The Art of Not Fighting

By: Sensei Jacob Hennessey

"The only reason men fight is because they are insecure; one man needs to prove that he is better or stronger than another. The man who is secure within himself has no need to prove anything with force, so he can walk away from a fight with dignity and pride. He is the true martial artist – a man so strong inside that he has no need to demonstrate his power." Ed Parker

      The concept that this quote, pulled from Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams, presents is a hard one for those that are looking in on the martial arts from the outside to understand.  Many cannot imagine this being the case when the instructors are usually heard saying things along the lines of "if he doesn’t let go hit him for real and he will"  when talking to a pair working on grab defenses.  Or when advanced classes spend an hour learning different ways to kill their attacker with the attacker's own knife.  So how does something that is so violent on the face of it turn into a deterrent from fighting? The quote to the left continues below

"The point of achieving proficiency in any martial art is to be able to walk away from a fight rather than to win it. But you will walk with shoulders erect, pride in you bearing, knowing inside what the outcome of the battle would have been had you wished to precipitate it. And this attitude of confidence will be communicated to your antagonist, who will realize that he narrowly escaped defeat" Ed Parker

      This second part hints at the mindset of someone as they walk away from a fight and what brought them to a point that allowed them to do so.  When you spend years, decades training to respond to a fight situation you become very aware of your abilities.  The need to test yourself against others lessens over time.  When this happens you start to question the motives driving the attacker and weigh the threat to your life, allowing you to more easily choose a response that equals the situation.  If walking away will end the conflict then you should walk away though this is not always easy.

     In the first part of this quote Parker says "a man so strong inside he has no need to demonstrate power".  His use of the word "strong" is important because many consider backing down from a fight to show weakness but in fact, it takes courage when done for the right reasons.

      When I started training in the year 2000 my teacher, Shihan George Thibault, told me something that I have been trying to understand since "As a white belt you work towards a black belt and as a black belt you work back to white".  This has a literal translation because as the layers of your black belt are worn away it turns white again, but there are far more layers to this thought.  In the confines of this article, I believe it suggests that one must remain humble enough to appear week no matter how strong you actually are. 

Martial Arts is not about fighting, it's about building character.

- Bo Bennett

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