I saw the beginning of this some forty years ago while studying Chinese Kenpo Karate, and it is still going on. In fact, it is worse than ever, and infects the majority of arts. I will give you a couple of examples, and hopefully you can fix your martial art.
I was studying Ed Parker Kenpo Karate, and we began using pads. At first, the pads were only used to help fellows with knee problems, or that sort of thing, but the assortment of pads quickly grew. Soon pads were used on the shins for bruises, on the feet, on the shins, on the elbows and wrists, and so on.
Suddenly, somebody figured out that there was money to be made. School owners realized that selling pads increased the income, and began pushing them to every student for every class. The selling of padding became a million dollar business that infected every school.
Now, you might be wondering why this is so bad. We’re just protecting little Johnny, right? But this is part of the school owner propaganda, and part of the selling gimmick.
When you wear pads you think your punches don’t hurt as much, and so you begin punching harder. Thus, the protective gear actually encourages more violence, and less control. When you think about it, if you have to be aware and responsible so that you don’t get hurt, you start to learn the true art.
The true martial art has to do with control, you see. If you learn how to control yourself, then you start learning about yourself, and this makes you a better person, in and out of the ring. If you think you have to hit harder to be more effective, then the people you fight are going to be more at risk when they fight with you.
Now, I saw this type of thought spread throughout the martial arts world in tournaments. I also saw the introduction of softer (plastic) weapons, so that people wouldn’t get hurt, which also decreases the need for control, and for the true appreciation of one’s own potential. And, now people must wear cups, chest protectors, mouthpieces, and whatever else they can be scared or forced into buying.
The people who invented the martial arts, who passed them down for millennium, did not use such devices, and I suspect they would have laughed at them. Bear in mind that I am not asking people to get hurt, I am asking that people study martial arts with no accoutrements, so that they can take responsibility for what they do, and not be cushioned against learning about themselves. Whether you study Ed Parker Kenpo, Hapkido, classical Karate, or whatever, you should follow Ed Parker’s advice…’I come to you with empty hands.’
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