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As an evolved animal, mankind has always fought to survive. However, in order for the difference between pure fighting and the art of fighting to become more pronounced, we should wait for the foundation of the Shaolin monastery in China in 495 AD.
Art Versus Sport
It is important to distinguish between Fighting Sports and Martial Arts, as today this distinction is unfortunately overlooked and many martial arts styles are often sold as art-dressed-up fighting sports.
Fight or Flight
Fighting has always been a need for humankind since the beginning of its evolution, and if it’s survival, the aspect we want to focus on, then it is best to focus on sports such as boxing, kick boxing, muay thai, valetudo, savate and many others.
What distinguishes the art of fighting from fighting?
Art of Fighting: the deeper nature of Martial Arts
No one underestimates the effectiveness of fighting sports. Elements such as respect for each other, inner calmness, suppression of impulsivity in favor of a deeper analysis of a dangerous situation (without underestimating the legal fall-outs from acting impulsively), combined with the technical precision of the gesture and the fluidity of the movements, all this creates the Art of Fighting.
These are concepts supposed to belong to a modern society, a society that is no longer primitive, since we are living in a world where centuries of wars should have convinced us not to use brutal force to survive, but to live on a daily basis with respect and analysis, without forgetting (as this is one of the main reasons why someone decides to start learning martial arts) there are inevitable events where we might be forced to use our hands. In such situations, and only in these occasions, survival instincts should prevail, without ever forgetting that we also have to become responsible for all of the consequences our actions will lead us to.
The situation today
It is a shame, in a modern society like ours, to give an athlete the ability to defend himself with a set of potentially deadly techniques, if he/she does not control his impulsiveness first. Secondly, the longing to prove to be superior to others, which is unfortunately an innate aspect of humankind as an animal, still make us an easy marionette for our uncontrolled mind to play with (in this respect, Buddhist and Daoist traditions assist in transcending the animal nature of man to become something better).
Showing off someone’s goals and martial victories seems nowadays to be the trend. In fact, as stated in the famous Chinese book “The Art of War”,
You can get one hundred fighters over one hundred battles you face, but the art of fighting without fighting is the supreme art of fighting.
Monk or Warrior? A quick look back to the Past
If we analyze where most of all Martial Arts were born (Shaolin Temple), we cannot neglect the inconsistency that sometimes surrounds the term “fighting monk”: because of this reason, it’s important to point out that
Not all monks had the strong need to fight and not all Fighting Monks loved meditating.
More simply, Fighting “monks” did not care about meditation and calm at all.
(Source: The Shaolin Monastery: History, religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts – Meir Shahar ISBN 978-0-8248-3110-3)
A Monk that fights? Hmm…
Let’s be clear. Have you ever wondered why Shaolin Monks fight..? And why are these monks dressed in orange, shaved, with the smile and composure of a priest, and are the strongest men in the world..? Basically, since the introduction of meditative practices in Shaolin Temple back in 500 AD, fighting monks were interested in meditation and Qi gong just for the physical and self-healing benefits that these practices could add to their training routine (Qi gong is the dynamic meditative practice aiming at self-healing, as well as making the body harder than steel. For this topic please see Qigong and Hard Qigong).
Merging fighting with Meditation
Few are the pure monks who embraced both philosophies: a constant and exhausting martial practice, a powerful mind totally connected to the body, made pure by total abstinence of attitude to show-off and fighting desire, except for purely defensive purposes, in full compliance with the purest Shaolin code of ethics.
Knocking someone out to Prove you are a Man
It is evident that certain “tools” should only be given to a person along with a course of studies based on both potentiality and risk analysis; something that today, in this more ego-based society, is literally disappearing. Sadly, it is not uncommon to find more and more people who embrace “martial arts” only for the purpose of overwhelming others in a tournament, boosted by media and money.
What would happen, under a legal point of view, if people training in this way reacted to real-life aggression with this instinct and lack of care…? What if our “mantis style fist” really made someone blind..?
Art, real Art, is the only way for a person to develop a strategy-based and swift-decisive attitude that is still able to keep in mind all possible scenarios (and risks).
Ideally, Martial Artists, regardless of style, should share a common goal where the main purpose should be up-lifting Mankind’s best qualities. An old proverb says
The man who has seen war, only talks about peace
It is hoped that Mankind will start considering Martial Arts as a last option for figuring problems out.