What about us?

For 1500 hundred or so years the martial arts community has excluded itself from "regular people" and made a show business  out of self-defense. I was just a little boy of 12 years old, enrolled in Karate, when I first remember looking through the martial arts magazine in the magazine isle at the store. I used to have to watch for the new issues in the grocery store while shopping with my mother. We didn't have money for things like this when I was a kid. So between fetching items for my mother and whatever else I needed to do, I would look feverishly through the pages of martial arts magazines. The images were alluring and hypnotizing. I wanted so bad to go to the Shaolin Temple, Japan or any mystic place for an experience that reveled a perfectly inspired movie script. I felt like there was this other world that I must get to in order to be this "thing" I had portrayed in my head. My young brain figured that the reason it was so exclusive was that only special ones make it. I liked this challenge and I needed this for my sense of self. I was not alone. Many young people flocked to the corner Dojo for this experience of being able to meditate on a lotus leaf. 

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Aside from the business of selling a false sense of security through a beggars humility and  attaching a 3 year contract to it, it was their come to the mountain image that made it an unapproachable resource for self-defense. I mean as a kid it has some allure, but as an adult or someone actually looking for some real content, not so much. While I learned much about focus and discipline, there was little practical value. There are still some today who seek to impart the version of themselves as "master", having some rare knowledge imparted to that person that only he or she can teach. And you if you are worthy enough (and a part of an elite wealthy percentage of people), you too can be a student and be presented with the knowledge of mortal combat, knowledge of the self and knowledge of the Universe. I spent many years in this type of undertaking. And like anything, you get out of it what you put into it. However, that method of training and imagery should have worn out it's usefulness about 20 years ago. While it is unfortunate that this facade still exists, it's not the only show business in town.

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I used to love and compete in MMA, or NHB as it was called in my day. At one point, it was the proving ground for much of what we thought and taught. Yet again, when we fast forward and take a step back we see the evolution of the Alpha  male / female allure. Again, this is an attractive picture to young athletes everywhere. Imagine being in the center of the ring with your hand raised and the belt put on. Your sure to be lifted on the shoulders of your hometown, all of your friends modestly tell others they know you personally and it becomes the perfect time to pick the best spouse ever. But only if your between the ages of 18 and 25, train 2 - 4 hours per day and have no income (you will surely have to quit your job and get sponsors just to eat). Now the average man who just wants to be able to protect himself and his family during a home invasion has to join a cage fighting gym!?! Competition is amazing and has some serious character building qualities: but you have a very small window in which to do this. This is why MMA gyms are full of 18 - 25 year olds that train up until marriage or children, whichever comes first. Then they leave with a great physical reserve and some basic skills but no real understanding of context for that skill set. Finally, if you are to compete, the show business tells you to hate the person your competing against. Its good for ticket sales!?!?

Creating an allure of such bad assery was necessary for the marketing of old business models for such a service as self-defense.  But the back-lash of it being so intimidating made it so unapproachable. There are also sub groups that have a military persona, as to separate themselves from martial arts while maintaining some tactical prowess for reality. The training in these groups contains a high rate of firearms training. They also learn a few good moves then just consistently beat the living shit out of each other. Some of these groups are legit! But most, not so much. A militia fight club looks pretty intimidating to most.

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Spending 4 - 8 years becoming proficient at an art, style or mental approach is not something people have time or interest for. We live in an app world, except it. The ones who need the tools and skills within the above mentioned don't want to be martial artists, instructors, Navy Seals, SWAT, kung fu masters etc. But the message presently being sent is meant to really make the instructor, style or system more exclusive than the needs of the interested client; driving the "good citizen", who needs it, away.

Whether or not you or I see it this way, that is the way the regular person sees it. I have to say that I have benefited from all of the above to a large degree. I have also been the person attempting to sell an image, style, system or myself and didn't really understand what it means to help that person who was walking through my door putting their trust in me . The show business has been about creating an illusion of extra ordinary accomplishments by those who chose the right school or system. We went along with it because we didn't know any better. I know the difference now. And so do you.

People don't have to travel to a far off land to get great content or skill, they don't have to be a superior athlete to defend their family and it's not important that they weren't apart of a Special operations unit in Iraq. The only real knowledge one needs is to know that their life is worth saving and have the willingness to fight for it.

Meet people where they are and give people what they need not what you need to give them. Be approachable and you will actually help people.

Michael VanBeek