In a scene from one of the Back To The Future movies, the old scientist guy is at an old time 1800’s cowboy bar having a drink and talking about the life in the future. The grimy looking cowboys are laughing at his delusions and someone asks him “Oh Yeah, and what do people in the future do for fun?” “Lots of things” he replies, “Like run!” “Run for fun!” and they crack up laughing, I think they even start shooting at his feet to make him run. They couldn’t conceive of jogging and running, just for fun.
Some in martial arts can’t conceive of others training outside of “kill, kill, kill,” mode and “just for fun.”
A lot of martial arts school have you fill out an information sheet where they’ll ask, and ask you verbally anyway “What are your goals” and list things like lose weight, self defense, become a black belt. Many martial arts leaders, teachers, practitioners alike, overlook the fact that you can take up an art just for fun, and as a form of personal expression.
Having fun is not always a competitive activity. My wife paints. Not because she wants to outdo any of the contemporary painters whose works hang in world class galleries, but because she finds it fun, and enriching. Some of us like to dance, but have no desire to enter a ballroom competition. You can learn and practice these arts without having competitiveness as a must for success and achievement built into them. I know people who go to pottery classes to make pots just for themselves, not to compete in values with the ceramics of Picasso.
There is a certain gravitas to the backgrounds, history, and practices of martial arts. But, I have already written about how I feel the artificial warrior culture idea has over inculcated itself into martial arts practice. Among the histories and backgrounds of martial arts there are pacifist origins as well. Yes, there are martial arts practices for the warrior, and there are martial arts practices for the householder. Too often that latter is neglected. The latter, the every man and woman, does not need to “bleed in training, to survive in war.” They do not need the discipline of a “warrior,” and they are entitled to do it “just for fun,” and not to be part of the” Kobra Kai” Killers team.
You can train self defense “just for fun,” develop great skills and abilities, and never have to perform for anybody, or compete against anybody.
You can train martial arts skills, just to explore the beauty and grace of movement, without getting hurt or hurting anyone. Think not? There are plenty of solo practices among martial arts that do not involve hitting or getting hit, I know the “warriors” among you don’t like the sound of that, but maybe that’s a dimension you are lacking, where you too have an incomplete package.
I know fighters who have little to no training and skills in what we call form, and they are good fighters, but they have to sit looking awestruck as a Wushu practitioner who doesn’t fight, sails through the air, twirling and executing high level, precise kicks and strikes, in apparent harmony with time and space.
My Tai Chi friends can respond as effectively as anyone else to an assault.
But they don’t train to fight? Sometimes not. That sort of solo work does require a high degree of discipline and training to achieve excellence in, however, there is no visible or external competition to beat, it is internal and private. This personal dimension of martial art is best achieved by playful practice, having fun while you’re doing it, where you challenge yourself, not another. Somewhere I saw the term” spontaneous, creative, and responsible play.” I believe that’s a valid method. It’s what I try to use.
That’s where I invite all those who don’t care to be “warriors,” “great fighters” “Masters,” “Black Belts,” etc. to come train with me. Or someone like me. Learn self defense in an adult, fun manner, rather than a pseudo militaristic fashion. Learn and develop form, grace, and skills without the demands of expected competitiveness.