Historically, I haven't had many students express interest in competing in judo or Tomiki aikido competitions. I've tried to carefully remain neutral and offer students the opportunity to do the tournament thing, but most of them seemed more interested in self-defense or self-development - what my teacher called "recreational judo players."
So, for years I've billed my classes as primarily self-defense related. But then the question arises, "What are we training to defend against?" Some martial artists might claim to prepare you to beat up violent criminals or terrorists or the like, but I personally think that we are training to defeat different kinds of enemies.
Self-defense against what?
- Probably our greatest self-defense enemies are obesity, inflexibility, and sedentary lifestyle. With 1.5 million heart attacks and 800k cardiac deaths per year in USA, we owe it to ourselves to include at least some component of fitness in our classes.
- Slips, trips, and falls disable far more people than violent attacks. One statistic I saw said that there are over half a million falls requiring hospital care per year in the U.S. For a long time I've told my students that ukemi (safe, reflexive falling skill) is the best self-defense we teach - plus the general fitness training I mentioned above will also help with slips, trips, and falls.
- Stress, depression, anxiety, and fear affect 1 out of 10 Americans at some point in their lives, and 80% of those don't receive treatment. Any exercise can provide an outlet for stress and depression, reducing anxiety and fearfulness, but martial arts seem to provide those benefits while improving people's general feeling of efficacy or capability (I think the psych geeks call that something like locus of control).
- How about learning to defend yourself against your own stupidity, which can, in the heat of the moment, cause you to run afoul of the U.S. legal system. A little bit of self-control and discipline goes a long way toward keeping you out of jail when your precious ego becomes inflamed.
Oh yeah, and maybe we can do a little bit of beating up violent attackers and terrorists and dragons and windmills and giant alien robots and that sort of thing in our spare time, when we're not focusing on our real enemies.
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