Archive for violence

A Humbled Pos(t)er

Posted in Cults, Fighting, martial arts, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , on August 30, 2009 by wizardsmoke

As a martial artist, I’m nothing special (err… probably not as a wizard either, come to think of it). This is something I think about in a sober frame of mind. I consciously think of my limitations — not obsessively, as some self-esteem issue, but so that I am aware of what I am capable of and where I can develop and grow as a person. This thought process is why I like effective self-deprecating humor because, when done effectively, it actually reveals the person’s self-awareness and comfort within that awareness. A person aware of — and comfortable with, their own limitations is socially attractive.

Now, in society, a lot of people think martial arts means something other than it does. To describe them objectively, martial arts are mostly an aerobic method of maximizing body efficiency in movement, balance and physical contact (not violence). This kind of training leaves out a lot of emotional, environmental and sociological variables that are involved in real conflict and violence. Controlled sparring, even at fairly high levels of physical contact and danger of injury, is still radically different than sudden violence in any other situation. Most of us should be wise to this by now; it’s Animal MacYoung 101!

To use an analogy: sparring is like jamming on guitar with your friend, whereas real conflict/combat is playing a live concert. You can certainly get really good at jamming with your friend and gain high levels of ability, but when playing a concert there are so many variables that could mess up your show and mess with your confidence and performance: the electronic equipment, the crowd, the venue, the way your bandmates perform, your physical or mental health, your actual preparedness with the material being performed, and so on. And because of all those variables, each concert is different in it’s own way. The stuff you practiced with your friend is only a sized portion of the concert, but it is the part over which you have the most immediate or consistent control.

When around people who are more learned on a conversational subject, it is courteous to defer a temporary conversational authority to that person. But in certain situations, such as people who are irresponsibly physically violent or sexually manipulative, it’s better to abandon the situation or confront it. These are people who are seeking to establish complete control over the situation at hand — it’s a bullying control mechanism.

I know people who are violent criminals who, out of their own insecurities, need to blatantly establish their imposing physical dominance over every social environment they are in. They will not become involved in a social environment unless they feel they are the supreme physical dominant (not to mention such people feel it necessary to receive a vocal affirmation from others). These people are dangerous, because inevitably their irresponsibility and narcissism will lead to a situation in which their fragile psychological needs will engage in violent activity and override the group’s safety. For instance, such a person would be an ineffective bodyguard or soldier because their personal issues mean they would engage in violence at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons.

One important thing to learn in life is humility. Religions and martial arts groups parrot on about how important humility is, but don’t give a full explanation of the subject, while also ironically expecting an inappropriate amount of subservience from the individual. Humility is simply being subservient to those who deserve your respect and walking away from those who do not (this in lieu of confrontation). Subservience is feigning much personal responsibility, whereas arrogance often creates the exact kind of violent criminal I mention above. This approach includes dealing with your own teacher(s) sometimes. If someone insists on being “right” or dominant in a situation, you have three choices: you walk away, you confront them, or you submit to their authority. Teachers are certainly to be socially deferred to within the realm of their expertise, but as soon as someone seeks to dominate your position outside of the area you have agreed to allow them authority — it’s time to confront it or walk away.

Like a monkfish out of water…

Posted in Asceticism, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Reality Bites, Relationships, Religion, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2008 by wizardsmoke

It is interesting how monks, nuns, and those who take religious vows learn to defend themselves from social harms and ills. And those vows to abstain from drugs, sex, violence, harmful speech and behavior are all the more possible because of a secluded monastic environment. But the monastic environment is not meant just to shelter the religious from the world, but to create a safe environment in which they can build a base of profound mental awareness. The ordained may not necessarily ever stop practicing or living in their ordained community, just as any martial artist (let’s say anyone who follows the fabled-to-exist practices of budo, chivalry, gongfu, etc.) does not stop practicing or teaching at their school despite their adept level of ability. Furthermore, religious monastics and martial artists  are both ideally practicing to ward off negative elements in their surroundings.

