View Full Version : Principles, Morality & Teaching

21st June 2001, 19:09
This is somewhat related to the Religion & Budo discussion, however I'm a bit more interested in the fundamentals that are taught in various schools, principally regarding the "morality" of combat, action, reaction and self defense.

In your MA careers, what manner did your teachers explain the issues of degree of violence, based upon attack, for instance, or the issue of potentially killing one's adversary.

While I acknowledge that some styles are closely tied to particular religious orders/sects/faiths, it is evident that many are not connected in any way to a particular religious foundation.

If you are also an instructor, I am interested in how you address these aspects relating to "morality of combat".


22nd June 2001, 10:20

Hopefully this should make for a fascinating topic. I'm particularly hoping to see posts from Koryu practicioners and 'Modern Eclectic' arts.

For myself as an instructor in Jiu Jitsu I endevour to teach my students a number of principles.

1) Self defence isn't just about surviving an attack. It's about not going to jail, and having to live with what you've had to do to another human being.

2) Awareness is the best form of self defence.

3) In my book the appropriate response is the minimum required to end the conflict. If that's a wrist release followed by "legging it" then great. If the reality is that the only way to end the conflict is to break an arm or a wrist or kick out a knee, then so be it , we train for that to.

In terms of how I actually teach this. I usually teach beginners nothing but basic wrist releases and releases for grabs for the first couple of weeks. I do this because :

1) If they leave after a couple of weeks all they've learned is purely defensive moves that, hey, might even help them sometime.

2) They understand that whilst it is entirely possible to break a wrist, gouge an eye and stamp a foot within a heartbeat, that is not an appropriate response for someone who grabs your wrist because he wants to look at your watch.

Hope this is of some interest to someone (you never know when you post !)

23rd June 2001, 14:18
I was always taught to respond to the threat with a similar level to what is being directed at you. Of course, due to zanshin or good ol-fashioned rage, some invite legal problems with overkill. Rob is right on the money- the minimum force required to neutralize the threat.

-David Craik

Jeff Hamacher
6th July 2001, 04:06
the whole question of how to respond in a real self-defense situation has never weighed that heavily on my thinking about martial arts training. i suspect that this is for a few reasons.

i initially chose martial arts training (specifically aikido) as a way to whip my body into shape (since i used to be a very under-exercised, pack-a-day smoking beanpole) and to get a handle on one aspect of traditional japanese culture. i was most attracted to aikido by the principle that it has no sportive or competitive element and that it is fundamentally a defensive art. i wasn't interested in becoming the next right-out-of-the-movies Steven Seagal, i simply wanted to train. and i thought, if i happen to develop an ability to defend myself from physical attack along the way, so much the better.

i suppose it's also because i lead a pretty quiet life.:D japan is hardly crime- or violence-free, but in 5 years of living here i think i've felt the threat of real danger no more than once or twice. i don't know why, but people just don't seem to target me for picking fights; i haven't been in an actual fist fight since 1982! perhaps Rob's comment about "awareness as the best defense" is related to my experience: i tend to avoid putting myself in situations where conflict could arise, and usually gravitate away from such a situation if it starts to appear around me. if a "charged" situation or place is unavoidable i usually adopt a manner of complete but confident disinterest, refusing to make eye contact or otherwise engage potential opponents. it could be nothing more than pure luck, but this approach has served me pretty well.

my training in jo doesn't concern itself much with issues of modern-day self-defense. it may accustom me to using a weapon effectively, but since i don't carry my sticks around with me wherever i go the kata we practise aren't going to help me much ... directly at least.

i think the bottom line is that martial arts training helps develop not only a physical ability but also an attitude which makes itself apparent to the onlooker. if sufficiently tempered, that attitude or manner can sometimes be enough to dissuade a potential attacker. it's not a question of striking fear in the heart of an opponent, it's rather a way of carrying oneself such that one doesn't invite violence. and in terms of morality of spirituality, this is awfully close to the Zen ideal: a human who is remarkable for being so unremarkable, content to go about their business without stirring up conflict. if all hell breaks loose, then i have to "third" Rob's philosophy of minimum force, and Zen wouldn't fault anyone for acting unwaveringly in the face of a threat.

cheers, jeff hamacher