Martial Secrets: culture

You know what? I know many martial arts techniques, and I know many ways to expresses those techniques. I have a real large metaphorical toolbox of techniques. I can do this that way, or from this way or upside down for that matter. I can hit this way or that way, turn a fist here, or keep it that way; it does not really matter too much.

However, in my daily martial arts I really apply, “Stick Logic”. Paring my techniques down to a few that really work for me and I have success with, Stick Logic you say? Stick Logic comes from my youth on the farm. Not the name but the idea.

Stick logic reads this way, “I can do a lot with as strong stick.” If I have a strong stick, I can scratch out a water ditch for the garden – I do not need a hoe. If I have a strong stick, while building a fence I can stretch it to make it tighter – I do not have to have a winch. If I have strong stick I can poke, bend and pry, I do not have to have a specialized tool, and martial arts are the same way. It is nice to have specialized tool, it has its place but a strong stick gets you a long, long way. So learn everything you can, do not ever stop learning, fill your tool box with all sorts of special tools, but walk day-to-day with your stick, and apply Stick Logic when it comes to your martial arts techniques.

Here is a fascinating BBC clip of a tribe stick fighting, although a ceremonial fight, you will still see men using the sticks as walking sticks, and clearly it can be assumed as tools in everyday life.

Ok, I am going to get a little hoity-toity here, but bear with me I think this is worth the pontification.

It is nice when my peers tell me I am doing the right thing. I like it when I get cultural reassurance, a metaphorical nod in my direction that says, “That was well done, you’re a good person.” However cultural reassurance is not always right and is as flexible as a Cirque du Soleil’ contortionist. If I spend two years working on a wristlock, having my partners honor that technique, being cooperative and everybody in the dojo behaving in that pattern, I have a great amount of cultural reassurance. I feel good about what I am doing, and soon I begin to believe it, I justify in my mind that the technique is rock solid and others join in that dance of cultural reassurance. Then the day comes where the person on the other end of the technique does not dance my dance, they have a far different culture…I am no longer reassured, and in fact I am cracked open, not reassured, in fact I feel betrayed. The question now is, “Should I be angry at myself or the culture that set me up for this failure?” Pause for effect…you should blame yourself. The culture that you have subscribed to is going to do whatever it needs to do to propagate itself, including lie to you, it can’t help it is what it does.

You are responsible to yourself and what you choose to believe and do. Martial Arts schools are bubble baths of cultural reassurance warmly soaking each student in their brand of comfort and truth. That doesn’t mean that your school is wrong or leading you down a path of cultural reassurance, based on falsehood, lies, it means it is doing what it does and you need to decide for yourself what you will accept.