As a martial artist, you must understand your role in the community you live in.
We are not just practitioners of a form of self-defense or sport; we are our community’s warriors, whether you wish to be or not–whether you realize it or not. I was a new visitor to my mosque 8 years ago and had just met our community’s Imam (teacher/pastor), and introduced myself as a martial arts teacher. After some short, polite conversation, religious services began. Not long after prayer had ended, our Imam came outside after taking a phone call from an elderly, female member of our congregation who was being harassed by some racist neighbors of hers. Her husband was out of town and the man next door to her had threatened her with violence. She did not want to call the police again, because she had already done it once, and not only were the responding police officers dismissive of her complaints, the neighbor and his friends ridiculed her when the officers left. To this, the Imam asked me to speak to the neighbor. I asked for a few big guys and three volunteered to accompany me–among them, my now senior student and Guro, Sajat Hutcheson. We spoke to the sister, then proceeded next door, where I calmly told the neighborhood that he was to treat my sister with respect and kindness or we would return and do to him and his wife what he threatened to do to the sister. The man apologized, stating that he sometimes drank too much and said things he didn’t mean, then proceeded to tell us how he respects all people and religions, that we were actually alike, blah blah blah. Problem solved. Not only that, but I recruited two of the gentlemen who came with me as students, and made a lifelong friendship with the elderly woman and her husband (not to mention free Filipino food and daycare whenever I wished).
I joined this Mosque because it was a real community, and I found a place within that community as its resident security and martial arts guy. I have taught no less than 20 members of this community and two members are my assistant instructors. Whenever anyone wants martial arts, I’m it. Even if they are not looking for the kind of martial arts I teach, people at least come to me for guidance or recommendations. In every circle of people around a martial artist, he is looked at as the “martial arts guy” once they know you are one.
But they don’t always value you.
I have talked about the responsibility a man has to arm himself and to learn to protect his family. Because in every family, somebody has to be the protector, and how can a man protect his family when he cannot even protect himself? I have on a flyer I put out, that one “provides the family with clothing, food, shelter, and guidance, but what about protection?” Failure to protect your family leaves them vulnerable to the predators in your community–and trust me, every community has them. Every few months, I meet the victims of violence, but it is always, always after the fact. And I blame this phenomena on two very basic facts:
- In life, people are either predators or they are prey. Predators are not always the ones who harm the prey; they are merely the ones equipped to commit violence. But in many cases, the ones who are equipped actually protect the prey. In other words, they use their “powers” for good. This is our martial artists, our tough, “good” guys, our soldiers, our police. The prey includes anyone who has failed to arm themselves with the strappings of a predator.
- Most people fail to arm themselves, not because of confidence, but because of fear. They are so afraid to admit that there is a need to protect onesself, that ignoring that need becomes a form of denial, that foolish notion that it will never happen to me. Here’s the thing about this fear: everyone has it. But your fear can paralyze you into doing nothing, or it can propel you into action to do something about it.
I don’t have much use for the masses who want to act as if they don’t need the martial arts. As a teacher, I am only interested in the ones who know there is a need and are willing to do something about it. Because here is the secret to the prey’s philosophy: they know who the protectors are, and although they pretend to not care about what we do or what our skill is, when they need us they will run to us. It’s kind of like the livestock on a farm that are irritated by the presence of the guard dogs. Yeah, the dog barks, sometimes even messes with the livestock a little too rough, he slobbers, he stinks… But when the wolf comes, every sheep, every chicken, every lamb, every goat will cower behind that lone dog. And that dog will fight to the death to protect even the smallest chicken. He has no choice; it is ingrained into his DNA to not run and to exhaust his last breath into protecting his Master’s animals. As a boy I saw a dog fight a snake and die… protecting me. Did this dog know he was playing with death? Yes, but I was only 4 or 5, and did not realize the danger I was in. The dog (“Sham”) knew that his role was to keep me and my brother safe and he did what he was raised to do–to protect my grandparents’ interests. Isn’t this what the warrior is all about? To protect others?
The martial artist must understand that when he begins this journey, his role has started. He must take his study of the art seriously, and know that everyone in his family will look to him when the flames hit the house. His friends will cower behind him while they are out and trouble approaches. And people around him who want to turn from prey to fellow predator will look to him to show the way.
I think back to a show I was watching with my family about a year ago, called “How I survived” (or something). A man was telling the story of being beaten and tied up while his family hid in the bathroom, trying to keep the robbers from finishing him off. His daughter was raped, his wife beaten, and his son taken away to retrieve items from around the home. I was amazed that at no time during the hourlong show did the man lament not preparing himself for the protection of his family. He seemed to think that his only role was to give his family love and sustenance. But due to his failure to arm himself, he had no choice but to accept the fate of his family’s sense of security. I cannot respect that.
You must at least attempt to drive this point home to all around you; that as men, we have a duty to provide protection for our families. My grandfather made sure that every member of our family was taught martial arts and carried weapons. My mother has had two abusive husbands, and they both went to the hospital on their first attempt to beat her, and neither made a second attempt. My grandmother even has kills and serious injuries in her belt, as she operated a roadside business for several years–and after the first few incidents she had a reputation as a last stop for robbers. As a teenager growing up in Washington, DC, I carried a weapon to school–even fashioning a version of brass knuckles made from cow skin that I could slip on like a glove. All of us–all, including my sister and baby brother–have fighting backgrounds. A few years ago, a young woman walked into my school after being raped. To my amazement, she informed me that her grandfather was a grandmaster of “Kali”, but she had never studied the art beyond a few drills and prearranged sequences. Well, she is armed now, but with Gatdula style Eskrima rather than the art of her grandfather. A shame. Damned shame.
Don’t allow your art to go to waste. Thank you for visiting my blog.