I haven't been around this forum for a while. I couldn't resist this topic...
I find it slightly hilarious to see how a couple of grown men seriously discuss the pros and cons of the different martial arts on TV. Then again, it's no more hilarious than a couple of grown men discussing the latest football results as if it were the next presidential election. So it's probably me...
Nevertheless, this topic raises some interesting questions that have been on my mind, lately.
What is a fight?
It seems to me that a basic property of any fight is that it has two options: fight or flight. Either you go in and you end it as fast, as efficient and as ruthless as you possibly can, or you run away as fast as you can. Looking at it that way, the one who can run the fastest may be the winner. Any situation where two people oppose one another at a more or less fixed distance (ma-ai) to try to 'score' is therefor something else. It may be competition or even a life-or-death duel, but it's as much a fight as a game of chess.
As far as I'm concerned, the kumite that is presented as 'fight' in the series and as 'fight' in most martial arts, including Wado is no fight at all. In fact, what we call fight is no more than a highly ritualized game. It may be about life and death, but it's a game nonetheless. The game that is shown in the series, that you see in the dojo, and even often in the streets, has an arranged place, a time, a space, involves honor and ego and has some implicit but very strict rules:
• Do not seriously injure or kill one another.
• Leave your gun, your baseball bat and your pepper spray at home.
The outcome of such a game is to some extend determined by the skill of the participants, but is mostly determined by the rules and rituals that apply. So that makes any pathetic excuse for loosing as lame as any reason for winning.
The other day I practiced kumite with a highly skilled martial artist (non-Wado). When he attacked my head with a very fast hook, I found that Wado had not prepared me for that type of assault. As I was trying to figure out how to deal with it, it occurred to me that he only could attack me with a hook thanks to the specific ma-ai that applied for that particular exercise. Taking a step back for a more Wado-like ma-ai would have rendered his hooks pretty much useless. But then I would violate the ritual and defeat the purpose of the exercise. As a result I decided that his hooks didn't matter all that much to me. I was more interested in learning about his remarkable skills. After all, this wasn't a fight.
There's a fascinating story about Choki Motobu that touches the same subject of fight:
Motobu was attending a large party when a former student burst in and, waving a knife, challenged Motobu. “I can use this,” the student declared stabbing the knife into Motobu’s table, “I will never lose the fight.”
“I won’t fight with any weapon,” Motobu stated calmly. “I won’t fight with a knife.” Although he tried his best to convince the student not to fight, the student insisted. “Are you really that determined to fight me with a knife?” asked Motobu.
“I am,” proclaimed the student defiantly. “I won’t change my mind!”
“All right then,” said Motobu finally. “I will take you up on your offer, but we should not fight in the house.”
The student grabbed the knife and headed for the door. Motobu followed closely behind. Just before the student reached the door, Motobu kicked him in the back, shattering his backbone.
(Source: Charles Goodin)
Motobu used a kick to take him out, but he might as well have hit him on the head with a can of beer. It's wasn't the skill that made the difference. Motobu simply ignored the rules and ruthlessly put an end to it as fast and as efficient as he possibly could. Motobu really fought, while the other guy was merely performing his ritual.
Recently I watched a Japanese series depicting the life of Musashi.
http://www.pinit.tv/video/10033/Miyamot ... -SP-1-2014
Musashi always sought to fight. By doing so he dismissed the option of running away, turning his bouts into highly ritualistic games of life and death. There's an interesting exchange in the series, between Musashi and his tutor Takuan:
T: "What are you fighting for? Is it to become famous? Or to be remembered by next generations?"
M: "I used to fight for a successful career and for honor. I was desperate to gain a reputation. It was this selfish desire that made me snatch the lives of more than 70 people."
T: "When you die you will definitely go to hell."
T: "So you don't want a reputation anymore. You don't want a career either. Then why do you go on fighting?"
M: "I want to see what is further ahead."
T: "What for?"
M: "To see what my limits are."
T: "Your limit may be death."
M: "It may be. But I won't mind. Until the last moment before I die, I'll go on seeing."
And so it seems that the purpose of Musashi's fighting was to fight. Which makes it little more than a game. Or a life's exploration if you want to look at it from a more favorable perspective.
But does it matter that most 'fighting' is merely a game?
Hell, no. We enjoy whatever we're doing, right? If not, go do something else. Take up chess, aikido, sudoku or basketball if that is your thing.
For me, I find that the rituals of Budo help me forge my mind and body. If it involves a fight, it is primarily a fight against my own demons, not against others. That works for me. And whether or not I'd be able to take out a boxer on TV doesn't matter all that much to me. After all, I can still run pretty fast or throw a can of beer his way...