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  • Writer's picturePSBN David

The Peaceful Warrior

“It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.” This quote has made its rounds in the internet, and the origins are unclear, but it does a decent job of summarizing the common mindset in martial arts.

I’m going to give the caveat now that all of this is written from the perspective of a white man, and as always is written from my own observations of people. I fully acknowledge that this may not apply to someone with a different cultural background, or another gender, etc.

I’ve been practicing Kuk Sool Won for just over 15 years now. This is over half my life. To this day, my family still doesn’t really get what I actually do. It’s often “ninja school” or about half a step away from Fight Club. When people have asked what my hobbies are, as soon as I mention martial arts, most people will give a bit of a funny look. I’m not a mind-reader, but there definitely is a stigma attached to martial arts, and I believe it to be rooted in the thought of “Your hobby is violence.”

Alternatively: “You must be one of those people who’s REALLY into Japan.” But that doesn’t make for something that’s interesting to write about.

Let’s actually delve into the mindset of someone who practices martial arts. There’s always the more superficial layer of “It’s fun/affordable/etc.”, but you are able to find all of those in other activities. The unique thing in martial arts is that it is focused around learning organized violence. In a modern society, violent people are looked down upon or ostracized. This means that someone who practices martial arts has painted a large warning sign on themselves. Are you one bad day away from going on a rampage? What if I say something wrong, will you break my arm? How can someone be a peaceful person like me when you regularly practice violence?

I practice martial arts because I don’t want to ever feel completely helpless, at someone else’s mercy. I practice martial arts because I don’t want to be helpless around helping someone else who may be in danger. I practice martial arts because there will always be people out there who may be using their own violence to do harm to others.

And this makes me hypocritical. I am definitely in the camp of gun control and don’t understand why so many people want to carry a gun around wherever they go. Except that I do. It’s obvious that guns are a lot better at stopping an attacker quickly than martial arts are. Case in point: Japan’s Satsuma Rebellion. In 1877, the Satsuma Clan fought with their traditional swords and spears, where the military fought with guns and artillery. You can imagine how that went.

So given why I practice martial arts, why would I not instead take up target shooting or something instead?

I have no intention to inflict violence on anyone, ever. Let alone violence enough to kill someone. I realize that (at least in Canada), it’s statistically incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever experience having a gun pulled on me, let alone a situation where I might be able to draw and fire back. Over the years, violent crime is on the decline. Just from 1998, the rate of violent crime has been halved. If you’re just looking for specifically crime involving guns, the odds of encountering it are around 7 in 100,000 people, or 0.007%. Now, given these numbers, factor in the effects of carrying a gun around “just in case”. The more armed a population is, the more armed criminals will be in response. Having a gun can only escalate a situation. There are also many cases of guns accidentally being fired, increasing the chances of being directly involved in the injury or death of the very people you were wanting to protect.

Now we’re in a good place to figure out the martial arts mindset. Am I a violent person? No. But I am able to if I need to be. I am armed in the safest way possible, both for myself and everyone around me.

I would rather be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.

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