The following article is lightly edited from a monolog I had with a friend online. He related to me a story about a student who disrespected his master and hurt his feelings. Because the person he hurt is also a personal friend of mine, we began talking about martial arts and society.
I eventually became passionate enough to just talk, not realising that all he was doing was listening. Since my words came out straight from my heart (meaning, spur of the moment), it is important for me to know that I am not mistaken in any of what I said. I share here my comments to him with all of you. Feel free to share your own opinions, or discuss my own.
A martial art is born out of necessity – survival – but later evolves into a social creature, and being a social creature, community comes first. The many over the individual. But the community has a responsibility to protect the individual.
So, in essence, both exist at the same time, protecting each other. This is what Allah’s Messenger Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) meant when he said that a community is like a ship. When you find that one of you is boring a hole into the hull – and it's obviously self desctructive – the community has to stop him.
But this isn't one way. It’s a two-way street. He also said that when one of the community makes a promise (for good) it is incumbent upon the whole community to help fulfill that promise. The community is as an organism. If you pinch the left thigh, the right thigh will feel it.
When you hurt someone, you are only hurting yourself.
Anyone who says that martial arts exists in a social vacuum needs a wake up call. When martial arts graduated from personal survival to a social activity it became the tools used to protect that community.
Thus, the power of martial arts is not in not getting struck by the enemy. It is in the knowledge that we substitute ourselves to be struck to protect those weaker than us. We sacrifice ourselves as Muslims, believers, soldiers, fathers and sons to ensure that whatever violence we commit, we did not inspire, but we reacted to defend against.
Let us be the objects of violence, rather than our wives and children. Thus, a protected community is a prosperous one. Without this in the mind of every Muslim, how can we safely and confidently worship Allah? When we are tried severely with being afraid of Allah's own creations?
No, martial arts don’t build communities but it helps protect those communities that build itself. In essence, it disciplines, dictates and drives our thoughts and actions to become those in service of the greater good. Not everyone on earth is cut out to be a martial artist, either in name, in body or in spirit. It is only those who have been given the power of protection or those who take in on themselves that deserve to.
Ours is not a community of war. It is a community of peace. But we are the skin that protects the organism that the Prophet calls the Ummah. You (and hopefully me) and everyone who has decided to learn this knowledge have a responsibility not to simply practise and get better in our own gyms and run seminars and such. But to become beacons to pass on this light to those who are weak to strengthen themselves, to protect themselves when we can’t against those who would influence our thoughts, our actions and our beliefs.
If someone ever puts down 'martial art' as a 'hobby' or 'pastime', I would say, there goes their whole studies down the drain. Do you call your wife a 'playmate'? You degrade her that way. Do you call your sword a toy?
If you deem your art a hobby, it will not be there to help you when you need it the most, because the knowledge will deem you a pastime of itself.
If you're serious about studying the martial arts, then you have to be serious about passing it on and serious about protecting the community from itself.