Thursday, June 4, 2015

Philosophy Thursday: On Truth

Note: I was going through some old files and stumbled on to this essay I wrote in 2010. Oddly, I don't actually recall writing it, nor am I a sure why I wrote it in the first place. I think it was in response to someone who asked me about my view on the idea of "truth." Or maybe not. Either way, it remains an accurate reflection of my thinking.

It was an almost normal photograph of an almost normal little girl. Two things make it abnormal. One was the black bar superimposed across her eyes to hide her identity. The other was her right arm, which ended at her elbow. I was a child when I saw the photograph, probably only a bit older than the girl herself, who was five. It was in one of my mother's medical books. She was attending nursing school at the time, and there were journals and textbooks scattered throughout the house. I often looked through them, amazed by the pictures of skeletons and nervous systems and patients with weird maladies. My mom didn't care, as she was pretty progressive and didn't believe in hiding anything from me. When I stumbled onto the photo of the anonymous, one-armed little girl, I asked what had happened to her. Taking the book from me so she could read the text I was too young to read myself, my mother hesitated a moment before answering. "The little girl was told to keep out of the peanut butter. When she didn't listen, her father put her arm in a vice and sawed it off." Some people have all sorts of moral truths: taxation is theft; abortion is murder; don't mix meat and dairy; and so on. Not me. Most of mine are pretty basic. Perhaps the most basic comes from viewing that awful photo years ago: Do not be cruel to the weak.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Respect, Open-Mindedness, and Martial Arts Dilettantism

In many ways, this is a great time to be a student of the martial arts. Thanks to Bruce Lee, the UFC, and the tough guys in the bad parts of Honolulu who melded several traditional styles into Kajukenbo, the idea of crosstraining and experimenting with different arts is usually acceptable if not encouraged. This more tolerant approach to martial dilettantism allows individuals to become more well-rounded as they explore the rich world of the fighting arts.

Of course, there can be problems as well. Some students can become plagued with a sort of martial attention deficit disorder, flitting from one art to another without really taking the time to learn anything.

Then there is the issue of respect. A little knowledge—or even a lot—can be a dangerous thing, and can lead to arrogance and closed-mindedness.

Several years ago, there was a young, douchey dude visiting Hawaii who decided to try out one of Burton Richardson's Kali classes.  Before class, I heard him talking to his girlfriend, telling her he had never practiced Kali before but he had participated in some amateur cage fights, so stickfighting should be "no problem."

Watch your head!
That bothered me. Douchey Dude's comments were arrogant and disrespectful to Burton, everyone in class, and the Filipino martial arts in general. I looked forward to sparring with him.

The end of class came and we all put on our helmets and gloves and took out the soft sticks. I don't make it a habit of going hard when sparring with newbies. With Douchey Dude, I made an exception. For better or for worse, I wanted to teach him a lesson regarding the reality of stickfighting. I sought him out as a sparring partner, and made sure to hit him on the head really hard over and over and over again. As someone said to me afterwards, "You lit him up!"

Afterwards, Douchey Dude came over to me. "Man, you kicked my ass!," he said. "You just kept hitting me on the head!" I asked what he thought of Kali. He replied that it was way harder than he expected. We shook hands and parted on good terms.