Martial Art Ethos
By Sifu Bahram Khozairy
Copyright © 2005 by Bahram Khozairy. All Rights Reserved.
How critical is a martial arts culture in the society and specifically at the martial arts institutions and how relevant is to the training and development of the students? To begin with, we need to first look at how martial arts used to be taught during the ancient Asia. The Asian methods (by Asian, I am not only referring to oriental, which is so commonly misunderstood by the general public, but also referring to the entire Asia and Asian countries and Asian Cultures, including the central and western Asian cultures, such as Persia, India and etc) of preserving, instructing and promoting martial arts used to be extremely secluded and selective. Students were hand picked by the instructors (masters) and instructions were generally done behind closed doors or closed gates. There were no such things as the studentís right! Students had to submit and accept the teacherís method and for the most part, they (the students) became part of the family or household of the instructors and the school. Students had a very important role in the spread of the arts in general, yet at the same time, they had to go through a process of character building and skill developments. They didnít argue with their teachers and never challenged their instructors. Some today may conclude that was dictatorship, but thatís not the case. This is basically an Asian way of life. Elders or in this case teachers were respected in Asia, particularly within the context of martial arts, as they are still today. Some schools even housed students much like a dormitory in their territory and in a way a family was formed as a result of this close relationship. Even though the relationships were close, the humility and respect level were never overlooked and violated by the students. The general thought was that students went to the teachers to learn, and if the teacher chose them to be part of their particular school or even as a private student, the students accepted the hard and difficult challenges that were placed in front of them by their mentor. Teachers gave and students took. Teachers spoke and students listened. During those periods (not even going back more than 50 years ago), martial arts in ASIA were generally a distinct and separate culture all by itself. As a result of all this, bonding between students and teachers was very much part of the culture and discipleships was at its highest level. Society in general, looked up to the schools that disciple pupils and martial arts were then a way of life.
Unfortunately, during the last 40 to 50 years, much of this genuineness of martial arts have disappeared, particularly within the Western hemisphere, more specifically in the United States. Martial arts are not a way of life anymore for the most part and general masses view martial arts as source of irrelevancy at worst and a place that is mainly good for children to play and have fun at best. They have passed on the responsibilities of leadership and family protection and preservation to their children instead!! All of this is mainly due to the negative and destructive portrayal that Hollywood has given to martial arts. Movie industries present and caricature martial arts as violent, childish, perverted or at best a fantasy way of life. In most places it has become a fast food type of an activity, where students just show up to their classes and chat somewhat with other students or the instructors and learn a few katas and forms and run out at the end their session, and think they are learning an art of self defense. Belt System has expanded and been abused beyond comprehension. It is not just a color of belt that supposedly signifies the studentís level, but also the number of stripes or markings on the belt that supposedly challenges the studentís progress. Learning Korean Alphabets as an example, or continuous memorization of the katas has completely wiped out the uniqueness and the primal message of martial arts, which is and should be ďcombative arts of self defense.Ē Another negative aspect of martial arts culture in United States is the level of violence that is associated and packaged within the martial arts training halls. Shouting, Anger, Fury, Arrogances, lack of Humility and overall negative demeanor is what sells and unfortunately, the average public that knows so little about the true martial arts accept them as the genuine article.
With the hope that we can shed some light over this extremely problematic phenomena that is set before us, we have to understand not only the original intent of martial arts, as it was handed down and discovered by mankind, but also its correct method of preservation and promotion. One very important point, which I like to emphasize is that the original intent of martial arts were and still are the protection of the individuals, family and culture in general. It is a God given common sense to learn to protect oneself from assailants, thieves, thugs and evil in our society. The right to protect self is synonymous with freedom. Freedom is gained by eliminating the adversity and freedom is preserved by protecting human lives. Self-protection and Self Defense is a right of every man, women and children on this cesspool that we call earth. And in order to accomplish that, one must learn to protect himself and his family from the aggressors that has no regard for human lives otherwise. And in order to learn the art of self-defense, one must learn the art of self-discipline. Learning martial arts is no different than learning any other craft or skill. They all require discipline. And Discipline, when it is understood and practiced correctly, brings about correct results in our lives.
Now, a healthy, correct and pure martial arts institution is that avenue that such query and its achievement is possible. It is and should be viewed as precious and honorable by the public. The students and the public should treat it as a praiseworthy institution in general, simply because, through a genuine martial arts institution and academy, students learn to preserve lives. They learn to protect and defend freedom and they learn to safeguard that which is pronounced sacred by God, which is human life itself.
Of course, there are still schools that try to achieve this goal. They are not so common to find, but they do exist. Not necessarily referring to the total effectiveness of their art, but their goal and purpose is such. This is precisely what has set San Jieh Dao Academy apart from many schools that so-called teach martial arts. I have had the privilege of talking to hundred of students and instructors that had expressed their sense of appreciation for what they saw, experienced and gained through our academy. Granted, that traditional martial arts homes and dormitories as they were in the ancient Asia are no longer applicable and valid in twenty first century, unfortunately. But the importance and values that has been their goal to instill in their pupils is not impossible to achieve. That is exactly what San Jieh Dao attempts to achieve. It is to build genuine skill and the associated characters that students need in order to achieve excellence in their martial arts education. Proper bonding, balanced and appropriate giving of oneself as a student has always been the primal motto of our school. I never cease to say that one sows what one reaps. The fruit of studentís hard work will manifest itself through time. It is a gift to be able to train and be educated in a martial arts institution that care about the tri fold well-being of a student. SJD Academy has its own culture, with the idea in mind that learning SJD is a very serious and hard work, but it is an honorable one. Students are expected to treat the academy, their art, their class mates, their instructors and the skills that are presented to them as noble and honorable.
Students know and understand the importance of the rules that are in place. They acknowledge that they will be rewarded for their hard work, obedience and honoring the rules. They also understand the balance of our academy and that they will be properly dealt with, should they abuse or refuse to follow the rules. Ultimately, students will reap with they will sow.
It has been an exhilarating experience for us over the past couple decades, watching the students grow and mature in their art and skills. Another Biblically driven standard of our academy is that the higher the students go in their ranks, the more they will serve other junior students that are below their rank. The greatest among the students will serve the lowest students, in terms of the ranks and seniority. Senior students will serve as a role model for the junior students. For this to be achieved, students learn the art of Self Discipline, which then brings about result. Discipline can never be faked or counterfeited, simply because Discipline is not an end, but a means to an end. True Discipline, brings about healthy results. And in order to gain discipline, much like the ancient Asian way of martial arts, students have to be willing to be disciplined. Unwillingness on the part of students to gain the regiment will result in no result. Nothing will be achieved and much is to be wasted and lost by the students. Itís the choice that student has to make, and itís the question student has to ask himself or herself, before joining the academy!
Ultimately, a true Martial Arts Ethos is one that cares, develops and helps to correct the students all around combative skills and associated characters that are needed to achieve that. And for that, San Jieh Dao stands as a lighthouse among the vastness of all martial arts schools and institution in order to achieve this very difficult and challenging but noble task.