“A karate master does not kill people with his bare hands. He does not lose his temper and kill his wife. The person who kills is the person who has no discipline, no restraint, and who has purchased his power in the form of a Saturday night special. And that is why you think that to build a place like this is simple.”
― Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park
“You know what’s wrong with scientific power? It’s a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are.”
Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park
I often think that, because it was so popular, people often downgrade Jurassic Park as a novel of real ideas.
I loved it and think it had a lot of pretty significant points to make.
The two quotes above I think are significant for martial artists.
The first quote I think speaks directly to the heart of the idea that martial arts are meant to build character.
The full quote was about what it takes to wield power. To become a dangerous martial artist, you have to work hard for years and the required discipline tempers the character of the fighter. To buy a gun requires some money and a driver’s license. The first process builds character which is a control on the use of the resulting power. The second requires no change in the bearer of the power.
Of course, many of us are not interested in this aspect of the martial arts when we start – I personally was driven into the arms of martial arts by fear. I was small and weak and getting bullied (literally and psychologically) by people who were stronger or at least more aggressive than me.
But anyone who has “gone the distance” in martial arts know how true this quote is – ultimately you stay because of the discipline and the camaraderie and (for me) a fascination with the beauty of the technology and the desire to be able to use it at its highest level, which requires that you change yourself (in a good way) to achieve it. You have to let go of some things (anger, fear, competition) and learn some things (patience, sustained determination, grit) and it makes you become someone else, someone a bit better.
The second quote underlines another aspect of the first quote and its something some martial artists don’t like to face but that I, masochist for the truth that I am, like to linger on.
A tenth degree black belt can be surprised and killed by an aggressive 13 year old with a sharp kitchen knife. A Grandmaster can be killed from across the room by a five year old with a Glock he found in his parent’s closet.
This is where skill and discipline meet technology. Technology will often “win.” We must face facts and not be misled, like the men who died in front of the British guns in the Chinese Boxer’s Rebellion. To fight with their hands, a person needs to cultivate their weapon by conditioning those hands, and by developing structure and timing and will. To fight with a knife, a person need only have aggression. The knife itself possesses structure and the only conditioning it needs is a sharp edge.
This is why the cops have their “21 Foot Rule.” The technology of the knife alone is innately dangerous.
These facts should temper our fantasies about our martial power. While its true that some highly trained individuals could walk naked (Terminator-style) into a room full of people and kill or maim most of them due to the overwhelming superiority of their training and physical power (sort of like Donny Yen in the Ip Man sequence with the Japanese soldiers), its also true that they could be taken out by one person with some nerve surprising them with a well-placed pointy letter opener.
I’m meandering a little bit but maybe the best lesson here is “anyone can kill anyone” (quote from the movie JFK) and usually what is most required to be dangerous is nerve. Look at the passengers of Flight 93. This is what was needed in many of these shooting rampages.
So if you want power, martial arts is the “long way round.” But if you want a lot of other attributes (confidence, integrity, strength, balance, dexterity, quick reflexes, etc, etc) then you are on the right track.