Wait, are they both? The martial artist parallel stops short because of the outcomes of these different methods of practice. An honest religious disciple is learning to see troublesome elements in the mind before they arise, and easily avoids these things. A martial artist is usually learning to sense violence before it appears in their surroundings. On the one hand, a good monk is exempt from pernicious social atmospheres which may result in lust, greed, crime, violence, etc. and intuitively learns how gauge these things. A martial artist might not learn to perceive these elements, but is better poised to deal with violent confrontation should it happen (which is almost always due to stupid social conflicts, but let’s say we’re talking about horror-story confrontations with occasional, random, mean-spirited groups of thugs, Clockwork Orange-style, or even complete psychopathic nutcases). Here the combat training — in a “do-or-die” scenario with no other choice but to fight — becomes useful.

But what has always bothered me about a number of fighters and martial artists is a subtly angry disposition. I’ve met people in this line of practice who are virulently aggressive people with dysfunctional social problems. They’re not the majority of the people involved (a lot of the angry violent types end up in questionable lines of work anyway), but martial arts rarely has anything to curb a penchant for anger — except to let the person go berserk on another person. And even if a martial arts practice does succeed in warding off negative elements, does it have to be done through the practice of violence (even if in a controlled environment)?

So I admire this about religious vows: even if the ordained do not keep to such precepts or vows, the idea of giving up anger, greed, lust — this is very impressive and admirable to me. Because a number of people who take these vows succeed in keeping them. I know from experience that during the periods one gives up these things, so many formerly conflicting aspects in one’s environment, social sphere and daily life just float on by without causing any mental disturbance.

But talk is cheap, and here I am hanging out with the angry people.

Rungs of Violence

Posted in Buddhism, Cults, Fighting, martial arts, Reality Bites, Uncategorized, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I’ve noticed that a lot of young men waste their time trying to be tough. Yet obsession with fighting and toughness and all that junk is actually holding you back from moving up (or surviving) in modern society. All the time spent learning to fight, all the nightly training — how much better would it be to simply learn some lucrative skill? A rhetorical question, because it would be much better.

Yet those folks who are not inherently aggressive psycho assholes, how could they possibly expect to climb over the mountain of bodies that leads to the ivory tower of success? No, it takes an aggressive character to do that. So those of us who are naturally less aggressive might need some direct exposure violence in order to co-exist with the turbulence caused by ambitious egos. Or to meet our social needs.

At our (MA) school, the sparring situation is a purposefully intense experience. We do a month or so every year of extremely intense, full-contact fighting. To some degree, the most violence me and my classmates will ever experience happens in that class. And compared to other schools we’ve seen or invited to train with us, our training is pretty rough. So it makes me think that this isn’t even just training for a violent confrontation, but that our training itself is a violent confrontation. It isn’t training for the real thing, but it actually is the real thing.* And while that seems insane initially, like we’re just some stupid fight club (and maybe we are!), that’s how all skills should be practiced.

With practicing this stuff, I’ve come to be somewhat skeptical of romantic ideas about martial enlightenment, Budo and so forth. The whole imagery of the valiant samurai and so forth — it’s mostly a romantic fantasy. It’s like talking about policemen or military men romantically. They’re just doing their job and a lot of the time it sucks and they’re just as weak and easily corrupted as any other group of humans. While some people may happen to become “enlightened” by martial arts practice, the martial arts are so easily and constantly perverted by aggressive macho nonsense. You could even say that’s what has propagated the arts. And so it makes me wonder whether I’m not just another nutcase who secretly loves the lifestyle.


* Yes, I know all about how martial arts don’t prepare you for the street and how it’s a foolish mistake to think the dojo/dojang/daoshang is at all like a real-life confrontation. I’m only illustrating that we take training seriously.

