Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: causing no (serious) harm
In truth, I loved this last post of yours. As I said, reflection should be a big part of one's training and if you will allow me to say, by the questions you have asked of yourself and of me, you seem capable and most willing to do this. Though my opinion should count as nothing in your training, I can say that I admire that kind of investment in one's practice. Moreover, like I said, there is a huge part of me that does hope you get your wish - that you do realize your ideal. So, I wouldn't ever want to set out to shutdown your efforts. More power to you. I also agree, to some degree historically but to a full degree personally, one should aim to train for such a level of skill - one should be oriented in a way at least similar to what you describe (whether or not one ever attains it). You are right, at least as far as I am concerned.
My comparison to a moment in my younger days comes when you wish the attacker to see the folly of his/her attempt at violence because of your great skill. That is, for me, a lot to ask of one's art and of one's skill in that art. After all, I am not so sure that violence ever happens from a place of wisdom, so I am not so sure that a realization of folly is ever going to cause it to cease. Nor does the chance for victory or the guarantee for victory ever really support all violent intentions, hence why I am not so sure that "immanent defeat" will quell all attempts at hostility. For example, using your example of a person with no arms and no legs, and pursuing these attempts at bringing reflection into our training, should we not ask, "Are you saying that amputees have no capacity for violence and/or violent urges within them simply because they do not have at their disposal the limbs that make up most of the attacks of the martial arts?" Is our capacity to fulfill violence physically and/or to fulfill violence via one particular way (i.e. fighting with our limbs) really the root of our will to harm another (physically, spiritually, emotionally)? If our answer is "no" to these questions, then why should we expect our skill in the art to turn someone away from violence? Why, instead of assuming that high skill will quell another's violence, should we not assume that high skill will just inspire someone to accept that he or she cannot defeat us unarmed and go home and get a firearm to "equalize" things a bit more? Why can't we assume that high skill has the potential to actually escalate violence? Why should we accept an inevitable connection between high technical skill and peace on Earth? Etc.
For me, the issue is not whether we should seek high or even miraculous levels of skill, the issue is over what we should expect are the inevitable results (i.e. causal relationships) of such skill. While I wish you get your wish, I remain skeptical of connecting high skill in any sort of causal way with quelling the will to violence in someone else. For me, the best way of quelling another's violence, such that one can speak of inevitable relationships or at least of plausible relationships, is never going to include fighting them. If you want to reduce violence in the world, as we know, we must begin with ourselves. From there or in there, we cultivate the virtues necessary to serve others at the level of the spirit and at the level of the heart/mind - where diseases that support violence are born and can actually be purified out through our daily work, our daily support, and our daily commitment to others in possession of such diseases. For me, therein lies the true victory over violence, and I wonder how much of that victory can be ours when we feel that we can achieve such things simply be easily defeating another in combat and/or by making combative victory against us impossible.
No doubt, there are those times when the realization of defeat and/or the impossibility of victory play a part in the reduction of one's violent intentions. However, is this causal or is this like the fox that waits at the tree for another rabbit to run into it? Were there other factors present that are the real catalyst for why skill level obtained such potency? Things like, "not really wanting to commit violence," "just wanting to not lose face," "only felt like 'scapping'," - are these the things that possibly made skill level relevant to peace? I feel these things have to be asked, and other things like them, if one is going to take seriously the position of skill level being related to quelling violence in others.
Take this example: A fellow instructor's student just had an altercation. It happened in front of his house -- a few days after he moved in, into what is considered a relatively nice neighborhood. The altercation was with his neighbor. The deshi being trained in and being proficient in all ranges of combat, etc., easily handled the situation martially - such that violence did not escalate and did cease eventually at a constant and relatively non-violent level in anticipation of police showing up. This happened though the aggressor had at least 50 pounds on the student and had stated and shown himself to be skilled in street tactics. (The student probably weighs about 220 lbs or 250 lbs.)
What has happened since then? As it turns out, the person he was "fighting" is a convicted serial rapist and a criminal set for life imprisonment (due to violent crimes), should he again come up against California's "three strikes" law. The man, as well as the rest of his family, has continued to confront the student (even when his family is present -- wife and new baby girl of one year old) with attempts at violence at various places (at home in the front yard, at gas station on the corner, etc.). The student is now in constant fear of retaliation or at least of attempts at further violence that if are not aimed at him are aimed at those more vulnerable than he (i.e. his family). Today, he is fearful for his elderly parents that live at the home with him, and now he even opts to take his wife and baby to work with him (rather than leaving them home). As for his martial art skill level, training time now is greatly reduced since he would rather be home with his family that be at the dojo when it is night. Etc.
Why is this happening? That's the question. Again, for me, anyone that is going to take seriously the question of how "impossible victory" will work to quell another's violence is also going to take seriously the question of how it may only inspire it more. Somewhere in there middle of all that, should one find their answer, such things can stop seeming like (poor) boyhood wishes for high performance cars (referencing my comparison again).
So I say "go for it!" Do it - do it for all of us. Long way off or not, continue to aim for your own enlightenment. We will all be the better for it. And, I for one, am thankful for your reflections and for the efforts that are supporting those efforts and that will follow from those efforts.
Peace be with you,