The Importance of Balance in training and teaching Martial Arts

           “A time and place for everything.”
    “What a man thinketh is what a man becomes.”

Martial art is a disciplined practice of a warrior’s preparation and development. This in itself is the efficient application of violence to achieve peace and protection.  Martial Art evolved from a basic need to protect ones family and property.  This compilation of thoughts is simply an observation of what I have witnessed the Martial Arts evolve over the last 40 years.  It is intended to offer perspective on what seems to be the results of many years as opposed to the results of a short while.  Like the American Medical Association or the Food and Drug Administration, we should use caution in short-term approval without the knowledge of long-term effects.

Simply, a human being that thinks only of violence (fighting only) will slide towards a personality of violence.  This unchecked or unbalanced direction of training creates more of a menace to our society than an overall benefit.  This is obvious in the many “fighters” behavior that have been put on display throughout the media.  With the promotion of full contact “Gladiator” contest we have been shown a variety of behavioral personalities.  Some are good and positive leadership role models, others are not.  It would seem that combat training that does not teach the mental, social and moral characteristics that are usually taught to warriors create an out of control and questionable member of our society.  This missing element in the development of a fighter is a strong sense of discipline and moral obligation.  Those that are out of balance without this element of humanism become a spectacle of primoral violence and an unchecked threat to the people they come into contact with.

Throughout history the elite warrior class, whether it be the legendary Samurai or the famous Hwang Rwang Do warriors, has always included a balance within their training.  In the continual Yin and Yang of good and bad, dark and light, balance is a fact of universal existence.  These famous warriors were trained in a full spectrum of arts both mental and physical.  The balance of rigorous training and social etiquette were expected on a daily basis.  The blending of cultural development such as calligraphy, art, poetry, reading, and meditation were taught along side of tactical and lethal execution of techniques for a reason.  One of these reasons is to help develop a mental and moral balance within the warrior.  Without this appreciation of the beauty of life and a moral obligation to society as a whole, the warrior will become more of an animalized killing machine instead of a human protector of that society.  Hence, a “Code of Honor” or “Ethics” is apparent in all lasting Warrior Cultures.

This observation is not to say that there are not highly disciplined fighters that conduct and promote professionalism within their sport.  It is worth noting that these high-end combat athletes that demonstrate a controlled and positive image seem to have a common background.  This common trait is their past involvement in a structured traditional training program.  Whether it be a structured wrestling or boxing background or a structured martial art background, the disciplined and humble are easy to distinguish from the arrogant and obscene.  The more radical, less controlled and overly outspoken competitors share more of a “free style”, “street fighter”, or “brawler” type background.  This lack of discipline and etiquette training is not only evident but also unsettling.  This is often over looked because of the entertainment factor that violent contest bring.  Combat athletics can be very exciting, as the media phenomenon of “cage fighting” has taken the world by a storm.  However, the purpose of this note is to share a larger more social perspective.

As professional martial art instructors, we can affect this to some extent by teaching the philosophy of balance.  In this instance, balance represents the deception and treachery of sparring tactics and the beauty and artistic expression of patterns.  For many years patterns have been discarded as a “waste of time” and “not practical”.  Based on the method of measurement you wish to use this could be true or false.  On the basis of physical training for an upcoming “cage fight” this may be the case when only physical measurement is used.   On the basis of an overall mental, physical, and moral measurement, it is not.  Within a structured, well-instructed training program the appreciation and enjoyment of the patterns brings out an expression of personal art and beauty.  The culture of the etiquette from the traditional bow to the social courtesy extended is enjoyed by most.  This is a unique element in martial arts that must not be overlooked.  As in most cases, it really depends on what level you wish your perspective to be.

As people get older we have a tendency to look at things on a larger and simpler scale.  This includes the effect of things that occur over time.  Since older people have a more realistic perspective about things evolving over time this is something everyone should consider. Perhaps, long-term common sense may be uncommon without the perspective of time proven life experiences.   I feel that I am in a unique position to address this concept, as I am qualified in all of the aforementioned areas.  I am a traditional martial artist and instructor that enjoys combat athletic contest.  Yet I have lived long enough to see the common sense of how we teach our youth is how they will become adults.  This outcome is the future of our culture and society that we will live by and be treated by.  Be careful what you teach the next generation, as they will apply this philosophy when deciding what to do with their “weaker and older citizens”.  Proof of this is evident within our culture and how we treat and discount our seniors as opposed to the reverence and respect that many other cultures display.  We should be careful not to glorify arrogance and domination with our athlete role models regardless of what sport they represent, as this will certainly come back to our doorstep.

“Strength in Honor, but there is only true Strength in Balance.”

Grand Master S. McNeely
“Modern Warrior, Traditional Instructor”