Thursday, May 5, 2016

Buying the Martial Lifestyle

There is definitely a certain amount of tribalism in the martial arts. Well, a whole bunch of tribalism. The ego driven crap, which really pervades all aspects of the martial arts. People want to be part of a club, they want to advertise that club and want everyone to know that their club is better than all the other clubs. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Harry Browne author of How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World promotes the idea that one should put their views and values out into the world, so that one may find like minded individuals. There is definitely something to this. One should be proud of their accomplishments. On the other hand, I worry about "branding." Consumer branding where we judge people based on what clothes they decide to buy or what soft drink they purchase. I see this same type of thing in the martial arts and it worries me. There are all types of clubs in the karate world. Sport, McDojo, Traditional, Practical, Combat, hybrid, etc. Whatever you want to call them. People are fervent in their support of one or the other and show their support by displaying or not displaying certain things. Rank, special gi, workout equipment, sayings and the like. Pick your ideology and there is a list of what you need to buy to show your allegiance. It's more troubling when a person with the super special dojo or style preaches the spiritual aspects of karate and how its supposed to help us defeat our ego.

People seem to get caught up in the aesthetics of it all. The dojo must look like we are transported to Okinawa or Japan, name your flavor. The makiwara must look like this, its function is to look like this. We be tying our belt like this, they be tying their belt like that. If we don't look like we're practicing karate than we aren't practicing karate. How can we show off our karate if we don't do this?

The internal aspects of karate. The parts that really count are not easily observable to the outside world. Part of shedding the ego is fighting the urge to come up with superficial markers of karate practice. It's not that people shouldn't know, they just can't know without stepping into your head or through their own dedicated practice. We can't show it off even if we tried. Instead maybe karate practice should become a collaborative effort instead of sensei and students. Free exchange of ideas without rank bound only by the practice of karate kata and nothing more.