Courage in Everyday Life

One of the things that martial artists do is take warrior concepts, such as honor, duty, courage and discipline, and try to make these concepts more concrete so that they can be used in everyday life for “average” people.  Just because most people do not have to face life-or-death decisions everyday in modern society, does not mean that they have no use for courage and discipline. In no where is this there a more important example than the recent Penn State scandal.

As I tried to come to terms with the information coming out from Penn State , I tried to understand what I was most upset/angry about.  I came to the conclusion that , oddly enough, I was not most upset at the main suspect.  Don’t get me wrong; if the allegations are true, I view him as a monster that should be put away forever.  But you can only get so angry at a predator that does what predators do; prey on the young or the weak.  I realized that I was much more angry at the others involved in the scandal.  I was angry at the good people who did not have the courage to do the right thing.  I was angry at the people who stood by and did nothing, to the detriment of several little boys.  They did not understand the concept of courage.

Courage has many definitions, I’m sure, but the definition that is most useful for me is; courage is taking action in the face of fear.  Courage is doing the right thing when fear tells you not to.  Those other people involved in the Penn State scandal were (and are) good people.  They pay their taxes, they work hard at their jobs, they take care of their families.  But when faced with a criminal act, they knew what they were supposed to do, yet didn’t, because they were scared of the consequences.  They justified it by saying to themselves, “I didn’t commit this crime.  Why should I have to suffer the consequences of reporting it?”  So, they either did nothing or the bare minimum, and tried to ignore it ever happened.

This lack of courage has catastrophic consequences for society.  When good people do nothing when they see crimes against humanity, it allows ever-increasing atrocities to occur.  It is this mentality that allows countless wives to be beaten, that allowed slavery as a way of life, that allowed the Nazis to commit horrible crimes.  One can quickly see that not having the courage to stand up and report wrongdoing damages us all.  It certainly did not save the Penn State staff from consequences.  Karma always comes around.

Here is the question you must ask yourself right now.  I am willing to bet that you are a good person.  Do you have the courage to report wrong-doing?  There will always be criminals and crime.  But good people who do not have the courage to do the right thing make criminals 10X more powerful.  It is very difficult to know what to do when you are in the middle of the problem.  Remember, courage is taking action even though you are scared. So, get a hold of your fear,  go ahead and do the right thing.  Not only will you be able to live with yourself better, society will benefit as well.

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Competitive martial arts training: “What you get, what it costs,” by Robert

Reprinted unchanged from blog.aikidojournal.com

We just received this well-thought out comment in response to an article we published a few months ago titled “Martial arts practice and the deceived mind,” by Stanley Pranin. It is a succinct description of the various categories of training for competition and their applicability in real street encounters.

 Sparring is a form of training like any other form of training. Even the most brutal MMA matches are not fights. They are sparring.

As with any form of training, the questions are: What does it get you? What does it cost you?  Every kind of sparring, from light to no contact “tag” to MMA matches serves a purpose.

Tag type sparring (light to no contact)
What you get: You learn control. You learn to put your fist or foot or elbow where you want it to go.
What it costs: Very little.
The non-physical dangers: But the student has to be certain they understand this is far, far from any kind of actual fight. So don’t get cocky because you’re the school “tag” champion.

Kickboxing
What you get: You improve your stamina and strength. You learn range, speed, combinations, positioning and…you learn to take a heavy hit (or several) without stopping.
What it costs: You can expect to always get bruised up, and occasionally there will be more serious injuries.
The non-physical dangers: For safety reasons there are lots of rules with kickboxing. These limitations on what you (and your opponent) can do make this EXERCISE a very unrealistic imitation of a fight. As before, don’t get cocky because you can do this well.

Grappling & ground fighting
What you get: Practical experience and a “feel” for grappling, joint locks, throws and so on, for people of different weights and sizes.
What it costs: Like with kickboxing, expect bruises and abrasions. And, unfortunately, the occasional injury.
The non-physical dangers: Some Jujitsu consider themselves to be the toughest guys around. That doesn’t count for much if you’re ground fighting your assailant, but his friend is kicking you. As will all sparring, it’s an exercise.

With any of these exercises (and many other variations), always remember what it gets you, what it costs you and remember the non-physical danger that you might start to think that’s how fighting works.

Whether any of these is worth the risk, that depends on each practitioner, and how prepared they want to be if they’re attacked, and what risks they’re willing to take for that level of preparation.

In many cases the more dangerous kinds of sparring can be done for a while, until those particular lessons are learned, and then one can move on.

Early on, one of the most valuable things that a beginner can learn in sparring is that you CAN continue even if you have the wind knocked out of you or a charlie-horse. That is a critical lesson to learn for self defense. If you don’t learn it, should someone unexpectedly hit you hard in real life, you’ll crumple. You won’t know if you are hurt badly or not. All you’ll know is that you’re hurt more than you’ve ever had to deal with before. And when your life depends on it is NOT when you want to learn to handle that.

Once you HAVE learned that (painful) lesson, there’s no need to continue getting the stuffing beaten out of yourself.

As for sparring competition, that’s another matter. It’s not a bad thing to spar for sport. No worse than playing football or rugby. But it’s not about preparing to defend yourself. It’s just a different animal.