This “gift of knowing” is one of the most interesting parts of martial arts to me. It’s almost as if the knowledge comes in stages.
In your average dojo you will have a variety of people who are at different stages of “knowing”. You have the spectators (usually parents, etc), you have the beginning students, the experienced students, the instructors and even the people looking through the window off the street. Each group has their own perceptions of the same activity taking place. What is fascinating to me is how much that activity changes once you have gone through it yourself.
We have a sequence called “Six-Count Basics” that we use on our belt tests. Long story short, it is a six step sequence demonstrating almost all of the techniques learned in Tae Kwon Do – performed over and over and over and over again. On our Black Belt tests, this sequence can take over an hour to complete. No rests – just technique after technique, ending with jump techniques. It is a cardio nightmare.
Naturally, after nearly an hour of techniques, the students’ form starts to get really sloppy. To a spectator, this is boring as hell. It is easy to watch the form fall apart and say, “C,mon I could kick higher than that!” To the person in the test, it is a war of attrition. To the instructors watching the test, it is part of their rite of passage.
Another view point is while watching boxing or MMA on TV. The average spectator wants a knockout, or something easily understood and exciting. A lot of people say Floyd Mayweather is a coward when he boxes – no, his Boxing is excellent. It’s not exciting every second, so a lot of people talk a lot of noise about Floyd. If you understand the sweet science, it is a marvel watching him move. Same for Jiu Jitsu in UFC… most people don’t understand the finer points of what’s going on, so it’s boring as hell. They want a stand-up knockout - that comes around about the same time as their beer gets warm.
|He's bored with all these belts, too. Image found here.|
“When did it “click” for you?” When did you go from being the outsider, to one who “knows”?
For me, it was when I heard my original instructor was sent to jail or something for fighting at a bar. Keep in mind; I was very young when this happened so I don’t really remember. This is when I realized that what we were doing on the mat was real, with very real consequences. I guess you could say it lost its innocence to me.
He once had to stitch up the left side of his face from a knife attack (he had an instructor at our school do it with fishing line).
Seeing that kind of stuff growing up really hit home with how important the skills we are learning are. If he wasn't trained, he might have been killed in that attack. I don’t know the details and I like to remember him (he passed away a while back) in a positive light, so I don’t speculate what caused these fights. He probably didn't de-escalate the situations, but he probably didn't cause them either.
For so many people, the dojo is a fantasy land… not too many people have to fight off attackers regularly. Sure it happens, but not often enough for people to truly see the positive effects that martial arts has on their safety. For me, this is what I know is true about martial arts. This is how I came upon that knowledge, as I am sure you have found in your own unique way. I bet many of you understand this even more than I do, or have an even deeper attachment to martial arts through some understanding. Or maybe, it’s just not that important…
Either way, I have found that you can tell someone a thousand times how great (x) martial arts are for self-defense – but until they actually see it happen, it will always be taken with a grain of salt.
I would like for you to share when this moment came to you. Again, this is the most interesting part of martial arts to me – everyone has a unique way of “knowing”. Please share below in the comments.
Troy Seeling is a 1st degree black belt and instructor in Tae Kwon Do, with 5 years experience in Boxing and a two-year white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Troy also instructs a strength and fitness class, and helps to manage his families' dojo, North Texas Karate Academy In his spare time, he enjoys trying different forms of physical fitness, including Olympic weight lifting and distance running. He also enjoys film photography with antique cameras. You can contact Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ed note: Opinions in "Troy-Kwon-Do" posts are those of Troy Seeling, and I don't always agree. I'm not sure I know anything just yet... -The Stick Chick