Martial Arts and the Dawning of Pacifism

Martial Arts and the Dawning of Pacifism

I was not a small child. I was tall for my age, very athletic and quite strong, which of course made me a target. Other kids cut their teeth on me. I was the prize in their rite of passage. To beat me up gave any particular individual status, like one of the many badges on my cub scout sash. Perhaps this was a factor in my parent’s frustration around my being bullied. Perhaps they had assumed that if anyone was going to be the bully it would have been me. But all I wanted was to find companionship and friendship. All I found though was a fist playing percussion on various parts of my body. My parents had enough. Since I was not going to solve this problem on my own they would help equip me to solve the problem. So, they enrolled me in marital arts training.

This was a new regime of training that I needed to find time for. My parents made the commitment to drive me across the city to the dojo several times a week where I would faithfully practice this new form of self-defense. At first I was intrigued and very interested. The idea of being equipped with the skills to defend myself seemed very helpful. I would be able to stop an attack of a bully and thus reduce if not eliminate this risk in my life. My martial arts training was a perfect compliment to my spiritual training and the two got along together harmoniously. I practiced hard and had moved up a couple of belt colors before one particular day the focus of the training changed. Up to this point every move, every stance, every sequence we learned and practiced was self-defense. But, now there was a distinct shift of focus. Now, we were learning offensive moves.

I became distinctly aware that given what I was learning I could now seriously hurt someone. And that thought terrified me. I was terrified because although there were several people in my life that I hated right down to their very substance and would love for them to simply disappear, the thought of me now having the skills to make that happen freaked me out. I had scenarios run through my head of what a trial might look like for this young adolescent boy, now charged with murder after his freakish rampage that ended up with several people dead. With every kick, punch, and roundhouse kick I practiced the more real this scenario became for me. I couldn’t handle the growing pressure so I announced to my parents one day that I wanted to quit. This, of course, frustrated them so I attempted to explain my rationalization to them in order to help them understand. I calmly explained that I was no longer learning self-defense but was now learning how to kill someone and so I needed to stop before I actually did kill someone. It seemed to make sense to me but was met with disdain from my parents. “Then solve your own problems”, my mom said. And so I quit.

Thus lay the inner conflict and turmoil that would continue well into adulthood. I was singled out and bullied, being beat up constantly, several times a week it would seem, and instead of learning a skill that could help me with protecting myself I opted out, because I feared I would end up killing them. The thought of protecting myself no longer was my focus but instead it was the thought of protecting the person who was beating me up. For their sake I needed to stop the training. For their safety I backed off and refused to learn anything else. This seemed confusing to me. Yet, this idea did stay with me well into adulthood, where I would focus hard on making sure I had some other outlet for my anger as I would often express my concerns to close loved ones that if someone would attack me I would end up fighting them with all of the wrath and all of the accumulated anger that was meant for each and every bully that has ever been in my life and as a result the beating given to that one person – that unlucky person who pulled my number – I would end up killing him because I would not stop in the amount of wrath I would bring upon that person, emptying myself out from every beating I had every received in my entire life. So much anger, lurking in the shadows, waiting for an excuse to show itself. It terrified me more than the very bullies. They were nothing, but if one of them flicked this switch? I would end up in jail for sure.

And so I stopped. And I embraced this inner conflict in my life. I escaped to nature to sooth the voices in my head. I escaped into my meditative states to sooth the raging going on inside. I didn’t want conflict. I wanted friendship. Companionship. Relationship. I wanted to be happy. Sadly, I could not get any of that in this place. And so it didn’t stop. I escaped to nature to sooth the bruises and battered body. I escaped into my meditative states to sooth the furious anger welling up inside and so the conflict turned inward. But now, instead of going to a dojo across the city to practice, my meditative spiritual pursuits would afford me the perfect training ground to learn. I would first learn defensive techniques but that would quickly turn to offensive techniques. My spiritual journey would be the outlet for this anger and I consumed it with an insatiable appetite.

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