The Gentle Art Of Ass-Kicking


“If you don’t know what you want,” the doorman said, “you end up with a lot you don’t.”  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

“I’m a lunatic with lethal combat skills.” ~from Xena: Warrior Princess, “The Furies”

 

That's right, coolie...kiss my Converse!

 

We live in a society saturated by violence, that celebrates violence, sings songs about it and makes billion-dollar films glorifying it. Countless books and magazines are devoted to the pursuit of the exaltation of kicking ass.

That’s not to say it’s entirely a good thing. We also live in a world where shooting rampages have become tragically common, where kids try to mimic what they’ve seen in Halo or Grand Theft Auto, or spouses beat one another and take their inspiration from popular songs. It’s a violent world…and there’s a lot of violent people out there. What can be done about it, if anything? Is the proverbial genie out of the bottle?

I believe the answer to this question lies in the philosophy behind most martial arts. While I myself am not schooled in one particular martial arts discipline, I’ve studied enough to know that kung fu, or karate, or Jiu Jitsu do not exist purely for the sake of ass-kicking. They are defensive arts. This philosophy is echoed in the Star Wars films: a Jedi knight does not use the Force for self-serving or attack. One who walks around looking for a fight is either a bully, a coward, or a warmonger; sometimes all three at once.

Jedi kung fu is cool...self-control is cooler

All that being said, it’s impractical and foolish to think that humanity, which has been more or less continually at war for six thousand years, will ever transform into a race of studious, self-controlled, wise beings who would rather study the martial arts than put them into practice. Humans are violent and, in many cases, extraordinarily self-centered. This is why kung fu movies and movies about helicopters exploding do much better at the box office than, say, What the Bleep Do We Know? or The Fountain. Those who practice self-control, such as certain religious orders, are the exception and not the norm.

Me? I can’t count myself in one group or the other. Like many people, I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ve always known I have a warrior’s spirit (I was the girl who spent all her time playing with plastic swords instead of dolls). I got into my share of fights as a child…I never started a fight, but always made sure to finish one…and there were times I wished I could unleash my inner Mr. Miyagi onto an unsuspecting co-worker or customer. The trick is not to understand one’s “warrior” side, but to creatively use it. I’m no martial arts master, but I’ve found ways to kick ass without actually kicking ass. Does that make sense? Well…

Find something you truly believe in…and work towards doing good.

This could be volunteer work, letters to the editor, activism of one form or another. The method is not important. One of my favorite sayings is the one about “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Anger is a normal and healthy emotion. Instead of letting it build up slowly like a cauldron of steam, a better way to let it out is through using your talent to make a difference. If you think you can’t make a difference, you’re mistaken. (Another favorite saying? “If you think a small thing can’t make a big difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room.”) Just do something. If you’re angry, get active. That’s what’s great about Western democracy.

Exercise.

Ever notice how a lot of depressed people seem to be out of optimal shape? Smokers? There’s a reason for this. I’ve not been perfect in this arena myself…far from it…but I do know I feel better, and more at peace, when I eat right and get the right amount of physical activity. No warrior worth his or her salt want to be a fat, lazy slob.

Practice a martial art. Really study it if you can.

I don’t think there’s a magic panacea for the epidemic of violence in schools…but this could be pretty darn close. In many Asian countries, including Korea and Japan, martial arts and self-defense courses are part of school curricula. When was the last time we heard of bullying epidemics in those countries? Martial arts teach discipline, increase self-esteem, and naturally release endorphins. Not to mention bullies are less likely to pick on a fellow student who might kick their ass. If you can’t afford lessons, check out a book on t’ai chi or aikido from the library and practice some of the simple but effective forms.

Know what your beliefs are.

I’m not espousing a particular religious or spiritual tradition here…but spirituality IS a key component of any warrior’s life. With the complexity of our universe and its life forms, there is surely a greater force at play than mere chance. Even if you’re agnostic, learn to meditate. There’s a good reason monks and nuns, not to mention Shaolin or Zen masters, meditate regularly. It clears the mind and gives us greater focus. With our minds emptier of clutter, does it not give us capacity to do greater things?

Try not, do, or do not...there is no try

Have a release valve.

It’s okay to love movies or TV shows about ass-kicking heroes; God knows I love plenty of them. Watch them, learn from them what you can, enjoy them. They are largely fantasy, though The A-Team taught me how to make an improvised flamethrower, which is pretty ass-kicking in itself.

Know what is worth fighting for…and what isn’t.

This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn in my life. When I was younger (so much younger than today, according to Lennon and McCartney), I wanted to fight anyone and everyone. I got angry over trivial things. I asked for swords for my birthday. Now that I’m slightly older, I see my two selves personified in the Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker dynamic of SW episodes II and III. Anakin wants to spindle, fold and mutilate…Obi-wan knows there is a time and place for violence. Why fight and expend useless energy if there is another solution? Most people won’t admit it, but often there is an alternative to fighting.

As for where I am now, I’m still seeking the answers. Even Michelangelo, in his eighties, was overheard saying that he was still learning. It’s good advice. Always be willing to learn and study.

Right now, I think there’s an old A-Team rerun with my name on it. I can never have too much (fictional) ass-kicking.

My kind of special occasion

Enjoyed reading P&Q? Be sure to click the “Like” button and check us out on Facebook! Got any ass-kicking tips? Send ’em my way!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on February 23, 2011.

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