"Rodney King is years ahead of his time, he has taken his martial arts to the level of budo, where few dare to go. I am a big fan."GEOFF THOMPSON
For a very long time I bought into the status quo of martial arts, that who you beat matters, and fighting should always take center stage. This extended further into societal norms, that one should compete, and through that experience you can only know how good you really are if you do. Winning after all, the survival of the fittest is how we measure success in modernity, or at least, that’s what we are made to believe.
This sense of having to out do everyone else, was compounded further by how I was brought up. Psychodynamic Theory suggests, that who you are now is a product of how you were raised, and the experiences you endured in childhood. This was true in my case. Having no Father figure in my life, and a disinterested Mother — surrounded by constant violence, where a man’s worth was measured by who he could defeat with his fists — created a schism in my psyche that continued to haunt me even into my late 30’s.
I like so many other men, felt forced into buying the whole machismo world of masculinity. I like so many other men in my industry of martial arts, put on the front stage self of the consummate warrior, a Navy Seal kind of caricature that was unflinching in the face of danger, and feared no other man. When I finally had the courage to sit down with myself and ask, “who am I really?”, I found that this tension on the one hand of obeying societal norms, and who I truly wanted to be, had always been at odds.
Ever since a young child I never understood the need to compete. Beating other people on the sports field, or at a game, never held any interest for me. I now realize why I was always the odd kid out, while others wanted bragging rights about their victory over others, I simply wanted to play. I have always viewed the pitting of men against one another in competition, as a conspiracy to keep us apart.
The thoughts above, inform my philosophy of martial arts (much of which I talk about in the Mat/Street/Life experience). For ease of reading, I have simplified it below in point form:
SURVIVAL IS HARDWIRED
I believe that survival and the warrior archetype are intimately connected and hardwired in our DNA. This is why even in the safest places on the planet, people still seek out the martial experience, even if it is simply a symbolic representation of what it might look like in reality. Crucially, this connection between survival and the warrior is not simply about seeking out the ability to defend oneself, but also about engaging in an experience that may aid in becoming more, and overcoming our inner fear (even if most are unconscious to this).
THE LANGUAGE OF MARTIAL AND ART
IBut not everything about the MARTIAL arts experience is good. It can be intoxicating, and addictive. When pursued as society suggests all our experiences should be, in competing against one another, about personal absorption, the experience of the MARTIAL heightens narcissism, the destructive ego, and pits man against man.
II see the attributes of the martial, when seen through the lens of art — as the opportunity to use what could be quit easily destructive energy in ones life — rather as language of bringing forth personal sovereignty and a deeper connection to self, society, and planet. I refer to this as the Embodied Warrior experience.
WEAPONIZE YOUR BODY
No I am not some Tree Hugging Hippie, while I seek the ideals of the Embodied Warrior to become more as a human being, I also acknowledge that there are bad people in this world, who wouldn’t think twice about hurting you or those you love. As such I am a Primal Artist, I am pro-gun, and pro-self defense. I think learning how to protect yourself, and those you love, is the most important skill you can develop. Everyone should. It should be your number one priority in learning any martial skill.
Without personal challenge, without risk, making mistakes, without the opportunity to lose, there is no personal growth. I don’t believe any growth and mastery is possible without resistance. Bottom line, you have to play the game.Yet, this doesn’t need to be about competing.
In competing one person wins, while the other loses. In personal challenge winning and losing are not the aim, rather it’s simply about doing your best. In personal challenge play, you see the person you roll or spar against as your partner, a fellow travel on the road to personal liberation. Without him or her, you cannot have the experience you are having, but at the same time, you want your partner to get better too. In this sense you are in relationship, each offering up the vehicle, a platform to tease out the artistry of personal mastery which lay hidden in the energy of the martial.
This is my philosophy. I have no desire to impose it onto anyone. Crucially, as a coach and teacher I honor all my students paths. Even though competitive approaches to martial arts doesn’t float my boat, I have, and will never stand in the way of one of my students who wants to have that experience. My role if a student chooses a way different to mine is simply this, prepare them as best I can, and ensure that coming out of any experience that they have the tools to take on the martial arts of everyday life more skillfully.