Fighters vs. Martial Artists

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fighters vs. Martial Artists

There are plenty of tough guys out there...and a lot of them are very skilled fighters.  However, that doesn't make them "martial artists".  There is a difference.  It is ultimately up to you which category you fall into.

Clearly, in a martial arts class, you will learn how to fight.  In fact, Jiu-jitsu is considered to be one of the most effective fighting arts on the planet!  And through learning to fight, you may, and likely will, develop a level of "toughness".  Constantly dealing with being put under pressure, being put in compromising positions, and learning to still survive and keep going can develop a lot of grit.  But these things alone don't make you a martial artist, at least not in the way that I think of the word.  Being a martial artist takes more than physical fighting skill, more than toughness.  It is really about your character.

At first, many might scoff at the idea that learning how to throw people, choke people, delivering devastating strikes and breaking limbs is a good way to develop your moral character.  But, it in fact can do just that.  However it does not come automatically.  It has to do with your intention.  We learn to fight because we understand that we have not only a right, but rather an obligation to be able to defend ourselves and our loved ones if placed in harms way.  But, as the famous quote says, "with great power comes great responsibility".  We carry ourselves confidently in the face of adversity with the knowledge that the skills that we develop will keep us safe, but also understanding the responsibility to avoid having to use them if at all possible. We train to fight so that we don't have to.

Through the rigors of training, we also will encounter struggle.  We will fail.  We will deal with obstacles in the path of our development.  How we learn to overcome these obstacles and deal with failure helps us to develop not only physical toughness, but inner strength.  These are opportunities to  confront and work on our own inner demons-fear, doubt, hopelessness, negativity, etc.  Facing and overcoming these things helps us to grow and become better people, and THAT is what martial arts is ultimately about-becoming the best version of you that you are capable of!

Since the earliest days of organized martial arts, going back to the Feudal Era of Japan, people realized that warriors or fighters who were not of strong moral character could be very dangerous.  That is why the Japanese warrior class developed a code of ethics, known as Bushido, that would guide them in their daily lives, both on and off the battlefield.  This Warrior Code still exists today, in various forms, in many martial arts academies.  We have a version of this hanging on the wall of our academy, the 7-5-3 Code™.  This code which was organized by the Valente Brothers, is a way of representing how we can best live a healthy, prepared, and virtuous life both on and off the mat, and how our training can help us to deal with problems in our daily lives.

This 7-5-3 Code™ refers to the "Seven Virtues of a Warrior": Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honor, & Loyalty; the "Five Keys to Health": Nutrition, Exercise, Rest, Hygiene, and Positivity; and the "Three States of Mind": Awareness, Balance, and Flow.  You can learn more about the 7-5-3 Code™ here.

There are countless examples of people who have been great fighters, world champions in boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, or mixed martial arts, highly skilled in many respects; but lacking in moral character.  Some have been involved in drug trafficking, child molestation, rape, or even murder. Some may not have even committed any of these types of overt acts, but yet the way that they choose to lead their lives leave a lot to be desired.  These are not, in my opinion, martial artists.  Of course, we are all human, and we all are subject to make mistakes.  None of us are perfect by any means.  However, the martial artist always strives to be better, recognizing their flaws and imperfections, but always working to overcome them.  They lead their lives in a purposeful way, trying to not only better themselves, but to make the world they live in, and the people around them better.  Ultimately, that is an individual choice.  But, the benefits of the latter are numerous.  I would encourage all of you to consider that way you lead your life, and let your training help you to fulfill a greater purpose than just becoming a hardened human weapon.  I am privileged to be part of a team that highly values moral character, not just physical skill, and one that, I think cultivates these qualities in all of our members.  Train hard, be hard to kill, become a very tough, skilled, and technical fighter...but also, strive to be a better human!

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