I was sitting at starbucks catching up on some of the latest kung fu novels that I love so much when a few MMA guys sat in the seat right behind me. They had just finished a recent fight and were trading war stories about the different events that took place during their fight.
"I think my eardrum is busted." One of them said while looking at the other three.
"Stop complaining, you only think your eardrum is busted, I KNOW my ribs are broke." The other one said while they all snickered.
They listed off different personal injuries and even made mention of some other fighters who weren't there that happened to be knocked out or beaten to a pulp. I listened and I felt bad for them as I turned and asked, "How long do you guys plan on doing martial arts?"
"Oh it is just a young man's sport." One of them said. "The longest anyone can survive is about 10 years." One of the stronger men responded as the starbucks waitress brought him a bag of ice for his elbow.
I felt propelled to look up some of the stats of other fighters who people titled as the best martial artists in the world. Normally a statement like that might make me feel a little upset or irritated, but now I found myself only filled with sorrow and sadness. These people participate in martial arts for ten years and then they retire? That's not even enough time to get good. The worst part is they don't only retire from the sport, looking at the list of injuries they are retiring from exercise all together. They leave the sport much worse than as they came in. The art of destroying yourself.
But continually you will hear them claim that some new young fighter is the best in the world even though he has only trained for 3 years. He will only last until his injuries add up and then he will be retired as well. Even the champions walk around with limps and bad hips. Can you even win?
I usually do my best to understand the different paths that we all choose to take in our life, especially in regards to martial arts, but I have to draw the line somewhere and just say it. "This is not a martial art."
I know there are many different forms and styles of arts through out the history of time. I even count boxing and wrestling as a martial art. Yet the goal of martial arts in my mind is to teach the individual to protect themselves from danger. If you can not protect yourself from danger, then you are not a good martial artist. Well this sport does the opposite as it puts itself in the pathway of danger and sees how long it can withstand the turbulence. This is what you can call an extreme sport, just as skateboarding or skydiving. But the people who sat at the table behind me were left completely unprotected. Both mentally and physically they had sustained enough damage that they would never function properly again. All of this for a few cheers and a couple bucks. What a waste of potential warriors who could change the world in a far greater manner than just entertainment.
What if someone had learned the piano for 3 years and claimed that he was one of the best in the world? How would people respond to the idea?
Granted I am a slow learner but after 3 years I was only learning the basics of how to defend myself. After 10 years I was getting a hang of mental manipulation and strategy. After 15 years I finally discovered the art that I wanted, and began to learn its language. After 20 years I began learning about the true source of power and on and on....
After 30 years I feel that I am only a beginner and wouldn't dare say I am the best in the world at anything within my art. I am just glad that I am still able to learn and practice daily. To even suggest that you are the best in the world at anything truly exposes your ignorance that you have no idea how big this world is.
This is natural because everyone naturally believes that the world is actually as big as their country...or even there neighborhood in some cases. While in Taiwan they continually show all of the music stars of the local people and every billboard, poster and TV show exposes you to more of the Taiwanese pop celebrities. You can go into a video store and they have never heard of many of the celebraties in America or the Western world. Their world is only as big as their TV screen just like the rest of us. In Hong Kong I see only the Hong Kong stars and so on. But every station in every country is offering the contest to see who is the best in the world.
It's not that these people aren't good, talented or even skilled at what they do. It is the ignorance that surrounds the entertainment that is a problem. By saying these MMA fighters are the best martial artist in the world you have given Americans a false education about martial arts. You have stripped children away from learning real self-defense and discipline and created the idea that fighting for a crowd's approval is somehow the highest form of martial arts. In actuality if you need the approval of others then you are still at the lowest levels of your art.
I have many students that are involved in competitive sports martial arts so I am not saying that it there is no value in it. Just as middle school is valuable for people to get into high school competitive sports can help you better understand where you are going. But if you think that you can stay in middle school for your whole life....you truly have mental issues. Graduate and move on to a higher level where the problems are not so simple and people are no longer choosing your battles for you. More importantly fight someone that matters, not someone choses for you. When I was younger and I had my fights with the KKK or skinheads it was a much different sensation than an MMA competition. Someone who is trying to take your life and hopes no one will witness it is much scarier than fighting with someone for the amusement of others. That is when you will really be tapping into your ability. It doesn't matter how many opponents you beat with gloves, if you can't beat the true demons that live in our area and within ourself. But if you win that kind of fight you are making our world a better place. If you are injured fighting a child molester then it is a badge of honor. If you only know how to fight for trophies, then you have never actually used your martial arts.
A great warrior must know how to think in addition to fight. Stop letting others think for you. Decide yourself what your abilities are for, that's the first step to true kung fu.