Summer Grass

Posted in Asceticism, Beauty, Buddhism, death, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Poetry, Reality Bites, Religion, The Arts, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2008 by wizardsmoke

A good Basho poem, one which Hatsumi is prone to quote (or have translated), goes:

The summer’s grass
all that’s left
of the warriors’ dreams

Which I kind of like. ‘Coz so many people are obsessed with violence and combat to the extent that it holds them back from upward social mobility. And then some people are so obsessed with power that they forget about the world around them. Strange that it is so hard to actually live in the world as it is, even though that’s all we can do.

Like the good quote on Whiskey River the other day:

In the tea ceremony, the expression “once in a lifetime, this one encounter” is often used. The usual way this is interpreted is “a one-and-only encounter.” In Zen, though, we interpret this expression in the following way: In the course of our lifetime, there is one person we must meet. No matter through which grasslands we may walk or which mountains we may climb, we must meet this person. This person is in this world. Who is this person? It is the true self. You must meet the true self. As long as you don’t, it will not be possible to be truly satisfied in the depths of your heart. You will never lose the sense that something is lacking. Nor will you be able to clarify the way things are.

This is the objective of life as well as of the teaching of Buddhism – to meet yourself. –Sekkei Harada

But you know… the quote would have really blown my mind had one line been slightly different: “This person is this world.”

(Twitter Smoke?)

Posted in death, love, Philosophy, sex, sex and violence, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Time for a (tiny!) new post. Which means WS is going to write about one of two things:

  1. Love (sex)
  2. Death (violence)

Or maybe both. Because all existence is an obsessive dance with this pair. They’re the fundamental principles upon which all drama, all stories, all existence is based. It’s not a huge shocker, so I don’t think it’s worth consciously thinking about or worrying about too much. But it is certainly interesting. How perverse that I would find these concepts almost more alluring than the subjects they point to, eh?

Yeah, sometimes I worry I’ll get to the point where I find sex and violence so boring that I’ll simply forget to exist.

House of pain

Posted in Beauty, Buddhism, death, Doom and Evil, Fighting, Happiness, Reality Bites, sex, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , on August 16, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I actually find the writing aspect of this whole “blog” thing to be monotonous and unsuccessful. No matter how fast I write, it’s never fast enough. Just like everything else, it in itself can’t actually satisfy me or communicate anything properly. I always want more, more, more! ‘Spose I’m just another human who wants to bite off more than he can chew. But maybe that’s the wrong phrasing, as even eating is such a dreadful bore!

Yeah, even eating occurs to me as another thing I just have to do which I’d rather not do (almost all the way up there with excreting waste). Like everything else, it seems really wonderful at first (consuming the food, when you’re hungry) but then becomes uninteresting, and even painful, as you continue doing it. How depressing that is! It reminds me that all things are like that: sex, violence, eating, excreting, using ‘n abusing, music, art, movies, vacations, work, friends, countries, money, blogs, sleep, reading, etcetera ad infinitum. They’re all satisfying, temporarily, only in contrast to these other things that also eventually become tiresome chores.

But surely we all know why all the things we do are unsatisfying. It’s because they’re all conditioned phenomena. They’re all doomed to die and fail. Isn’t death just total failure? Totally unimaginative (in)activity? Fortunately it makes life look sorta beautiful, because if animals just walked around and shat everywhere and ate food and fought amongst themselves for all eternity, this would be a purely hellish existence. At certain times, death is a blessing.

It seems like everything is manifestation of desire — of violence. That epic drive to soar: that’s violence. It’s in each and every one of us. Not that the desire itself is inherently bad, but typically we point our desire at a stupid target that doesn’t yield permanent results. And to get the results of your desire, you have to make sacrifices. Sacrificing good things to get a stupid desire (like a lousy spouse, a high-paying job, a higher position in the cult) is really just sad — IMHO, LOL!

