You’re Going Down
I know people around the world will be relieved to know that the great staircase renovation project nears completion. Once I receive the new spindles from the woodturner, paint and install, that will be it, yippedeedodah. That nice feeling of a job well done is starting and as an extra I painted a little bureau we stand at the bottom of the stairs too, it looks lovely and is one of our several bookshelves, I went to put the books back earlier and was stopped by my wife as I was not doing it right, it is her job now but it was the book in my hand that got me thinking, and now, obviously, writing. My wife is a lawyer now, a partner in a law firm but many moons ago she was a librarian and it is clear that the Dewey system is still in her blood, the problem was I was stacking the books horizontally, not standing them vertically like in a library, the fact they have been like this on this particular bureau for years does not matter, IT IS WRONG…. The book in my hand, worth two in the library, at this point of crushing intervention by my wife was Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, a cracking, enjoyable read, it has been there for a couple of years and I only read it recently and I enjoyed it so much I decided to go to the library for the classic Palahniuk creation, Fight Club. What is the first rule of Fight Club, not to talk about Fight Club, but I am writing, not talking. What a film and what a book, I remember watching this at the cinema and a few times since on dvd, it’s a classic, here is a reminder.
The film is incredibly true to the book, I like that, but the book is so great it had to stay that way I think. Fight Club is a fantasy of course, it never existed, or did it. You see, maybe I am odd, maybe the wheels are about to come off my truck, but I think I occassionally have Fight Club moments, not that I meet up in basements to fight bare knuckle but when others think that is what I do and they look at you kind of funny. Have you had a fight club moment and did you secretly enjoy it even though it is nothing like what you actually do? When I have a Fight Club moment, I had one yesterday, it reminds me of those posters on Facebook, you know the six picture ones, what my friends think I do etc, yes? like this although its only got 4 pictures???
Once I saw the BJJ one I had to use it as the humour in it is great. The question is where does Fight Club exists on this list, in which box is it? Is it what your friends think you do? Your mom, society, you or your clients and how does it compare to what you actually do? Maybe you have no idea, maybe none or maybe all of them? For me its the latter, it will fit in somewhere with someone in each category. I remember Martin Dixon the predident of the British Ju Jitsu Association and practitioner for over 40 years telling us his mum still asks him if he does Karate. Outsiders, non-martial artists must have some really varied ideas of what we do because so do those who are in on the game. The huge variety and diversity of martial arts/self defence/combatives feeds this confusion of what we actually do for others and sometimes for us.
So you practise a martial art, you may or may not be a blackbelt or its equivelant but what do you actually do and how does it compare to what others think you do and who cares. Well I do for one because our love of martial arts says something about us and how we interact with the worlds. Once the journey becomes the ‘being’ a martial artist becomes part of our persona, it becomes part of our very identity, our sense of self. Admit it you often fantasize that you are in the Fight Club, you are the Daddy (or mummy) and your opponent is going down. I do not think I got Fight Club when I first watched it, I think you need to watch it a number of times and read the book too to actually get to the bottom of what is going on and even then it is not clear if we are dealing with neurosis or psychosis or any other kind of osis. Is it wrong to have a Fight Club fantasy?Is it wrong to have a martial arts fantasy? No, so long as you recognise it for what it is, fantasize, dream, enjoy those moments, think that is what you actually do if it makes you happy, you can even be a Ninja if you want but I cannot see why, geddit?
The problem is when your, our, fantasies begin to appear as realities and we start to believe our own propaganda, if that happens then you are on dangerous territory. If this is happening in your head get help now.
OK that is the funny side but there, as always, is a serious point. Those people out there who believe their Fight Club fantasies, who live them out in their dojos are setting up their students for failure. That failure will be bitter in the dojo, bitter in competition and worse still, bitter in real life. I took over a club recently and was surprised to meet my new just 9-year-old black belts, I make absolutely no connection with the thread of this blog and their former tutor, but, come on give me a break but I think there is something not quite right here, over the coming weeks I will gradually assess these kids and come to a decision but it strikes me something is wrong in the state of Denmark kind of way. When I had a chat with the parents it soon came out that they thought it was suspiciously easy to be able to get to black belt so quickly. We will see, they may all be child prodigies. The trouble is when these kids are given an unrealistic expectation of their achievements and act upon it if threatened, then it could be a devastating physical and mental fail.
The problem is not regulation, we are too diverse for that to work. The problem is moral and ethical mixed up with the fact that our industry is so open to just about anybody setting up shop, even long-standing senior members of governing body organisations seem capable of teaching rubbish, maybe because it is how they see themselves, with an uncritical audience, parents, kids, adult students too, seeing them differently but through equally rose-tinted glasses, that is the problem. Master Ken can tell you what is bullshit but maybe martial arts is bullshit? Well they are when the MacDojos, the fantasists and the downright ugly (see previous blog) are on the scene. But they can be beautiful too, the challenge to the good, the excellent, the ethical schools is simple, we need to out do the poor, the bad the indifferent, there are Fight Club fantasists out there raking in the cash peddling snake oil, I have said so before and we all complain about it but what do we do. Well the point is not to understand the world but to change it (Karl Marx).
I am currently putting together a bid for Sport England funding for our Ju Jitsu club. We are going pro active, we have a very active MacDojo local to us that preys on the unaware, the vulnerable and the impressionable. We must stop moaning and become more professional and let actions speak for themselves. If we are to protect the unwitting victims of scammers then we have a duty to step up to the mark. Like in Fight Club we need to stop posturing and do the business, literally. The book and film Fight Club is if anything a metaphor for life, it is difficult, frightening, irrational even insane at times but it is what we have, there is no ducking it. So my friends in the martial arts/self defence/combatives communities, step up and ignore the first rule of fight club, lets start talking about fight club, look down, see comments box, comment. Otherwise we might as well just train our students to do this, with smoke, indoor fireworks and disco music of course, it is what people think we do. Best wishes and pass the soap, Garry.