Thread: The Telescope
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Old 07-10-2004, 07:54 AM   #1
Dojo: Great Wave Aikido
Location: Alberta, Canada
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 543
The Telescope

'Lo all!

One of my more common statements that tend to get people prickly is this: MA doesn't work very well for self defense.

Any MA, that is.

Not just me; but a lot of people - trained and experienced individuals (and far more trained and experienced than myself, at that) - state this. There are a lot of reasons; one of the main being - as shown in another recent thread - the training one recieves in a MA school cannot prepare someone for the violence of an attack.

Thing is; while I say it; I don't completely believe it; otherwise; I wouldn't be studying aikido, would I?

To me; the problem with applying an MA to a defensive situation is less a problem with the art itself; but rather how it is taught. IOW; the difference is in the teacher; rather than the subject matter.

Now - that out of the way; I'll restate the statement to read "Without specific self-defense training; MA isn't very useful for a defensive situation."

Why do I say that? I've spent a long time wracking my brains trying to come up with an acceptable answer to that. I think I finally have one. I'll use the analogy of a telescope.

Before I begin; let's be certain we understand my interpretation of defense. To me; defense is not about techniques, winning or losing, surviving, etc. I look at defense as True Defense - a term I use to mean the protection of the entire person - the mind, body and spirit. In other words; True Defense is the ability of a person to live in peace; free of fear.
People commonly say that "the defensive side of MA is a small part of the entire MA". I disagree. Based on my interpretation; I say that "MA is a small part of the lifestyle of True Defense".
That clarification will help explain the following analogy.

The Telescope
We live in an enormous universe - a vast and fascinating cosmos. You want to study that cosmos. So what do you do?
The easiest way is to provide yourself with the tool to observe the cosmos - a telescope.
So you head on down to the science store. There are lots of bright shiny telescopes to choose from; of many different sizes, shapes, uses, and prices. Here's your first problem: Which telescope is best for you?
You're no fool - you want your money's worth. So you check out the options very carefully. You want just the right telescope for you - one you can set up at your cottage; observe the Moon and planets; perhaps hook up a camera to to take pictures. You opt for an excellent model; spending enough to get a really good telescope - you know cheap instruments yield cheap results.
So now; you've got a brand-new telescope; one anyone would be proud to have. So you can go right out and start learning about the cosmos, yes?
No - this is your first telescope; you have to learn how to use it first. How to do that?
The first thing to do is the easiest - ask the guy that sold it to you. He'll know. And he does - he gives you excellent information on the care and use of your telescope; sells you a book on the subject. He loves the subject himself; he'll talk your ear off if you let him - and you'd be a fool not to; he knows more about it than you.
Thus armed; you head up to your cottage; set up your telescope. The things you see are incredible; magestic! You skim over the craters of the Moon; you count the rings of Saturn. You gaze at the angry glare of Mars and fall into the abyss of the Milky Way. It's awe-inspiring; wonderful!


How much have you learned about the cosmos?
That was your goal; after all.

Not, as it turns out, very much. You see the majesty of space all around you; but what does it mean? How does it work? What's happening out there? You don't know - because even with your great telescope; all you're doing is looking. You're not learning.
OK; you're learning a bit. But not much - because while you've made the effort to choose the right telescope and learned how to use it; in the final count you haven't learned about the cosmos; you've learned about the telescope.

Which was not your goal - fun as it is.

It must be said; you've also learned other things; some very beneficial. You learn patience; from having to wait long hours for your nightly goal. You learn care and accuracy; to both locate your target and observe it carefully. You learn thoroughness; in order to most effectively chart what you see. You also learn the peace and tranquility of swimming in the sea of stars; and the peace and wonder that brings.
But as wonderful as those things are; they're not your ultimate goal; though they're vital to achieving it.

But remember - the easy way to learn about the cosmos was to buy a telescope. You've done that. And you've benefitted from it. But there's another way - a hard way. You can start studying the cosmos itself.
There are many ways - obviously; the best way is to go to University and get a degree in Astronomy. That's very hard indeed - you have to change your entire lifestyle; quit your job, get the money for school, spend years studying, etc. On the way though; you earn your goal - to understand the cosmos. I repeat that - you earn it - through hard work and dedication.

And on the way; that telescope which once yielded so little results takes on a whole new meaning. Now when you bend to the eyepiece; you're not just looking - you understand what you're looking at. The telescope is no longer a fun toy; it becomes a powerful, important instrument of discovery. It becomes a critical tool in your quest to understand the cosmos - the easy way and the hard way support each other as never before. You're now using that telescope in the way it was built to be used.

In this analogy; the cosmos is True Defense; the MA of your choice is the telescope.
This is the point where MA instruction falls away from defense. You see; while you study MA; you're studying MA; not SD. The two are not equal; the martial art is a tool to help you get there; it isn't defense in and of itself. An important tool; but still just a tool. The thing is; learning MA by itself is no bad thing at all - it's a great thing. But if your ultimate goal is defense; until you actually learn defense beyond the MA world; you'll just be getting only the most basic structures - this is why there's so much wrong thinking and incorrect assumption about defense in the MA world.
But once you do learn true defense; your MA takes on a whole new importance - you understand the "Why's"; not just the "How's".

IMO; "Why?" is the most underused question in Martial Arts.

"But", you say, "There's got to be a middle ground, doesn't there? Isn't it possible to learn effective SD without going that deep into it?"
Yes - there is. Just like in the telescope analogy. The hard road is university; but there's all sorts of easier roads - some more effective than others. Self study is one; informal instruction from a person in the field is another. This is the road that 99% of those who learn SD take. But beware - the critical ingredient in this approach is the person you choose to learn from; and the books you read.
Unless you choose a true source; who knows how accurate the information you're getting is?

Going back a bit; let's look at the teachers you will learn from in the telescope analogy. Let me ask a question: If you want to learn about the cosmos; who would you rather learn from? An astronomer, or the guy that sold you the telescope?
An easy answer - the astronomer is the one that studies what you wish to learn; while the telescope guy knows all about the tool you're using. The answer is 'both'.
Ideally; you want a teacher that knows both sides - the 'scope and what you're pointing it at.
For SD; the astronomer is the person trained and experienced in defense; the 'scope guy is the teacher at the dojo - literally; he's the one selling you 'the telescope'. You ideally want a teacher that understands - and can teach - both MA and defense. Then you'll be getting the whole picture.

This, then, is why I say learning MA is useful for developing SD; but only if it is learned in conjunction with Self Defense. The two (ideally) are complementary; but not the same.

I hope this helps a few people; or at least raises discussion.

Answers are only easy when they're incomplete.
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