But first: I've been on vacation. Sorry for the gap in posts, I thought I'd have internet while on the road, turned out to be not the case.
The Long Run is finally edited. My apologies on the delays. It'll go to Immunity tomorrow and should be up sometime on Monday.
... so I'm catching up this evening with the various blogs I read and ran across an interesting post over on Steve Perry's blog. It's here. Go take a look at it ...
OK, power politics in the martial arts community. They exist everywhere, even in sciences which have actual rigor in them -- people are people. So in any field that's essentially artistic, you expect to find stupid politics to one degree or another: I've known enough martial artists over the years that nothing in Steve's post surprises me. Good, bad, smart, dumb, wise, foolish ... just people, same as everywhere.
But serious martial artists, as a group, are every bit as much dilettantes as, say, middle-aged guys playing basketball....
Look, the core of the martial arts is Kicking Ass. (And yeah, I'm painting with a pretty broad brush here, and the emphasis varies among disciplines. Nonetheless.) And Kicking Ass, as a business rather than an art form, changed forever with the introduction of the Colt revolver. You want to protect yourself? You don't need years or decades in some esoteric eastern discipline. You need, roughly, the following --
A little boxing. Not a lot: enough to learn how to throw and slip a punch, and how to deal with your fear of pain -- and learning to cope with your fear is by far the most important part of that. You don't need to learn to like being hit, that's excessive. But the fear of pain shouldn't weaken your knees.
A moderate amount of judo or some other grappling, wrestling discipline. Most fights end up with people grabbing onto one another and you should know what to do once you've clinched.
The above will get your average American male through a lifetime without worrying about his own safety too much -- maybe a touchup once a decade to remember what the shock of pain feels like.
If you're a woman or a smaller man, I'd add pepper spray and make sure that, having used it, you're ready to run -- pepper spray will blind your attacker but it won't stop him from putting his hands on you: spray him, separate from him, and get the hell out of the area quickly.
(For that matter even if you're a big tough guy who's in a bad spot -- no rule says you can't carry spray and then run. I like to say that for a writer I'm a tough guy -- but for a tough guy, I'm a writer. Getting out in one piece is the point of the exercise. Your ego will heal.
(My father once beat a pair of muggers half to death -- and I do love telling that story. But he was 70 and couldn't run.)
And finally, and almost solely for those women who know there's a real threat in their lives, buy a gun and learn to use it. (The NRA and I frequently disagree, but their instructors are first rate.) There are enough brutal sub-human "men" floating around out there that failing to take that next step can be fatal. Don't make the mistake of not taking every advantage you can get. (Guns as a rule are a bad idea. A gun is a tool and if you're in real danger, a tool you should consider: but "real danger." If you don't know there's a monster at the door, I'd skip it.)
And that's it. Take reasonable precautions, do a reasonable amount of preparation, and the martial arts are not cost-effective when it comes to time and energy vs. reward.
Nothing wrong with martial arts as a hobby. But the number of people in this world who need to spend decades studying any martial discipline for any pragmatic reason is vanishingly small. And if you do get into a given martial discipline ... and run into a Guru ... hang onto your wallet and your good judgement, and be damned wary of certainty.
If you meet the Buddha on the road ...