Power. And the Lack Thereof

I recently posted on Facebook that I was upset at how even after all these years am still rubbish at sparring, fighting and the like. After being trained for twelve or more years in Shotokan karate, trying out (briefly) Aikido and (a little less briefly) Capoeira and now into my third or so year of Kung-fu, I am still very bad at keeping my centre-line defended. A friend made a reply comment in the realms of perhaps training without protective armour and the like might not be helping, along the lines of the old martial arts teacher's maxim of "I'm going to hit you and it's up to you to stop me." This did nothing to alleviate my disappointment in myself. Perhaps I can outline why by going on a bit of a personnal self-psychoanalysis?

It's about Power.

When I was younger the idea of martial arts was presented to me on the television as this thing that anybody could learn and they could be improved. You'd see many of the old martial arts movies would follow a familiar and simple story pattern : young guy is either getting bullied or is a problem of some variety and falls in with a master of the martial arts who teaches him The Way. In time these teachings mean that the once undisciplined, powerless boy is able to become more focussed, more disciplined, more skilled and more importantly more able to defend themselves. They go from being beaten up to being the ones to turn the tables on their oppressors. This was a powerful idea to me.

Being empathetic has been a problem for me. Can you imagine trying to actively physically hurt someone when you feel in yourself that you will be the cause of someone else's pain? You've had pain and it sucks. Why would you want to inflict that on someone else? You've had someone call you an idiot, call you foolish, weird, verbally abuse you and it hurts. Why would you ever want to inflict that same emotional pain and trauma knowingly on someone else? And by not retaliating to such, you only invite more on yourself, because those who fire these barbs into aren't getting any kind of resistance from you, so they keep on doing it. You get people treating you like shit enough and you start to believe it.

This in turn creates something else; a drive to escapism. And that escapism, as a result of being made to feel victimised, results in you trying to find escapism in dreams of not being a victim. You look for ways of vicariously liviing the fantasy of being a fighter, someone who can stand up for themselves. And then you obsessively pursue that to an extreme. You watch action movies, indulge in media of all sorts displaying heroes who overcome all kinds of adversity. You wish you were like them. And then, when the movie's over, when you've read the comic or the book, when you've completed the video game, you're left with the reminder that you're not that person at all. You're just regular, weak, defenceless you.

I started karate for health reasons, as I've already mentioned in previous blog posts. But there was also something else behind my pursuit. Power. I wanted to take my power back. I wanted to be finally able to stand there before those who made me feel powerless and say "You know what, let me see you back that up with action." I wanted to do what those heroes on screen or page did and show those people that when it came down to it, they could try to beat me down, but they couldn't touch me any more. I would take the power away from them for a change.

So, with all that in mind, I wonder if you can now understand a little of why I feel so disheartened that even after all this training I've had, that when I end up facing off against people in a martial situation, that they still find a way through? And if they can find a way through, even after all the schooling I've had, it means that they can still hurt me. Anybody can get through my so-called defence. And that means they can beat me, hurt me and so prove that even though I tried to take back my power, I failed at that too. And that hurts. Fifteen fucking years or more of trying to get good at this thing that might get me some self-respect back, that might prove to me that I'm not still the skinny, weak kid and I'm hampered by my seeming inability to learn this one fundamental concept.

I'm going to keep going to Kung-fu. I enjoy the art side of it too much not to. I enjoy the company of the people too.

I wish I could be more Daoist and simply accept what is and what is not.

Looks like I failed at that too.

~Matt

Oh, as a P.S. The first person to quote anything in the realms of "treat each failure as a teaching moment" can fuck right off. That hasn't been my nature for as long as I can remember. I have depression because I dwell on the past. Which means I remember every mistake I ever make and hold on to it. I have anxiety because I worry about the future. I stay at home as a shut-in because I cannot face the possibility of the threat of being hurt. Your platitude doesn't work here.