Thursday, February 17, 2011

Am I Making Myself Clear? (WARNING!!: Opinion Post!!)

So, I had a long conversation (well...I consider anything on the phone over 2 min. long) with my friend and former martial arts instructor recently. We talked a lot about this site and the opinions I express here.

One thing you have to understand is he is NOT a fan of MMA - by any stretch of the imagination. It isn't the activity that bothers him, it's the attitude. (I actually agree with him on this point. It seems as though MMA in general attracts assholes. I personally know some really nice, super cool MMA fighters and trainers but I also know a lot of MMA assholes. The whole culture that is being promoted alongside MMA is what is truly to blame and it is a shame)

 He places a huge emphasis on the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the martial arts. It is important to him that a martial artist be able to defend themselves or others should a situation arise where serious injury or death is a possibility. However, improved confidence and mental/emotional/spiritual balance is of primary importance to him as a martial artist.

I respectfully disagree.

If you've spent any time on this site you know that I place self defense above the ethical/spiritual aspects of the martial arts. They are a very close second, but they're second nonetheless.

Now, he is fine with the fact that I have a differing opinion and, after our conversation today, I'm fairly certain he understands that I do truly value the ethical and spiritual aspects of the martial arts.

What bothers me is that while reading this blog he got the impression that my sole interest in martial arts training was hurting people and proving how much of a badass I am. Perhaps it's the wording or the content - I don't know.

Nothing could be further form the truth.

Now, the primary purpose of this blog is to help martial artists improve their physical performance. My goal here isn't to give lessons in ethics and morals. "I ain't yo' mamma and that ain't my job."

However, by its very nature, writing about the martial arts requires the discussion of morals and ethics. It would be negligent on my part if I failed to do so.

So, I just want everyone to know:
  • This Blog is Dedicated to Performance Enhancement, But... - I want to show you guys how to be stronger, be faster, endure more, and be more resilient. If you have to use you martial art to defend yourself or others then I don't want the scum-bag on the receiving end to have a snowball's chance in hell against you.
    However, it is also just as important to me that you understand when it is appropriate to fight.
  • It isn't Acceptable for Someone Claiming to be Martial Artist to be an Amoral Douche-bag - You have to understand when it is appropriate to use your martial arts skills. Competition is a safe way to stress test your skills (like sparring), but it isn't the "end all, be all" of the martial arts - despite what MMA fanboys have to say about it.
    Beating up frat boys or hippies (no matter how irritating) isn't what the martial arts are for. Beating up drunk assholes for questioning your manhood, also, isn't what the martial arts are for.
  • The Mental/Ethical/Spiritual side of the Martial Arts are INCREDIBLY Important - I don't want to down play the internal changes one can experience as a martial artist. Understanding one's limits (knowing how far he or she can go), building self-confidence, and finding inner calm are all very important aspects of the martial arts.
    To be completly honest, though, I didn't really understand how important they could be until I spoke with my instructor. I've been involved in the martial for so long I had taken for granted how profound something like greater self confidence could be for someone who, previously, had so little. I never really stopped to consider how life changing it could be for someone to really test their limits for the first time.
    Training in the martial arts has a significant effect on one's mental, emotional, and spiritual state.
Now, I don't like getting all preachy and up my own ass, but this conversation really had me thinking.

At the end of the day I want to create something I can be proud of - something I'm not afraid to stand behind. So far, I feel I've done a pretty good job and I can honestly say I am willing to stand to behind every post here. I think the only thing I may be lacking is in my ablility to get my point across. My goal now is to improve my communication skills.

That's where you guys come in.

I need someone to help me keep my message clear. Who better to ask than my audience.

I get emails daily from people who either like my content or who have further questions. I'd also like to hear from you guys if what I'm saying isn't quite clear or, maybe, needs elaboration.

Are you guys up to it?

Let me know what you think.

Train Hard,
Josh Skinner


  1. I'm not sure anyone can make a call what all martial arts are for. People get into martial arts for different reasons, and what you train is going to have different results. Boxing is a pretty good place to go for self-defence, especially for someone who has no idea how to throw a basic punch and is fairly wimpy (a good boxing gym will toughen you up), but you're not gonna get anything spiritual out of it. On the flipside, obviously there are traditional martial arts with limited self-defense application. Good for someone interested in that martial art, less so for someone who needs practical fighting abilities.

    So we have to accept that just as there are a broad range of martial arts styles, there's a broad range of reasons people get into MA and things they want out of it. It's not our place to say "You HAVE to care about a spiritual or ethical side" or "You HAVE to care about being a better fighter".

    That said, I think it's the responsibility of all good citizens to encourage good behaviour according to a common standard of basic ethics, and martial arts has a variety of means it can employ to achieve this depending on the style of the school and instructor, and they should make use of those methods and try to discourage assholism and misuse of what they learn.

    On the topic of your blog in particular: I thought you'd always had a good balance and think I got all the messages you were trying to get across as you intended. I'm not sure how you could be much clearer, I think you're doing great.

  2. Josh,

    From what I've seen you are not offensive. However, much like me, you too place practical self-defense first.

    I love TMA, love the philosophy, have gotten a lot out of the ritual, and may one day go back to a TMA. That having been said it has to have some practical and realistic or I won't be training there. It also has to have instructors that will answer respectful questions from a TMA perspective.

    This having been noted I do know that some TMA instructors have not mastered the "empty cup" and get bent out of shape if you even ask respectful questions.

    This is why I blog under a pseudonym and never blog directly about my current or past schools.



  3. Martial arts boils down to mostly a form of enjoyment and as a way to express my personality physically in that Fight Club, "How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight," sort of way. The thing is that I mostly prefer practical fighting methods.

    That preference is more a reflection of who I am than anything, but it sure helps in the self defense! =)

  4. I just stumbled across this site, as my flatmate is looking for a class to train at.

    I'm a 'normal' person who doesn't how anything really about fighting. My friend is highly trained. It's kinda scary what damage you guys can do to someone..and also to yourself. One punch from a top trained fighter and I'm in hospital..and then what for you?

  5. A top trained fighter should also have the control t send someone to the hospital with one punch. I'm not even speaking in the "avoiding a fight" sense as much as the "reasonable force" sense.

    Generally, competitive fighters don't fight outside of competition because street fights can ruin their careers due to legal implications.

  6. @Samuel, @Josh, @Bob -

    Thanks for the love guys! I think you're all right - we should be training in something practical.

    @Chris - I agree, a properly trained individual can seriously hurt someone - and that is what can be scary.

    The things we learn need to put into a context. Like you said, without that context someone could get really hurt and you could put yourself in a situation that could ruin your life.