English: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. Česky: Jákob zápasící s andělem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There’s an Old Testament story I interpret in a particular way; the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel. Jacob is on the road for several reasons, and at one point sends his family and stuff ahead of him, stays behind, and next thing you know, he is “wrestling” with someone, often referred to as an angel.
In the course of the fight, the angel is at a draw and stops playing, puts a move on Jacob and tells him to let him go (so he wouldn’t have to really hurt him?) But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” In another connected script it is written that the lesser is blessed by the greater (Melchisedek?) so Jacob is acknowledging that this being, person, whatever, is greater, and can give him something he does not already have.
So what about this and Martial Arts? I’ve met many martial artists with long time and experience under their belts, who seem reluctant to learn a different martial art. You can see when someone is uncomfortable knowing they don’t know something, but afraid to learn it. That’s changing some but still a strong trend.
I bet it’s because in learning something you have to admit you don’t know, and that the teacher is greater than you. However, if you are a black belt, a master, a guro, etc., doesn’t that mean you should already know all you have to? Some think so, and would be loathe admitting there is something beyond their sphere of knowledge they should explore. They may even acknowledge there is something there for them, but removing your ego is too high a price to pay.
I take that story of Jacob as an example of one who recognizes that which is greater than himself, pursues it, and fights to achieve it. I don’t resent someone being wiser than me, I want to extract that wisdom to myself. I’ve taught my family and friends; don’t let a wise man (or woman) get away from you without getting something from them. Jacob doesn’t let go till the man (whatever) blesses him, injured and all. That’s desire! That’s intensity of prayer! That deserves the blessing!
Back to martial arts. I’m recently training in Balintawak Arnis. I’ve stopped teaching FMA and training Karate/Kickboxing and I’m back to learning by the numbers. Why? I have a Fifth Degree Blackbelt, I am certified in a FMA.
Why? Opportunity for one. I met an instructor I was attracted to (not that way for you bozos). Jacob sent his family to the other side of the river, but the angel he needed to tangle with was on this side. He could have merrily kept going, but then missed the opportunity for the blessing.
Two; I know of a couple of people who though super high up on the martial food chain are not shy of learning, and starting from scratch, in order to learn from the ground up. Maybe I know how to punch some, kick, and do a no.1 strike. And now I’m relearning it some more, one day I may be real good at it, but I hope I still value getting better at it. I have no problem being the new kid at the back of the room trying to catch up, I’m wrestling for my blessing.
Jacob was a pretty wise man himself, but no saint. In the Old Testament his name is synonymous with “schemer,” “conniver,” and “cheater.” I think those terms reflect abusive misuse of knowledge and wisdom, but wisdom nonetheless. Wisdom to discern, wisdom to fight, wisdom to begin anew. From that point on in the story, Jacob starts anew with a new name, a new outlook, and a new strength.
Balintawak Arnis Cuentada and my instructor offer me skill sets that I don’t have, but want. There was a time when to learn some martial art things I had to travel hundreds of miles for a few hours of instruction, or worse yet the DC area beltway. There is someone now within arms reach that can teach this. Let’s not let him get away.
You want an oriental thought version of this story: try the Buddhist story of Bodhidharma and Huike, some essential similarity there.
You can apply the lessons to be learned from Jacob and the angel to martial arts as I do, or to religion, wisdom, academics or even business. It’s a good story.