For those who don’t know, the “BIG yard” is a prison term. It’s what inmates call the real world, the world outside of the one they live in. For the martial artist, we need to never forget that we are here, and not there. And I mean this in many ways.
First, as warriors, we must understand that there is a very thin line that separates us from the criminal–should we ever have to use our craft against our fellow man. Many of us anticipate killing someone. We spend all of our time fantacizing about slicing and dicing people up, and showing others (any others) how to do it. As if all you have to do is extend your hand, as you do in training, and help the guy get back up to do your techniques again. We really have gotten desensitized to the actual outcomes of what we do, and cowardice is forcing many of us who have been blessed enough to learn this art to only think of combat as a life or death fight… and the only option is to kill or maim. This is the problem I have with martial artists who shun practice fighting. They are so far away from friendly contests, that they only know one way: to talk of death and “me-or-you” fights, and since they never practice-fight, if they were ever faced with the choice of a less-than-lethal fight or a killing, they would choose the killing. This is the thing behind so-called “blade experts” and “blademasters” who don’t address a self-defense situation with a neighbor or a challenge match with another teacher. Talk of killing and you might not have to fight. But get forced into a corner, and if you choose to fight, you’ve only prepared for one thing.
We must think of the consequences of our arts should we ever have to use them. Will I go to jail? Will my opponent die or suffer permanent injuries and damage? Could I accidentally kill him? What if I go too far? What if my student accidentally kills someone or is too immature to discern between actually defending himself or taking a fight to an inappropriate level? We or someone under us could end up in the “small yard”…
There is always the threat of one of us being the one maimed or killed. Or someone close to us being hurt as a result of our actions. I remember being in a fight with some guys as a teen who turned around in shame after losing against me, just to threaten to find my younger brother and kill him. I once read a story by a martial arts acquaintance I know from the East Coast who fought a group of men, and while he fought them, one picked up his 6 year old daughter and threw her. I was a witness to an incident where a woman armed with two knives attempted to cut a child while she fought the child’s mother. We may be warriors and fighters, but there is more to what we do besides bringing hell to those who cross us. You must consider the results of our actions, and how it affects others around us. And never think that you are so good, that your defense is impenetrable. If you can get hit with a lucky punch in sparring, that punch could very well have a blade attached to it. How would you feel if you fought an avoidable fight, and some lucky fool knifed you in the spine and paralyzed you?
The biggest thing to consider as fighters is that a death can be the outcome of our actions. Whether we intended for it to occur or not, it is always right around the corner. Some men do not endeavor to study death and its arts. Those men have options that our psyche’s and insecurities will not allow us to own. When we joined our teachers–whether it was to lose weight, or learn self-defense skills, or to secretly become a killer–we embarked on a journey whose mission is to learn to kill or maim.
Every fighter must keep this very important reality in mind. Often, we do not believe that this is our business. Some of us think we are merely tournament fighters. Some are just trying to give children a safe place to hang out. Some of us are glorified fitness instructors, while others are looking to make people safe. But regardless of why you do this, if you teach the arts of self-defense and combat, death is something you deal in. No matter how passive you try to be, it is a factor in what you do. Make sure your student understand this; as well as understand it yourselves. When you have realized the size and the potential for what you train in to get out of hand, you will take your art more seriously and will understand it more fully. You will allow the life of a warrior to overtake the more trivial interests and parts of your personality and behavior. Your students will guard their tongues as a result of it. You will not engage in unnecessary fighting. For those of us who do fight, we will become more attentive to what we do and will ultimately become more accurate and more careful. You will study and practice ways to yield exactly the outcome we desire in the event we are in an altercation. Only when this lesson is learned, will you continue the path to mastery.
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