The quest(ion) then, is this: can the “epic drive”, the fundamental “violent desire” that causes the universe to exist via some sort of sexual and explosive penetration — can this drive be used to cut the fabric itself? And if it can, what the hell was the point of creating the fabric in the first place? Probably no real reason, since everything that exists is arguing (aggressively) for its own existence. Just more explosive violence.

I think when you realize this conundrum, you understand the whole “samsara is actually nirvana” thing they always chant in describing the Buddha’s enlightenment.

DIY, Soldier!

Posted in Doom and Evil, Fighting, martial arts, society, Stayin' Alive, Technology with tags , , , , on August 10, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Life in many urban places is too cloistered, bureaucratic, unimaginative and boring these days. And I would argue that in a lot of industrialized regions, there really isn’t that much violence for the population size. But single acts of violence are so publicized and subject to so much fear-mongering that people become intensely affected by them. The other thing is, the good life becomes boring because it lacks drama. I think people are naturally geared towards creating drama for themselves.

Awhile back a sword ban proposal was introduced in UK Parliament, with the intentions of banning the trade, import, and use of real swords in the region. I can think of no other reason to do this except fear of sword violence or youth violence. What’s weird is that I can’t tell if modern industrialized life is better or worse for the lack of violence in it. I mean, violence is bad, but so much traditional culture has deteriorated as industrialized countries introduce more socialized measures and technologically impressive standards of living. As a result, traditional culture has become pretty expensive to uphold. Modern culture has become almost exclusively technological progress, the third phase of Neil Postman’s technological theory.

In general, nobody really knows how to use swords anymore. Some martial artists, historians, military men and sportsmen do, but that’s about it. Isn’t it strange that anyone would want to ban swords when nobody knows how to use them? Or maybe that’s the typical reactionary fear of things one does not understand? I don’t think of myself as a conservative zealot who wants guns and firepower to protect me from the government or whosits. But it’s a weird situation in some places: weapons only exist illegally, so citizens do not carry weapons, but many criminals do. And in some places, weapons are legal so everyone has weapons. It seems like no matter the legislation, weapons just won’t disappear.

The funny thing is, a lot of pro-gun people, for instance those USA citizens who argue for “the right to bear arms”, argue for a kind of anarchistic, Do-It-Yourself, frontiersman existence. Isn’t that quoted line from the USA Bill of Rights a colonial decree? It is, and the attitude hasn’t changed: people who want to own guns for purposes of deterrence (and other personal reasons) are arguing for a way of life that is libertarian and independent from any external protective organization.

Really, I think violence is just more common in harsher economic circumstances. But what is the best course of legislative action? In some ways, when we rely on the government to protect us, they take one step closer towards being the “Big Brother” of Orwellian legend. I see the danger there, but what if a lot of us can’t adequately defend ourselves? Is it just a cruel predatory world out there?

Delete Yourself (Part I)

Posted in death, Fighting, History, love, martial arts, Philosophy, sex, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , , , on March 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I’m prone to write about violence and sex, and what a love/hate relationship humanity has with these topics. Without them, existence seems boring, with them it seems painful. As I said before, there’s no sexual desire without violence. It’s why they’re paired. Ah, so maybe you can tell what kind of a person an individual is when they refuse to give up sexual desire! Or what kind of contribution to existence they’re making. Is there no pleasure without pain? Just that question is painful, and you can’t solve it by asking it.

Even in modern times, people treasure good storytelling. People desire some kind of tragedy or drama in their lives, as long as it doesn’t get too close or serious. If it does affect them too deeply, then they might go on to be normal people, if they don’t have new mental problems, who lead boring lives. It works kind of like that old samurai parable about enlightenment: first the samurai saw a mountain and it appeared to him that there was a mountain. Then later there was no mountain, but then after enlightenment it was a mountain again.

