Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Red Card!

I was reading a friend's blog and found out about a training injury. Damn.

As you know, my primary consideration for training is SAFETY.
Over my life in the martial arts, I have suffered my share of training injuries, but I am happy to say that I have not caused serious harm to any training partner. Yes, we sometimes inadvertently get a bruise or a scrape - I have gotten and given those. However, I have not injured a partner such that they could not train or were otherwise debilitated.

For me this is a point of pride. As a teacher, it is an ABSOLUTE.
There is no excuse for injuring students. EVER. PERIOD.

At the best, this is a result of a lack of control or poor technique on the teacher's part.
At the worst, this is a manifestation of ego, and displays a flawed character.

I know the counter argument very well.
We are not doing new age ballet tai chi warm fuzzy encounter group hug pyschotherapy.
This is martial arts.
To get the full benefit, we need to train hard. To feel healthy and happy, we need to sweat hard. To discover ourselves, we need to push our limits. To be confident in a real fight, we have to come as close to it in training as we can. This is how we control and master stress and fear. This is how we break through to the other side.

However, this must be done with safety as a primary consideration.
There can be no other way. Fear and guilt have no place in our dojo, except as enemies to be challenged and defeated.

I have made references to martial arts training as a spiritual journey, and likened it even to a religion of its own, with vestments, ceremonies, and heirarchies sometimes very similar to what most of us know from organized mainstream religions. Sadly, this can also include the very same pitfalls that organized religions suffer from: namely, control using fear/guilt, exploitation of the sprititually weak/codependent and blatant commercialism.

In my analogy, teachers injuring students is akin to priests fondling children.
It may happen with alarming frequency. It is most likely under-reported or never reported.
It can have permanent negative consequences for everyone.
It is also completely unjustifiable and unacceptable.

The net result of these kinds of incidents is that students feel fear and apprehension, which instead they should be learning to overcome. Their confidence is weakened. Their trust is broken. They lose faith in the objective of the training. Some of them will stop training or leave martial arts altogether. Some will never come back. Even more horrible is the thought that they will STAY. Like a victim of domestic violence too afraid or weak to leave their abusive partner, the students start to believe that martial arts is about negativity, oppression, and violence, and end up teaching it the same way themselves one day - perpetuating a neverending cycle of misery and ignorance. Nothing could be worse than this.

Many times I meet people who, despite being raised Christian, are now self-professed athiests.
In nearly every case, it was some negative experience they had that turned them away from the church. Their trust was broken. Their faith was shaken. They never came back.

I hope this does not happen. We need good teachers to help build good students. We need teachers who can help us have faith and trust in martial arts as a way of transforming ourselves and growing to become the people we want to be. We need to have some spiritual foundation that we can believe in so that we can explore The Way freely and overcome our limitations.

Absolute Power Absolutely Corrupts.

How Disappointing.

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