For most martial artists, being mugged in broad daylight is an unlikely occurrence. Fit, aware and confident looking people do not make inviting targets. However, in modern society criminals are more brazen than ever and how we react to such violence is the measure of us. We need to stay on the correct side of the law and control our reactions but, as the old-question asks, “is it better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6?”
There follows a true story of a situation that took place in the street, but equally could have been straight out of a dojo training session. It is interesting because it highlights many things: the dangers of being “switched off”, the speed of the trained man’s reactions, the attitude of the police and the judgement of others. It also highlights a part of conflict that is often missed and shows that in the end the most harsh judge is in fact yourself.
This story is true and happened in late 2009, I repeat it here as it was told to me with permission of the person involved.
This post is a break from the normal schedule. It is a corollary to the “Philosophy Bites?” post a few days ago. I am going to try an answer one of the questions raised by readers of that post, in this case my old sparring partner Tom; who posted the following in the comments:
So, not to disagree with you, because I don’t, but merely to add to the argument, not so much in war, but in the scheme of moral judgements, where do you stand on killing for pleasure? and I don’t mean just for humans…
Note: Any complete answer could stretch to the length of a whole book. Ideas are not isolated but rather conjoined in a massive net of links comprised of concepts, indeed that is their purpose, and I am wary of giving a less than full account of an answer by the necessity to keep within a blog post length. Suffice to say, that this is a “clip notes” version. There may be much here that is lightly treated, but that is not (I hope) because it hasn’t been thought through.
Anyway, the short answer is this:
To kill purely for pleasure is to kill because one is grasping at desire.
I regularly listen to the podcast Philosophy Bites presented by Nigel Warburton. In each episode, a new and interesting topic is raised with a guest philosopher (someone always of note) who has about ten minutes to present their view. I have not written about it before, but this is not because it has not stirred me. On the contrary, I often have to stop myself exclaiming aloud in disagreement with some of the guests, for I have long felt that Nigel goes “too easy” on them. Indeed sometimes his questions are more the gentle nudge of a teacher than the interlocutor’s retort. Something only asked to tease out the argument a little more.
This reminds me of my old philosophy professor, who would often fence with me on a subject by gently passing me back questions to naturally draw out my thoughts into a more coherent (ha!) mode of expression.
Clearly with no great success.
The fencing analogy is apt here, as this is exactly how fencing is taught: gently. The Maestro leads the pupil through a slow and safe sequence and at the moment of commitment points out, by gently prodding them, that they have overreached and should have covered quarte instead. However, I prefer being taught in the vein of the martial arts. In karate, any point of view is thrown mercilessly into the crucible of combat and tested to destruction. If it is right, then it works. There is no gentleness and no kindness. Only something that stands and something that falls. It is true that when you over-reach you are battered, but at least you learned something and your master has shown you some honesty.
Honesty is always refreshing. As John Lennon said, “Just give me the truth.”