Fight the Violence, Increase the Peace

About ten years ago, a bunch of students from our dojo went on a trip to Montreal to compete in a knockdown karate tournament. Our group of fighters included two women, a couple of lower belts, a young man named Clai (now he is Sensei Clai) who later went on to become a world champion, and a young black belt named Rudie. Rudie was fast and strong and was best known for winning his fights via knockout, often by a spinning back kick. This tournament proved to be no different.

In order to get to Montreal we had rented a 16 passenger van which a few students took turns driving. (A few students did not include me. I am one of those odd NYC creatures you call "adult with no drivers license". ) As he passed through toll plazas, Rudie liked to hand his money over with this cheerful comment: "Fight the violence, increase the peace." He thought he was being funny. Inevitably, every time he did this one of us would remind him of all the people he knocked out that weekend.

But that guy Rudie, he was a really nice dude.

I would be lying if I said everyone who trains is in it for the art. Of course karate attracts some violent types, students who are in it for the blood, the thrill of the fight. To our credit, most of these types do not last long in our dojo, which is an environment that demands that you respect the guy you are hitting, perhaps even love him as if he were your brother.

Strange I know.

This is who I am. I like to put on gloves and practice throwing punches and kicks at other people. I also enjoy training in a martial art that involves choking people or twisting their arms until they tap in submission. But I am about kindness. I am about treating people the way you would want to be treated. I am about respect and love and charity (or at least if I had any money I would be). I am not religious, but if I were I would pray for everyone, especially those who are suffering.

A few days ago I shared this picture on my Facebook page:
Photo: More and more people are crossing over 
A bunch of my friends shared it too. They included an MMA fighter, multiple jiu-jitsu practitioners, and another dude who is known for his knockout kicks. All people who like a good fight, all posting a picture about love. These same people post Ghandi quotes, pictures of puppies and share stories about their children.

The truth is, most martial artists I have met are very very nice people. (Not all, of course, there are always a few bad apples in the bushel.) In fact, most of them abhor inappropriate violence and are more willing to walk away from a fight than many of the non fighters I know. Why? I think it is because we all have a more realistic view of violence, that it is ok in some situations, like to protect yourself or someone weaker from harm. That it is similar to keeping a gun in your basement, it has rules, demands respect, and is something to be taken very very seriously. Despite that choking thing, most of us do not actually like to hurt people. We like to control them on a mat or in a ring, we like to beat them at their game, but we would prefer to end the round with minimal blood and everyone happy.

So my fellow fighters, you have a responsibility. Don't prove me wrong. Be honorable. Be selfless. Do good. Do not take your training for granted and please please do not parade it around in a bar like it is a Super Bowl ring. Go against the stereotype, f&*k that, make a new stereotype. And if other people are making us look bad, share your heart. Change them.

Increase the peace.
One armbar at a time.