The ven­er­a­ble Dave Lowry ex­am­ines the pit­falls of us­ing your mar­tial art in pub­lic, whether it’s to per­form a demon­stra­tion or to an­swer a friendly chal­lenge. Con­sider your­self fore­warned.

A few years ago, a fe­male MMA cham­pion was be­ing in­ter­viewed by a reporter for a sports net­work. By “reporter,” I mean one of those of­fi­cious me­dia types, hun­gry for at­ten­tion and de­ter­mined to be­have in any way nec­es­sary to make some ex­cit­ing view­ing. This par­tic­u­lar guy did some prob­a­bly fake “trash talk­ing” to the woman, telling her he didn’t think she had the power of a man and so on.

Again, this be­ing the me­dia, all the talk could have been scripted. One thing prob­a­bly wasn’t, how­ever. The woman per­formed a hip throw on the guy, drop­ping him like a wet sack — and word was that he sus­tained some bro­ken ribs.

I men­tion this as a way to bring up the sub­ject of demon­strat­ing a mar­tial art in pub­lic when un­trained par­tic­i­pants are in­volved. As I’ve noted be­fore, the ab­so­lute stu­pid­est risk you can take in one of these sit­u­a­tions is invit­ing a spec­ta­tor to “help” with your demon­stra­tion. Noth­ing good can come from this.

LET’S SAY you se­lect some­one from the crowd dur­ing your judo demon­stra­tion and give the per­son a quick les­son just to show on­look­ers how any of them can learn this art. The se­lectee then gets to throw you or one of your stu­dents.

At this point, there are two pos­si­ble out­comes. The vol­un­teer suc­cess­fully throws a mem­ber of your demon­stra­tion team, thus il­lus­trat­ing that your stu­dents are so in­ept that they can be over­come by a per­son who’s had only a few min­utes of in­struc­tion. Or the vol­un­teer tries to throw one of you and is in­jured in the process — which makes your art look like a ter­ri­bly dan­ger­ous pur­suit. How does ei­ther one make judo or your dojo look good?

THE SIT­U­A­TION be­comes more com­pli­cated when you’re put on the spot by an in­ter­viewer or by cir­cum­stances be­yond your im­me­di­ate con­trol. In 1962 a se­na­tor named Robert Kennedy vis­ited Ja­pan and watched a demon­stra­tion of aikido put on by Gozo Shioda, one of the se­nior ex­po­nents of the art at that time. Ac­counts dif­fer. Some say that Shioda in­vited one of the se­na­tor’s body­guards onto the mat, other sto­ries main­tain that the body­guard was skep­ti­cal of aikido and still an­other re­port has it that the se­na­tor him­self sug­gested the con­test.

No mat­ter the setup, it led to a tow­er­ing body­guard stand­ing there against Shioda, who was barely 5 feet tall. Shioda was fa­mous for his very phys­i­cal, very tough aikido. In a real fight, my money would have been on him. But this, of course, was not a real fight. It was a demon­stra­tion. An un­planned one. What was Shioda to do?

His so­lu­tion was an ex­cel­lent one. He kneeled on the mat and had the body­guard do the same. He then had the man take his wrist and try to move him. With pre­cise con­trol, Shioda moved so that the body­guard flopped for­ward onto the mat. Em­bar­rass­ing but not dan­ger­ous. Shioda re­peated it a few times, spilling the body­guard again and again. The se­na­tor and the crowd roared with laugh­ter. Shioda’s demon­stra­tion of ex­tri­cat­ing one­self from a po­ten­tially aw­ful sit­u­a­tion is the most im­pres­sive budo I ever saw him do.

IN THE LATE 1950S, a reporter trav­eled to Ja­pan to film a news­reel about aikido. His skep­ti­cal side­kick, out­fit­ted in train­ing clothes, faced Koichi To­hei, then the se­nior in­struc­tor at the Aikikai. This was to be a “match” of sorts. The side­kick tried to tackle the mas­ter. To­hei was in an even tougher spot than Shioda. He had to avoid be­ing pinned, avoid be­ing dragged down and avoid hurt­ing the un­trained man. At the same time, he couldn’t al­low his art to be dis­missed as phony or in­ad­e­quate. Ba­si­cally, what he did was dodge and spin away, stay­ing on his feet as he neu­tral­ized the at­tacks with­out hurt­ing the man.

Many years be­fore, by the way, a ninth-de­gree ju­doka named Kyuzo Mi­fune did ex­actly the same at a demon­stra­tion dur­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion, when a big of­fi­cer in the U.S. mil­i­tary asked for a chance to try to throw the mar­tial artist. Mi­fune, out­weighed by at least 100 pounds, pro­ceeded to elude at­tack af­ter at­tack, slip­ping away from each one and fi­nally smil­ing at the of­fi­cer, who col­lapsed to his knees af­ter his ef­forts. Then Mi­fune re­minded the man that he’d heeded his re­quest be­fore the fight be­gan: “Don’t hurt me.”

WE’VE COME a long way since those days. The mar­tial arts no longer are seen as ex­otic or mys­te­ri­ous. Skep­tics are much more likely to “see if that stuff re­ally works.” And news per­son­al­i­ties have be­come en­ter­tain­ers. Po­litely ask­ing ques­tions and lis­ten­ing to the an­swers is bor­ing com­pared to trash talk­ing for the sake of the au­di­ence. There’s an air of the­ater now that must be sat­is­fied.

That said, per­haps you should think about how you’d han­dle such a sit­u­a­tion. If your re­sponse would be to try to avoid en­ter­ing into cir­cum­stances that made that sit­u­a­tion a pos­si­bil­ity, I’d con­sider that a very good re­ply. It means you’re us­ing strat­egy in your ap­proach to your mar­tial art, which is vi­tal for un­der­stand­ing it.

Even so, these things hap­pen. It’s very dif­fi­cult to demon­strate that your art does, in­deed, work with­out in­jur­ing the in­sti­ga­tor. If you do that, you look like the bad guy, the bully who hurt an un­trained per­son just to show off or prove the ef­fec­tive­ness of his style. If you al­low him to nul­lify your ef­forts, your art looks weak.

That’s why this is a mo­ment for which you ought to be pre­pared. Get­ting caught in such a predica­ment is a sign that you must be more se­ri­ous in your train­ing. It is, how­ever, also a mo­ment when you must as­sess your pri­or­i­ties. What is most im­por­tant? Your im­age as a pow­er­ful, tal­ented mar­tial artist? Your pride in your art and its pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tion? Your con­cern for the safety of an un­trained per­son who is plac­ing him­self into an in­ter­ac­tion with you?

Not easy ques­tions to an­swer. Good ones, though, to be asked.

ABOUT THE AU­THOR: Dave Lowry has writ­ten Karate Way since 1986. For more in­for­ma­tion about his ar­ti­cles and books, visit blackbeltmag.com and type his name in the search box.

It’s very dif­fi­cult to demon­strate that your art does, in­deed, work with­out in­jur­ing the in­sti­ga­tor.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.