Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bushido the way of self-perfection

Warning: this video contains adult language

Joe Rogan, UFC commentator and stand up Comedian, was awarded his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu last month. This video of him receiving his belt and his acceptance speech gives great insight into the benefits of the martial arts and of Jiu-Jitsu in particular. 

The Martial Arts have always been used in Japan as a way of cultivating the self not just physically but spiritually also. Budo - the way of war and Bushido - the way of the warrior are two of the most powerful ideological concepts within Japanese martial arts. Aikido is perhaps the most famous Japanese art that seeks the perfection of the self through its waza (techniques) and philosophy. 

Many Japanese martial arts are humanitarian in their goals such as the traditional Jujutsu of Hakko-Ryu and Aikido, as well as Okinawan Karate. Ryu (pictured) from the popular Street Fighter computer game franchise is the personification of Bushido and one of the most iconic martial figures in pop culture. He is a humble and meek individual who is on a quest to become a better human being by becoming the world's greatest Street Fighter. Ryu travels the world entering into Street Fighter tournaments in order to hone his skills as a warrior and prevail victorious. While the fight takes place on an external level against an opponent, the real enemy is within. By training in the martial arts Ryu battles his inner demons, learning to conquer and master himself.

There are many who question (as I have done) the validity of arts that are overtly Budo in nature; they tend to be stylised and sometimes impractical or unrealistic for genuine combat or self-defence. However, such criticism (while legitimate to a certain extent) also needs to be balanced by the understanding that the majority of martial arts today are designed for civilian use and practice and that an individual should never take the Law into their own hands. What constitutes 'reasonable force' must be respected, when dealing with self-defence. I have been training in Aiki-Jujutsu now for nearly two years and, to my relief, have not had to use it in a real life street fight. I did not take up martial arts because my safety was in dire jeapordy or I faced an imminent threat of violence. Though the world feels like a more dangerous place sometimes, I am in the main safe. But what I have gained from my practice in Aiki-Jujutsu in terms of character has been so rewarding and worthwhile. 

Since passing my Brown Belt grading I have had a renewed vigour about my training and while Aiki-Jujutsu is not perfect, nevertheless my passion has been rekindled and my appreciation for what the art has given me has grown. Self-perfection is a noble and admirable goal of the martial arts and respect and care for others should be at the forefront of any martial artists motivation and action. Those who train regularly in traditional martial arts will have better awareness of potentially dangerous scenarios and environments, will have greater confidence to be able to look after themselves and have skills and experience that the general public will not possess, meaning that their ability to defend themselves and their chances of ensuring their own safety will be greater. All of those benefits though are actually of secondary importance to the pursuit of becoming a better human being. 

Learning to become a better human being and to master yourself is ultimately the greatest achievement and goal. Self-perfection may not be within our grasp humanly speaking but a desire to grow as an individual to be more respectful, modest, humble, confident, caring, compassionate and self-less is certainly worth putting in the effort for in the dojo. It is to these ends that I now primarily train, although that does not negate the need and the necessity to make the art 'work' on a practical and realistic level. I am constantly trying to internalize what I learn on a weekly basis if ever I needed to use it for self-protection in the real world and it is right that I do so. By internally assessing yourself you become aware of your weaknesses, where you are vulnerable and where you need to improve. Conversely, while these considerations are at the forefront of your mind you must also be willing to allow the techniques and waza/kata to change you and your perspective on yourself.

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