I was walking to the local supermarket to get Gatorade because my right kidney has bee hurting and I just learned that Prilosec is only supposed to be taken for two weeks and I’ve been taking it for years. So I thought I would get some electrolytes in me and cut down on the tea and then start drinking water and maybe stay alive for another decade. And then I had the interaction with the martial arts girl.
In the same shopping center as the supermarket is a martial arts “academy.” I see all the little tykes in there doing their moves. They are kind of cute in their ways. But there are also olden children. And the girl was one of them. She was dressed up in her white fighting uniform with her big bag and she intimidated me out of her way, even though (1) I had right of way and (2) I am an old man.
This is not totally unusual for me. My life in public is very much one of trying to not be seen. And I generally find young people terrifying, but only because they are awful. But the encounter crystallized a question that had been vague in my mind for a long time: why would parents have their young children study martial arts?
I understand why people make their kids learn musical instruments. They do it because music is great. Learning an instrument provides the child with a lifetime of greater enjoyment of music. But on a more fundamental level, it allows them to play music: alone, with friends, in a band or orchestra. Are the parents who take their kids of martial arts classes expecting that their children will get into fights? Are they assuming that their kids will have to physically protect themselves later in life?
Now I know: all that martial arts stuff is tied into lots of ideas about honor and respect. I think that’s just compensating. For one thing, it’s never struck me as anything but affectation. But in all my years studying music very seriously, I never had an instructor give me a lesson about respect and the proper use of what I was learning. That’s because what I was learning did not involve breaking someone else’s nose.
The Paranoia of Martial Arts
We in the modern world get such a distorted view of the world because of the news. It is never reported that all the children from the local grammar school all got home safe and sound. So we end up with this skewed impression that the world is a very dangerous place. And when that leads to things like kids wearing bicycle helmets, that’s great. But I really do think that these parents are taking their kids to martial arts classes out of the same fear.
I understand that there are bullies out in the world. But martial arts classes are not the answer — they are the problem. Because if people think that it will just be the bullied who get this training, they are sadly mistaken. In fact, I suspect that the testosterone fueled environment of the martial arts class only encourages it. I think these parents are being shortsighted. And it’s ruining our civilization.