This will have to be the first in a non-contiguous sequence of articles describing my reasons for training martial arts since one article does not provide enough scope to cover the ground. I was inspired to write this article after reading an online report discussing some of the latest military technology being developed by Russia which gave me cause to recall my reasons for training martial arts.
The article was discussing Russia’s new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (also known as Satan II). It is due to be fully-operational in 2018 and will be capable of delivering 10 heavy independently-targeted thermonuclear warheads which could destroy an area the size of France in one fell swoop.
I broke to a new paragraph here to allow this to sink in. If you’re like me, and these numbers and scales mean anything to you, you will start to feel the same sensation in the pit of your stomach as I did when I read this. This level of destructive potential is astounding. It is hardly imaginable and it is in the hands of human beings like you and I. Yes, let that sink in too. Human beings as fallible and imperfect as you and I.
Living in the middle of the nuclear stand-off is nothing new, we’ve been here for decades. The prospect of nuclear war has been a spectre on the horizon since the Cold War so I don’t really see an escalation of nuclear threat in Russia’s new bomb. The nuclear weapons that we already have can just as easily destroy the human world as we know it without the introduction of a new super-bomb. What the article did do was to remind me of humanity’s on-going love affair with its own destruction. We have created a world for ourselves where individually, we are insignificant, and as a species, we face the prospect of our own extinction from a number of potential threats of which global thermonuclear war is but one.
Modern large-scale mechanized war in the First and Second World War really began to draw back the curtain on the landscape of the future. In the face of automatic machine-gun fire, blitzkrieg tank tactics and coordinated air-strikes, it seemed as though we had been relegated to the level of little cogs in a vast machine which could all be obliterated in an instant by the action of one of the world’s powers. Gone was the illusion that we mattered at all. I find it interesting that the First and Second World Wars produced writers such as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis who explored the significance of individual actions against the background of global war in a fantasy setting.
So in the light of my own insignificance and impotence in the face of the threat of global annihilation, why do I still bother to train martial arts?
Well, in my case, it’s precisely because of my abject refusal to accept my insignificance and impotence that I train. My training is my own act of outright defiance in the face of Armageddon. It is my act of defiance against the powers-that-be. I will concede that if they were even aware of my existence and wished me harm, all that they would have to do to end me and everyone I love is to push a button. However, on another level I also know that if the self-same people were to attempt to end me in person, the outcome would not be in their favour because of my training and experience.
This may seem a very puerile notion; the idea that I am at peace with the fact that I could be destroyed by a certain group of people because I ultimately bear the power to defend myself against them if they were to attempt the act directly. In fact, it is my own version of the nuclear stand-off.
I never said that this reason for my training martial arts was going to make sense to everyone, but this is the truth. My reasons don’t have to make sense to anyone but myself. I’m sharing this because I believe that I am not alone in my feelings on this, though. One only has to look at the growing popularity of entertainment that show-cases people who demonstrate super-human powers of some kind or other. The Marvel movie franchise is just bubbling away merrily at the moment. Have you asked yourself why?
Why is there a need right now to see people who through the exercise of some super-human power suddenly gain the ability to stand up to the forces that threaten our existence?
Is it because we are becoming more and more aware of just how far we have been pushed into a position of insignificance and impotence as a species and individually?
Is it because we want to imagine ourselves as these super-powered people?
Is it because we can somehow, through them, vicariously experience what it must be like to be significant? To matter?
Perhaps I’m not so unusual in my feelings on this after all. Then again, maybe I am.
It doesn’t matter. I will continue to get up early in the morning. I will continue to practice my Chi Gung, my forms, my physical exercises. I will continue to pound sand-bags and iron dummies. I will continue to fight as often as I can. I will continue to meditate and strive for performance that is beyond what is humanly possible. I may never achieve it, but this is my Zen garden in the middle of the Mexican stand-off. This is my training. This is mine and no one can take it from me.
written by SiXiong Lester from CMAHC Australia
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