Martial Arts: Some Thoughts

Mr. Miyagi: Miyagi hate fighting.
Daniel: But you like karate.
Mr. Miyagi: So?
Daniel: Karate’s fighting, you train to fight.
Mr. Miyagi: That what you think?
Daniel: No.
Mr. Miyagi: Then why train?
Daniel: So I won’t have to fight.
Mr. Miyagi: Miyagi have hope for you.

I’ve trained in martial arts for the last 11 years. I started in January of 1997. I always wanted to train in martial arts since I was a little boy, but we didn’t have a lot of money. I grew up watching KungFu Theater on Saturdays, and I watched most all of the Karate movies that came out during the 80s and 90s. Karate Kid was always my favorite. The sequel, Karate Kid II was phenomenal. I found out when I was looking up that part of the script there that the actor, Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi passed away in Nov 2005. That made me a little sad.

So when I grew up and had a job, I joined a local martial arts school. My instructor didn’t teach Okinawan Karate, we trained in Tang Soo Do and Combat Hapkido. Both arts originated in Korea with roots back to China and Japan. I trained for 6 years with my Master. Then I had my own students for a year. Then I moved to the Tulsa area. I trained by myself to keep my skills up. A few months back I enrolled my son in a local school in the area, and I’ve joined up with the school for Fitness Kickboxing. I start instructing on the martial arts side today.

Talking with the chief instructor gave me pause. He related a lot of negative information about John Pelligrini, the Grand Master of Combat Hapkido, that he had read about online. I had heard that there were people out there who didn’t like GM JP or our system, but I had never heard about it first hand. It made me sad. I don’t know if any of it is true or not, but I think there is probably two sides to the story. I may call GM JP sometime and ask.

GM Pelligrini has always been respectful, humble, an excellent teacher, and a honorable man since I’ve known him. I have trained and visited with GM Pelligrini a number of times for 6 years before I moved up here to Tulsa. I trained with him and GM In Sun Seo of the World Kido Federation. I was present during the ceremony when GM In Sun Seo offically recognized our system as an offical Kwan. GM JP and my Master granted me permission to teach my art as well. I don’t have anything negative to say about either of them.

Over the years of my training, I’ve studied a lot of the history of my arts and others. Usually the way it worked was a man would train in different styles and over time he would set out and found his own style. They were never old. Many of the greatest Masters to have ever lived were young when they created their own art. I’ve taken everything I have learned and formed it into my own system. Is it better than others? I don’t think so. It is my personal form of the martial way, and as long as I were to surivive a bad incident, my training has been valuable.

Over the course of my research, most of the arts have very similiar techniques. A kick is a kick, a punch is a punch. A lock, a throw, breathing, and focus are all found across the board. Many martial systems throughout time from around the world have simliar attributes. Warriors in the west trained and developed their own systems, just like those warriors in the east did. I think we can study all systems and learn from them. We should take what is good and leave the rest.

I believe in studying an art in its fullness, including its tradition, philosophy, and techniques, but I don’t think we can say one is better than another. Nor should we allow ourselves to be blinded by tradition. I find those who cling to certain traditions are usually too proud or arrogant to be open minded to the fact that other ways may be a better choice. Bruce Lee proved the point with Jeet Kune Do.

Why learn 3000 different techniques if someone grabs you on the same side with a wrist grab? The only important thing at that moment is one successful technique. I have found that in any given situation there are unlimited ways to respond. As I have attained higher ranks I have come to a point of being more like water. Flowing, changing form, non-resistance, circular movement, and straight lines all have their place. Most combat situations are dynamic, and a person above all else needs to learn to think and flow with whatever comes. Hypothetically, I may have a smaller amount of techniques at my disposal than the next guy, but I can tell you this that I know my techniques and will use them successfully.

I am very flexible in the way I see things. I am always teachable because I know I don’t know everything. I’m open minded to new ideas and philosophy in regard to how things are done. Though I have a solid foundation that I stand on, and I will not be moved from that foundation unless I believe it is the right thing to do. I have a certain way I do things, and I have developed that way with training, time, research, and application.

That brings me back to why I train. I train so I don’t have to fight because I hate violence. If a man is confident in his ability to protect himself, he is more likely to have more control over what he does. Martial training not only trained me how to use my body, but it also trained me on how to control my emotions and mind. A man gains wisdom from instruction, and gains the ability to see ahead. Awareness and avoidance are very important, and I learned that is the first path to take in any situation. You fight if you have to, but you look for peace until that last possible second. I think Mr. Miyagi would approve. :-)

That brings me to the subject of humility. So much of my research and observation shows me that many don’t have humility, nor do they even know what it is. Humility begins when a man recognizes that he is human, has weakness, makes mistakes, and there is always someone out there who can defeat you. They may not defeat you on a particular day, but they may on the next. I see a lot of arrogance and pride through the history of martial arts. People thinking they are better than everyone else, thinking their way is better, thinking that they are undefeatable. Pride has always proceeded a fall. It is really sad. I think the true history of eastern martial arts has been lost. Looking at the history is like looking at a murky pool of water without being able to see the bottom.

That brings me to the subject of associations and paying for recognition. Professional instructors need to eat, there is no doubt about that. We should pay so they can do what they do, but there comes a point where over paying becomes a reality. There comes a point where it becomes more about greed than it does training and passing the knowledge on to the next generation. I have looked at a number of organizations in my styles, but I don’t know which is better and which is worse. I’ve come to the conclusion, that being a part of an association so that you get recognition by others isn’t necessary. As long as you have a good, quality instructor who teaches you what you need to survive an encounter effectively, that is all you need. Who cares if you can take your belt across country and have it recognized.

This whole situation with GM John Peligrini shows me just how un-important it is. People look down on him and his system, and now I have run into someone who almost looks down on my rank. Does it matter what other people think? No it doesn’t. I know what I’ve learned. I know what I have done to get where I am at. I know I will survive if I were put in a bad situation. So in the end: associations, paying people hundred or thousands of dollars so they will recognize what I have worked hard to learn doesn’t matter. What matters is quality of instruction at a local school.

I will say that being involved in a larger group has its benefits, that is for sure. But if those benefis are just me paying money out for someone’s recognition that isn’t even in the same state, I would rather keep my money. Benefits like access to more training, quality assurance for instruction, access to masters who know what they are doing who can pass it on, brotherhood, friendship, and recognition (with everything else its a good thing) are all good reasons to be in a particular organization. Does any particular organization matter? As long as they are quality in all those areas, I think you can choose which ever one you want. But at the end of the day, if you are in a bad situation and have to defend yourself, an association has no relevance.

I learned a lot from Mr. Miyagi growing up. Watching the first two Karate Kid films, really made an impact on my life. I could say that my first real martial arts teacher was Mr. Miyagi. It is true, and I don’t care if people laugh at me for believing it. :-)

Here is one to the memory of Mr. Miyagi. Peace.

About Daniel Silas
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