Since we started talking about samurai, why not continue? In traditional Japanese society, there are Confucian ties that create obligations to one’s superior. Back in the day, the highest commitment of the old warrior class was to dedicate one’s utter being to one’s lord. And any disgrace of oneself or one’s lord usually ended in seppuku, whether voluntarily or by lawful decree. Like everything political, it quickly became a way to humiliate subordinates or blackmail them, as portrayed in the movie Hara Kiri with Tatsuya Nakadai. Similarly, the chilling lead character of the Lone Wolf and Cub franchise, Ogami Itto, was supposed to have the position of Royal Executioner. In other words, he was the “second” or assistant to all subordinates and vassals of the Shogun ordered to commit seppuku by decree.

My point is that seppuku is pretty dramatic. But it had a purpose and perhaps was a more fundamental level of old romantic, violent idealism. It certainly created contemplative circumstances for the samurai class. The way a person died was a total indication of their character (they also wrote “death poems”) and so it was incredibly shameful to be afraid to commit seppuku. “To live to die, or as if already dead.” Yeah, that’s how they had to think of it. Sure, it sounds grotesque and exotically abstract to westerners or foreign cultures (not to mention almost every major/organized religion in the world considers suicide to be sinful) but maybe that’s due in part to the inherent fear of death most people have. The role of seppuku was to eliminate that fear of death, while simultaneously imbuing one’s life with a sense of sincere dedication, resulting from awareness of one’s fleeting existence.

Seppuku as a custom seems to project into real life experience the intellectual romantic sentiments people like to entertain through sex or stories or violence. It just takes that romance to an extreme, which most people are not ready to accept sincerely. Fair enough, I guess. I’m glad I don’t live in a society where people have to commit seppuku, but we have other stupid modern obligations which we think are totally reasonable.

Interestingly enough, back before the Japanese warrior class was allowed to own land or have any influence in politics, chivalrous behavior may have been more common, or it existed in a way that was not so blindly romantic. Without any opportunity for advancement or mobility within society, warriors were literally born to serve. The really early accounts of samurai battles started not so much as wars, but simply formal skirmishes — games to the death. The opposing sides would line up and square off two at a time, in duels, until one side was vanquished. Total formality. It brings to mind the Spartan and Olympic legacies of Ancient Greece, or the Aztec (or was that Mayan?) basketball games where the winners were sacrificed to the gods.

Strange that people today simultaneously romanticize about violence and also decry it. Isn’t the scariest part about old societies the way they treated death? How could everything be a manifestation of pure love if people actually seem to look forward to violent deaths? But I guess when one doesn’t fear death and also wants a virtuous one, it totally destroys the lazy, complicated mental handicaps so many suffer from.

I’ll write more about this tomorrow, as I am utterly exhausted but have more to say on this theme.

Identity’s Revenge!

Posted in Fighting, martial arts, Relationships, society, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Growing up in a dysfunctional family, I thought all the time about how my life came into existence. Just whose fault was it that my life sucked so bad, that I was so depressed? As you’d imagine, I didn’t really get to the bottom of any of it, but I certainly got pretty frustrated. One thing I did learn is that I hate violent or angry arguments, and I am pretty good at spotting where they begin to occur. I absolutely will not tolerate relationships where those kinds of things appear at all frequently. Not that anybody should, it’s just unhealthy. But, I can’t say that my siblings all learned the same lessons from our dysfunctional youth as I did.

The outcome of explosive arguments and confrontations are a bit like the outcome of revenge. The whole ordeal comes from the desire of one individual to make the other see things their way. Revenge is some desire to create equality of experiences between two parties, of which one feels unjustly wronged. The reason it is futile is simply because we have no ability to perceive the experiences of another. And the more one cares about the perceptions and experiences of another, the more unbalanced and unhappy one becomes.

Revenge works like this. Have you ever gone searching desperately for one thing, or one person? It is miserable and pathetic. While searching for one thing around you, you completely neglect the other things that are going on at the same time. Have you ever had a crush on someone for a while and then neglected the affections of someone else close to you? People want to make the object of revenge see how much pain they have felt or how much pain they have caused their victims. But this is something subjective. You can make them hate you the way you hate them, but this really doesn’t solve any of your problems. It actually makes them worse. If someone is legitimately sorry for something they have done, what can you do about it? Is the situation resolved?

