Citizen Martial Artist


Systema (Photo credit: vissago)

There are some mistaken ideas out there about martial arts practitioners, like the one that to be interested in the martial arts you must have been bullied as a child, or had to  be an underachiever who needed focus, or you are uber aggressive and need discipline.  The worst one, I think, is that you have to be, or want to be, this Super Soldier, a tall, lean mean, tough, super strong and fast as lightning man, for whom nothing is impossible and everything he does is right and perfect, and is out to get the bad guys.

Mere mortals need not apply, unless you are a wimp who needs this guy’s rigorous guidance to try to be like him.

I’ll tell you something I heard from Vladimir Vasiliev, the head of Systema, the Russian Martial Art, a practice that has influenced me a bunch.  He explained that in ancient Russia, being a very large country, there wasn’t a standing army available to protect every village, especially in remote areas.  There were however, bands of outlaws, looters, citizens of other villages who might attack your community for its resources or any number of causes.  With no military garrison stationed in a fort, who could come to their aid?

Well, the villagers had to be ready to defend themselves; the herdsman with his whip, the farmer with his rake, the hunter with his arrow, the butcher, the baker, the women who spun cloth, the brewer! people who already had full-time, demanding jobs. These were people who were not, and could not be full-time martial arts professionals. Yet, each knew enough to defend themselves, they had training modules that fit their time and lifestyles, and when banded together, they were able be their own spontaneous, military force.  When the threat was over, they returned to day-to-day life without missing a beat.  What an amazing concept, ordinary, everyday, working people, capable of defending themselves.

That was then, this is now.  Marc Denny, the current head of a martial arts group called the Dog Brothers, has said he believes (and I agree!) that individuals should have enough training to be able to form “a spontaneous militia” to combat terrorism if it presents itself in our midst.  Consider this; there were four or five terrorists with box cutters on a plane on 9-11, and how many passengers? Can say 15 men take on 4?  Fear is a powerful thing, but it goes both ways, you can be frozen by fear, or launched by it.

Someone else has already used the line “passengers of flight 93, you are my heroes.”  They acted martially, and saved lives, though they lost their own.  At that moment they were more martial artist than the guy with the cool uniform and thick belt with tons of stripes.


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