Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Dojos commonly advertise that they build self discipline, confidence, and self-respect. How is it that participating in a pseudo-military subculture builds these qualities? It occurred to me this morning that a lot of men probably participate in martial arts because they realize (perhaps subconsciously) that for the most part, all they have to do to earn the respect of other men is to behave properly (the way they should be behaving anyway) and persevere. When men begin to see that it is within their ability to make other men respect them, this acts as a foundation for self-respect.
Pulitzer Prize winning feminist, Susan Faludi, in her book titled Stiffed, The Betrayal of the American Man, puts forward an idea that masculinity is in crisis in modern America because of a shift in cultural norms that has left men dis-empowered to exercise the power that they were brought up to believe that they should have. Very basically, societal norms raise boys to be masculine, then those same cultural norms make it uncool to be masculine as a man. Masculinity remains a desireable goal for boys (and their mothers) while it has become a collection of undesirable traits to have as a man. While I certainly don't count as a feminist and Susan Faludi is not really a heroine of mine, parts of her book are compelling.
Some of the radio preachers I like to listen to like to make the point that in 'normal' relationships (whatever those are) women crave love and men crave respect. Some men can find this potential for respect within themselves by participating in the martial arts. Some sociologists have even suggested that men go to war primarily in order to participate in a subculture that celebrates masculinity and offers the potential for men to receive respect from other men.
My teacher discussed with us at times over the years that one of the beneficial things he has found that aikido and judo do for people is that they teach men to be less dysfunctional in their masculinity and they teach women to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy physical contact. The degree to which this teaches women to accept the love they crave is material for another essay (or book), and probably one that I am unqualified to write, but I can say that aikido and judo do help men operate in a manner that facilitates the respect that they crave.

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