I concluded at one point from my experiences in life that, relationships are not painful if one does not get involved in them. Any decent martial arts teacher will tell you not to get involved in a fight if at all possible. All of samsara, or existence, is like this. It’s something we’ve decided to get involved in, somehow. Our relationships with people are so painful because we identify with them, we get involved in them. When someone we are not involved with passes away, we’re not emotionally effected in a direct manner. We do not identify with them. It seems to me that everything we are attached to is something we identify with.

The worst part about revenge or arguments or anything of this ilk, is that we know we’re not supposed to let ourselves get carried away with them. Revenge is a bad idea, but the emotions involved are so palpable and strong. And doesn’t giving up on revenge make us a weak person? I don’t know, there’s a time and place for everything. But arguments and actions should only happen naturally. In other words, it is better not to run after them or attempt to create those circumstances, much as with romance or anything else.

Sexy Culture

Posted in Reality Bites, Religion, The Arts, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , on February 28, 2008 by wizardsmoke

To see what a culture venerates, one must look to their art. The objects of veneration are the first subjects to stir artistic expression.

The real moral dilemma with modern, Americanized society is the great emphasis it places upon sex and violence. People tend to forget that ages in which sex and violence have been glorified were in fact very dark ones. Historical records of events are never as clear, life is cheaper and we are left with little to work with regarding the time period. I do not think that sex and violence are inherently good or bad, but the concentration on them as objects of worship is not a healthy practice. Many in modern society do not follow such an approach and sneer at religious dogma, as if dogma and the people manipulating it were at all related.

Over-exposure to sexual and violent imagery leads to a desensitization of strong emotions and mental states; one’s self-control is damaged and the perpetual hunger for these modes of thought has been expanded and deepened.

People should remember – the reason religion was able to manipulate so many people was because people had so much blind faith in its established body. Likewise, with science or modern medicine, a large movement of blind faith will erode the quality and sincerity of its leadership. When people kill in the name of God, or on some crusade, it is really just missing the point.

I also think the “flying spaghetti monster” issue (raised by “bright” men like Richie Dawkins) does not understand religious philosophy or beliefs in any thing other than a purely juvenile capacity. God is a perceptual experience that transcends common sensory awareness or emotional states. When people kill in the name of God, or curse God, or say “I’m God” it demonstrates the same level of foolishness as fundamentalist zealots. So! I have to congratulate Mr. D for debunking religious belief using critical thinking that’s on the level of a middle-schooler.

God doesn’t really translate into english language appropriately. Since the goal of western religious practice is to become one with God, it doesn’t make any sense at all to propose God as some sort of figure with a concrete identity. People who treat God as a distinct identity are far too fascinated with distinctions between the self and others or the environment. This goes for religious and non-religious folks. An awareness of God leads one to recognize the lack of permanent self in everything and so breaks down the barriers of clinging to God as a single identifiable thing. When people disagree with this it is because they haven’t understood this for themselves. Or maybe I’m just making it up as I go along — muahahaha….

People seem to think the holy life and the holy experience are dressed up fantasies from a long time ago. It seems pretty reasonable and smart to investigate spiritual beliefs at this point in time, where it is the only logical thing to do. You can have as much sex and violence as you want, but it never ends and your hunger grows as you lose yourself in a constant feeling of dissatisfaction. So what else is there? When you try to validate your sense pleasures as being natural or reasonable or healthy, it is just the sense pleasure arguing for its own existence in your mind. sometimes you can use these things to get the right things accomplished, but this rarely happens.

There’s an old joke that the best government is a dictatorship, but the problem is that no one has gotten it right. I think it’s related to this post, but I don’t really remember how.