force, violence, and peace

From the archives, an old mailing list post.

matt henderson <xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.com> writes:

>Raj....the first time Rog. gets pounded across the face, or sees someone he
>loves being physically attacked, by whatever name he calls it, we shall see
>a man become violent or either we shall see a man who wrings his hands and
>pisses his pants.

Are those really the only alternatives? Or can one use force to
protect oneself and others, perhaps even lethal force, and not be violent?
IMHO it's more than a question of semantics, but a fundamental question of
what it means to be a martial artist.

There is an important issue here, but we might be using the wrong
words to get at it. So let's hit the ol' Websters. Violent is "Moving,
acting, or characterized by physical force, esp. by extreme and sudden or
by unjust or improper force." Now, few would argue that this karate stuff
isn't characterized by physical force. Extreme and sudden? We try. B->
Unjust and improper? That we try to avoid, but the definition given says
"_or_ by unjust or improper...", so one can be violent without using unjust
or improper force.

But there's another definition of violent given, one that goes right
to the Zen heart of the martial arts. "Evincing, or due to, strong mental
excitement; vehement, passionate..."

Consider, if you will, a Tale of Two Karateka. Let's call them Alice
and Bob. (No gender issues intended; if you like, it could be Alice like
Alice Cooper or Bob short for Bobbi.) Both are attacked by similar
attackers intent on doing them similar physical harm and both KO their
attackers with a well-executed, simple, hospitalization-inducing but
less-than-lethal jodan punch.

Both have acted in a violent manner, according to our first definition
above. But reflecting on the incident later, Alice says "Damn son of a
bitch got what he deserved! I was so angry when he threatened me, I was
ready to tear his throat out with my teeth! Too bad I didn't cripple or
kill him! Somebody ought to REALLY beat him up, teach him a lesson!"

Bob has a different take: "I'm sad about the whole thing. Not that I
regret what I did; it was necessary. But it's regrettable that it was
necessary. I'm glad that I was able to keep calm, see what had to be done,
and stop him without killing him. I hope that this incident will make him
reflect on his life, and choose a less violent path in the future."

Alice is full of "strong mental excitement", while Bob keeps cool.
Alice of full of anger and hate, while Bob can love the attacker even while
putting him out. Bob might even remind us that Jesus said, "Love thy
neighbor," and didn't add "unless your neighbor is a violent jerk"; or that
the bodhisattva vows to save _all_ beings, not just the nice ones. It might
be appropriate to say that Alice is a violent person, while Bob is a person
who can practice violence, if needed.

Who do you think is going to be better able to defend themselves (all
other things being equal)? And, perhaps more importantly, who is more
likely to lead fulfilled life, a life worth defending?

I know that in my adolescent and early teenage years, I was much more
like Alice. I was ready to pound any kid who so much as bumped into me in
the hallway. As I've grown up, and practiced karatedo, I find I'm becoming
more Bob-ish. (Just becoming, still a long way to go.) I'm much better able
to avoid, defuse, and control violent situations - and also generally
enjoying life more.

=== Tom Swiss/tms@infamous.net == http://www.infamous.net == "Born to die" ==
"What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?" - Nick Lowe
Censure Clinton and MOVE ON! http://www.moveon.org
"Under any conditions, anywhere, whatever you are doing, there is some
ordinance under which you can be booked." -- Robert D. Sprecht (Rand Corp)

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