expecting him to somehow come up with an antique roll top desk made out of cross-cut oak.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Just stop it. I’ve already heard the argument that so-and-so is a natural and has won every fight he was ever in back in high school.
Keep it to yourself. That’s little more than mental masturbation with some rationalization thrown in for good measure. The issue behind that proclamation is the underlying and unmentioned fact that somewhere along the line someone probably offered instruction that he could integrate well enough for a couple of tricks that no one else had seen, or was taught that one punch that works against most or, he was just in so many fights as a young and belligerent walking hormone that he learned a few tricks the hard way, or he’s just a big guy and overwhelms everyone, a sign of genetically gifted size and not necessarily of any true martial ability.
So basically, everyone needs training but an issue here is that due to cultural trends combined with technology we have today bred into men a false ego, a specious external facade that somehow they can succeed without any real effort. This is the fault of the “everyone gets a trophy” religion, combined with the lack of any sense of responsibly. It’s “just supposed to be that way” after all. Compound that with high-tech allowing many young people to exist in a fantasy world, then taking that fantasy with them outside the screen or 3-D goggles and attempting to interface with others and now that false view of “self” is what is communicated.
Now take that one step further, into the dojo where the Sensei gets strange questions about what is and is not possible or what “secret techniques” the student claims to have knowledge of. I actually had a young man walk into the dojo not all that long ago, get past the initial screening interview since he seemed sincere and then once on the mat he began to talk about whether we taught this or that technique and that he had “seen” a technique that really worked well and he wanted to learn it.
After some questioning, it turned out that he had a video game addiction (my extrapolation of his comments) and the techniques he was asking about (or claiming knowledge of) were things he had seen on the screen in “Secret Samurai Killers From Planet 9 meet the Godzilla Corps” or from a movie on Netflix that he had binged watched; him thinking that all the silliness on the screen was actually based on real ideas and real martial arts. He was expecting us to know what he “knows” which only served to make him an irritant. He was invited to train elsewhere.
He was unable to tell the difference and somehow thought that he could translate his “game knowledge” to actual “martial arts ability” with minimal work and was seemingly unable to break with his preconceived notions and be “re-taught” what is and what is not.
These individuals, aside from being lied to by our cultural trends have been instructed (taught) by insidious outside forces (e.g., our current culture at large) and they believe that if someone does in fact ask them to put forth extra effort or to change their current paradigm and learn something new (or if you dare to point out their short-comings or that they are the ones out of line) they bristle and instead of considering the Sensei’ comments as an indication of the need for them to change their ideas and accept the need for retraining, the conversation becomes one of “How dare you tell me I’m not good enough or that I need to work harder?” even though that was not the specifics of what you were attempting to communicate.
Modern men (and women who have interest in martial training) have been conditioned to accept mediocrity as the norm, and that their opinion about a subject is more important than whether or not they can actually perform the task. They hide in their “Man Cave” playing Xbox thinking they are manly and when called on it and required to "make scratch", become argumentative.
The false ego generated by all the talk and supposition drives modern man to actually avoid professional training. If they take that big step and attend a course or go to a school they risk having all their pre-disposed notions shattered. They might discover to their great displeasure that they aren’t actually good martial artists, good at self-defense, and that their favorite bokken is not actually akin to Thor’s Hammer. And yes, before you ask, I’ve actually had people walk into the dojo with their personalized wooden (or fiberglass bokken), tell me that they’ve been practicing in their garage with friends and then try to show me what they “know” with their having little to no actual dojo time. All that conversation ceased the moment I picked up my bokken and told them to leave (sometimes it just gets to the point of "too much conversation").
Having been raised in a society that embraces mediocrity and excuses failure, these egos can’t risk the blow. Their solution is to simply buy more expensive gear and run out to apply for their Concealed Carry Permit and begin to engage everyone they meet with discourses on the best caliber, best carry rigs, ballistics, or what technique they saw in UFC 1,967 work the best and how so-and-so MMA competitor isn't good enough (as if they could come anywhere close to matching even the lowest ranked fighter on the card).
They essentially trade years of work in the martial arts to gain expertise in favor of a quick purchase on their VISA card and time spent searching the internet for websites that have information on SEAL Team 6 tactics ideas from Assassins Creed.
As dojo have matured over the years and as the culture has evolved right along with them, it becomes more and more important to provide adequate explanations to prospective deshi as-to the value of a life-long study of Bushido and this is the task before us; us being the Sensei and the Hatamoto who have taken on the task of preserving traditional martial arts. Items to explore in upcoming blog ideas.
See you on the mat.
L.F. Wilkinson Kancho