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Does Martial Arts Promote Violence?

A great concern for a lot of parents is whether or not putting their child in martial arts will turn them into violent monsters, or give those already violent monsters some serious ammo for indiscriminate use. My parents were a part of the skeptical party and it took lots 7.62×39 surplus ammo and lots of begging, pleading, and personal testimony from other parents to convince them that putting me in martial arts could be an uplifting, positive influence in my life.

As to whether or not martial arts training does tend to lean one towards violence I think a lot of this depends on the attitude of the martial arts school itself towards when and where to use what is being taught. Traditionally, martial arts as far as I’ve seen has put a strong emphasis on some sort of code of ethics. When I grew up training in Shotokan Karate we would recite this code at the end of every class, reminding ourselves that what we learned was not to be used carelessly on the streets.

However, as in The Karate Kid, for every few schools ran by Mr. Miyagis there will spring up that one Cobra Kai school, where competition stands at the center of its value totem pole. Unfortunately, with the rising popularity of MMA I think those types of schools are becoming slightly more prominent. I say slightly, though, because from my own experience it still seems that most MMA schools are ran by people who know how to separate sport from just being an all-around bully and they will hold their students accountable for anything they do that could have an impact on the school’s reputation.

But what about the training itself? How does that effect a trainee’s mindset? Does practicing incapacitating techniques on a partner for hours every week cause one to start coloring their world in thoughts of violence? Or is it possible that it can have the opposite effect? In my experience there usually is an initial feeling of wanting to try out one’s new skills in a real world situation. But I believe this is a result of a new-found sense of self-confidence mixed with an immaturity in self-discipline.

As students continue their training the trend seems to run towards the development of an inner strength and self-confidence that brings with it a more relaxed, calm nature where one’s defensive side can be let down. Many people are prone to fight because they fear letting their defenses down. But as one becomes confident in their ability to handle themselves in a fight they are more capable of choosing the higher road of resolving conflicts without fighting. There is a saying to the effect that only he who can wield the sword can truly choose peace.

Also, life is stressful. Many of us know the consequences of pent up stress–it can find its way out in ugly ways that may lead to you sleeping on the couch. Exercise, and especially exercise that allows you to let out some of that aggression, can be just what one needs to “cool the boiling pot” so to speak.