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Guest Post: Why I Learned to Fight

(Today's post is by Matty P. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines. We look forward to publishing reader posts on future Thursdays.)

I studied Tae Kwon Do for six years; I earned a black belt for my time and effort. Though challenging, the time spent gave me confidence, physical endurance, and the ability to defend myself should the need arise.
Everyone who trains in martial arts does so for personal reasons. When I began, it was after my final rounds of chemotherapy, which left me with poor posture and an unusual walk. It was my father's hope that physical activity based on form and body movement would counteract my condition. The reasons for others varied. One man wanted to lose weight. Another worked for the sheriff's department. Some of the kids joined because they wanted to have fun. Parents wanted to give their kids a safe environment and outlet for their energy. And still another woman joined because she was sexually assaulted.
Tae Kwon Do is violent. I have no illusions about this. Indeed, all martial arts are inherently violent. You kick, you punch, you grab, and you throw people. If it wasn't violent, there would be far fewer bloody noses and broken bones. However, in Tae Kwon Do, as in most other martial arts, you don’t learn to do harm to others, but to protect yourself. Learning martial arts is learning self defense.
Specifically, one learns how to “disable” an opponent. To disable is to incapacitate, wound, or injure. In order to disable an opponent, we are taught to act violently. In most situations we are required to do harm to an attacker. This means throwing them to the ground, rendering them unconscious, or in some way wounding them so that they no longer wish to or are able to hurt us. We were learning to hurt someone so that they can’t hurt us.

It’s called self defense. Undoubtedly there are people who learn martial arts not for defense, but for offensive purposes. I call this the “ninja” complex. Basically, some fool learns how to punch and kick properly because he or she wants to be a bad ass or thinks he or she is a ninja. It’s like the Karate Kid. While it’s unlikely there would be an entire dojo dedicate to producing bullies, it must be understood that bullies will result every time power is gained.

Regardless of those who use martial arts to willfully harm others, martial arts exist to promote self defense not persistent violence. It's a paradox. Sometimes in order to maintain personal peace one is required to act violently. Martial arts is the discipline of that violence.

seven comments

First off, this article is not about Karate Kid. But as long as we’ve mentioned it…

I know this is a tangent, and will offend some people’s childhood memories, but the Cobra Kai are so ridiculous as to be absurd. What dojo would be run this way? It’s insane.

But it also goes to Hollywood’s need for villains, even in the most ridiculous places and roles. What if the Karate training were more about what Daniel learned, than who he defeated? Sigh.

Who wrote this post?

Matty P. I added an explainer at the top. Just trying to keep you on your toes Will.

Eric, I agree and I hinted at that fact too. The dojo was definitely over the top. What parents would be okay with their kids learning things like “no mercy” from an instructor that openly taunts elderly men in front of his students?

Well, I am trying to start a Nordic Walking gang here in Germany where we can use West Side Story dance-fighting techniques and Nordic Walking sticks to rule the streets.

It is the intention to learn such things that seems to make all the difference.

I had not done any self-defense until I was 34. I chose to start with Aikido and was impressed at its underlying philosophy.

There is a training for potential violence, but it seems to be more about evasion and preparing for a fall rather than making contact with someone else.

Each form seems to have its own dynamic and distinctions.

Thanks for the post and love the theme of this website. :-)

@ Herrin. Thanks for the kind words. I think you nailed it with “underlying philosophy” Too many western martial arts don’t have one.