Why do we fight?
As martial artists, why do we fight? Not for glory, not for money, not for sport, or even our own satisfaction. We fight for love. We fight to ward off incursions against peace, wherever they may be, and to protect our fellow brothers and sisters in the world. We start within through intense training and personal development. When trained properly, we learn to defeat our own ego and become free from slavery to our fears and desires. Only then can we unconditionally love those closest to us, and realize healthy relationships to their fullest extent. Finally, when that universal spring of compassion infuses all that we are, we can learn to love others as ourselves and express it directly through our actions.
The reality is that humanity has a dark side to it, one that requires constant vigilance to subdue and emerges in times of desperation. The ego responds to pain with anger, and to emptiness with greed and lust. Destructive behaviours ignore love of oneself and others, eradicating all in their path and fracturing relationships in the process. A seed of despair grows into assault, theft, rape, exploitation, murder, and war. Many of us in affluent countries are circumstantially blessed and do not experience these things as a daily reality, but there is no community without them. It is always a question of when, not if. The next question becomes, how do we respond?
A true martial artist can never be a bystander. If we cultivate a virtuous character in every aspect of our life and empower ourselves with the ability to act, we are obligated to do so. Violence against someone in our community is violence against ourselves. We are fortunate to have a system of law enforcement and government to protect personal safety, and must do our part as citizens to make full use of those services. However, for that system to thrive, the community itself must be an active participant as well. Martial artists must be leaders in conflict resolution and do our humanitarian duty to act when called upon by a situation.
In ancient China, the martial arts developed to protect farmers and villagers at times when the law could not. Ideally, this can be accomplished with a thoughtful word and invitation for someone who is in pain to be heard or noticed. However, we may be caught in a situation where this is not the case. It may involve being the one to make the call to a first response team or law enforcement. There may also be a time when negotiations fail and there is no time to call for help. We must always be ready for that crucial moment, which will come when we least expect it, and act spontaneously and courageously.
When the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11th, flight 93 did not hit its target because the crew and passengers fought back. In Belgium, when a terrorist gunman prepared to fire on a crowd, he was subdued by two U.S. Marines and a civilian who attacked without hesitation. Imagine how many mass killings would have gone differently if people acted in the same way. These are extreme examples, but people are preyed upon every day and often have no one to protect them. Martial arts always have been and always will be the great equalizer, a force for peace and a force for justice when peace is abandoned. When people allow themselves to be victimized, they are wounded or killed. Yet when warriors were present to run forward and subdue the shooter, countless lives are saved.
So again, why do we fight? We train so when that critical time comes like a thief in the night, we have the resiliency and tools to act. We approach every training session as a life and death situation and eliminate all fear and doubt. We remain centered, focused, and cultivate the will to channel the spirit of a tiger so that we will act without hesitation when called upon. There is no glory in this; it is always a tragedy when peace fails. We must always strive for something better, to sow love in all that we do. And if we must act violently, it must also be from a place of love. There is no hatred of the opponent, simply the desire to protect the innocent as if they were our own family so that we may all live in peace as we were meant to.
-Sifu Falko Kriel