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Martial Arts Illustrated Column – ‘Learning Curves’ Part one
By Lakhvinder S. Madahar
Shodan – The Beginning
My martial arts journey has been a bit an enigma; the Black Belt, killing a man with a Karate chop to the side of his neck, chopping a brick in half, fighting six people at ones, flying ten feet in the air, etc. When I first began training, it had filled me with excitement and enthusiasm that is live today as it was then!
Back home in my place of birth (Punjab) - prior to my martial arts training I had done some wresting and Kabbadi; a field game extremely physical, a kind of wrestling meets running tag, it’s popularity is equal to wrestling in India, both are great sports and had lots of fun participating in them. As a pass time games were all we had, no television, and only limited radio so we just played games of some kind or another. All sports are great character building activities; sometimes I won and sometimes I lost, had a wash and then went home. My lasting impression of ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E’ starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum or the ‘Avengers’ starring Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was of Karate and Judo being extremely deadly. My perception of the Martial Arts and its practitioners went beyond the winning or losing.
To me the martial arts had depth about them and were very mysterious and gaining mastery over them would somehow unleash the power equal only to a superhero taking on a whole army.
The martial arts masters as great as they are, are at the end of the day real people; but they could brake breaks, smash a pile of ice slabs with their head or just bare hands, kill a man with their fingers and breaking tiles by doing a flying kick in the air. I was convinced with years of hard training and the right knowledge I would also gain these superhuman skills.
I didn’t need any encouragement from anyone; I was doing press up on my fingers, knuckles, wrists between my twice weekly sessions in Judo, with only a copy of Teach Yourself book on ‘Karate’ to keep me company. Recently; I’ve notice a change in mind sets; for these exercises from the present students, they just dismiss them as ‘old school’ with look of impossible on their faces, but isn’t all martial arts old school including mixed martial arts?
Although I was just a white belt at the time; I couldn’t wait to earn my Black Belt, so that I could fight six to ten people all at once. The numbers were actually relevant; as long as I continued to train hard I’d be able to take care of them. Thanks to the Kung Fu movies!
The morals were enforced by all round us; the parents, the teachers at schools, The Kung Fu movies, and of course the martial arts clubs, because of this we were fully aware of the ‘patience’ and dedication required in martial arts. That it takes years of hard training; we were taught to have complete respect for our teachers and senior students, total loyalty to our school, this is beginning to sound like ‘Fist of Fury’ all over again. Humour a side; morals are an important part of the complete martial arts experience, it’s the other side of the coin – the Ying and Yang.
I asked Grandmaster (Pimu) Chukachaichana Krutsuwan (Interviewed for MAI Oct 2001) how important Ram Muay is in Muay Thai – He explained in his pigeon English “No Ram Muay - No Muay Thai”, you can’t have one without the other, if you don’t have a Ram Muay it’s not Muay Thai - as simple as that. A lot of Muay Thai shows in this country don’t see the importance of Ram Muay and it is seen as either a time wasting exercise or it is non-crowd pleaser!
Now a day the Martial Arts morals are usually found in children’s martial arts programme and I’ve felt it necessary to include them in my adults programme also.
The original purpose of martial arts is military based and the soldiers in the army kill for King and country. This is the birth place of all real martial arts. When the instructors pass on their knowledge of martial arts on to their students they are effectively passing on skills to kill, by enforcing the morals a balance is created and that’s what it is all about – keeping a balance. Turning out well balanced students is more important than creating ego based champions at our academy; an ideal champion is a balanced champion or as Master Sken said; a champion of life!
In Kali - the Filipino martial arts there is a high regard for the morals woven into their fighting arts, a quote from Grandmaster Ben Largusa states; “martial arts without morals is brutally”.
Inosanto-Lacoste Kali Salutation is almost like a prayer, performed with physical movements to the following words, this is a full version;
With Heaven and Earth as my witness, I stand before the Creator and mankind of Earth.
I strive for knowledge and wisdom with the five senses and beyond the five senses.
I strive for the love of mankind and there will be no needless shedding of blood.
I bow not in submission, but in respect to you.
I extend the hand of friendship over the hand of war, and look to the Creator for divine guidance.
But if my friendship is rejected, I am trained to be a warrior.
I stand in symbolism, for I serve only the Creator, my family and my country.
With my mind and heart, I cherish the knowledge my instructors have given me.
For it is my life in combat.
I am prepared to go against you even if your skill is superior to mine.
And if my body falls to you in combat, you have only defeated my physical body.
For my fighting spirit will arise to the heavens, for it is unconquerable.
I remember something of my Karate (Shotokan) days when I read; “In martial arts it is usually the beginner who cannot resist the temptation to brag or show off; by doing so, he dishonours not only himself but also his chosen art.” by Gichin Funakoshi
In my forty years of experience I found out the Black Belt is Shodan literally meaning "beginning degree," and smashing brick and blocks of ice is a trick, pressure points is a healing system, yoga is a fighting system, twenty feet in the air flying kick is done with a trampoline, as Yul Brynner would say; etc, etc, etc………, so what’s motivated me for forty years?
Until next month – God Bless!
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