This year we are discussing the Book of Martial Power (BOMP) on Saturdays (usually).
Opponents are illusions - not the person himself, but the idea that he must necessarily be an enemy.
You know, I've heard it remarked and I think that it's mostly true that any good instructor of true martial arts in the world can teach a new student everything they know about self-defense application in a pretty short period of time - weeks to months. But we certainly want the students to play with us for longer than a few months so what do we do?
I think there's largely just a couple of approaches. In one, we continually emphasize the awful potential of the worst sorts of people to destroy our lives and our peace at a moment's notice. We create a sense of fear of the other that binds the student to the master for longer periods of time. But the ironic part of this fear motivation is that the student is motivated to study only the most superficial aspect of the arts - the part that you can get in weeks or months.
The other approach is to get the self-defense instruction over with in the first few months, and although you do have to continue to put enough practice into this material to maintain your skills, you then use the self-defense skills to create a sense of freedom. Freedom to live your life without constant, unwarranted, gnawing fear - but also freedom to explore more interesting, more artistic aspects of the martial arts. These profound facets of the arts can bind the student and the master as friends in a lifetime of creativity and expression.
So, why should we create these imaginary boogeymen to motivate us to restrict ourselves to the most superficial aspects of the arts, when we can create a freedom from the boogeyman and use that freedom to live a life of beauty and of creative expression?