I have a list of rules that has come down through a few people and I heard of it first in 1999 from Marc MacYoung and Mushtaq Ali Shah. At the time it was referred to as the Rules of Gerakan Suci Pencak Silat. It is great, and I refer to it often in class. For this post, I want to look at Rule #16. It reads as follows and has commentary (in italics) by Mushtaq.
I am so dangerous I can afford to be polite, reasonable, and mellow.
Only the weak, insecure, and those who live in fear need to woof. Always treat others with respect, strive to understand all points of view, and never let yourself be controlled by negative emotions.
I thought of this rule outside of class during a conversation about teaching and training the martial arts. The subject came up that the public persona of a martial artist can be that of a thug (their word) or a person looking to prove themselves. The person who brought this up had studied an art in college and was saying how the majority of his classmates became more gentile over time and sought resolution over aggression. They did, however, have the ability and willingness to use what they knew should they need to. That being said, this doesn’t mean there aren’t people with Cobra Kai attitudes out there, they just don’t come from my school.
Because of the nature of what we do, I took away a lesson long ago from Marc “Animal” MacYoung about injecting humor into the lesson to keep things from getting to that point where aggression is the overruling emotion. One other lesson about humor I learned along the way is that humor helps the brain retain more information because you relax and things happen more easily without the tensions of various stresses. Ultimately, we want to enjoy and have fun with what we do, so we have a good time while training with the understanding that we are doing something Rory Miller refers to as the practice of “creating cripples and corpses.” Dire, I know.
The further down the road of studying the martial arts you go, the more you come to understand Rule #16 and see that it is not a statement of contempt but of compassion.