Insight in the Martial Arts by KJN Ronald Stone
The dictionary defines insight as "the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing."
Although perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when one watches a Bruce Lee movie, in the real world the perceptive capacity of insight can be very important to a true martial artist.
A career soldier realizes that war is something horrible and to be avoided at all costs since they must bear battle's awful burden. Such is true of the martial artist. Sun Tzu once said, "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." and in fact a true martial artist trains not just for the times when violence in self-defense or defense of others is unavoidable, but also trains to learn when and how to avoid conflict. Insightfulness can help recognize the warning signs and causes of aggression Another famous Sun Tzu quote is also applicable to understanding the principle of insight in the martial arts: "It is said that if you know your
enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”
Insight therefore can be applied to recognizing the causes of an opponent's anger, to realizing the societal causes of the aggression faced, to recognize a person's fears and self-doubts, and to understand such concepts as mob violence, jealousy, and prejudice. My instructor once relayed a story to me about a time a bully braced him while he was with his girl in a bar. The man was apparently itching for a fight, but my teacher recognized something about his behavior that caused him not to respond to the bully with a physical confrontation. Instead, he invited the man to sit and have a drink with the two of them. The aggressor was so taken aback at the response he agreed and sat down for some coffee together. They ended up all leaving peacefully and on good terms. When I asked what made him react as he did my instructor said he recognized the man was a little drunk and was also drinking alone. My grandmaster's Insight allowed him to realize the man was acting out of loneliness not true anger. At another time and place he was again called out to stand up and fight. Having the insight to recognize the signs of insecurity (words used,
gestures etc.) in the aggressor he simply said, “the fight is over, and you’ve already lost.” Confused the aggressor asked what he meant and was told, “If you really wanted to and if you knew how to fight you would already have done so instead of just threatening to do so.” Apparently the man recognized the experience in such matters and knew the man he was facing had a true lack of fear and simply turned and fled.
Insight can help a martial arts instructor recognize an inferiority complex in a student, or a fear of failure and to help that student to overcome this.
Those instructors who merely see students as numbers on the mat to be treated alike are doomed to eventually fail. Those who teach by ridicule are reprehensible and any normal parent will soon recognize this behavior and will remove their child from such a school.
Leading by example is notable but it is equally important to have the insight to realize that as individuals we all have our own insecurities and
personal demons to overcome, whether physical or mental. Insight includes recognizing your own issues such as insecurities, being overbearing, bragging etc. and being able not only to recognize them but to follow the martial arts tenets and correct such deficiencies of personality.
The ability to recognize and help with such things like poor parenting, child abuse and being bullied is an insight that will change the martial artist from mere warrior to guardian and mentor and may make the difference between losing another student or helping one to follow the right path from now on.
Ronald W. Stone, D.V.M
8th dan Grandmaster, HaeMuKwan Hapkido
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