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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shadows and Demons

Boris over at Squat RX wrote an interesting post a while back. The whole thing is worth reading, but the part that resonated with me the most was this:

"Reading this passage, I think to my own shadows - the demons I'm trying to exorcise every time I get under the barbell. I think to the shadows of all those who point at others with weight and fitness issues and say "Well I did it! What's YOUR problem?" When I see TV celebrity trainers screaming at the people they are supposedly saving from a life of obesity, I wonder what shadows they are projecting on their charges.."

Martial arts and combat sports attract people with demons. Lots and lots of demons. My first boxing coach, Greg Sorrentino, once told me that "you can't be good at this sport unless you're a little off in the head". Nearly two decades later (!) everything I've seen confirms his observations. Stable, happy, well-adjusted adults don't find happiness in learning how to beat the crap out of each other.

Every single martial artist I've known who trained for more than about six months (everyone can handle about six months) has demons to wrestle with. Maybe they were bullied as children. Maybe they have a lot of anger or frustration inside them. Whatever the demon, they come to the martial arts trying to find a way to deal with it.

Sometimes they find it. Sometimes, unfortunately, they just fuel the demon more. Done right, this stuff helps people battle their demons and keep them under control. Done wrong, it produces highly skilled, abusive assholes.

Some of the worst martial artists I've known were those who failed to control the demon. Or worse, thought they controlled it, but really, the demon was just controlling them. These are the people who start cults. Who abuse their students and call it "training". Who preach about the value of their training method, never seeing that their method is just a means of controlling, restricting, and harassing those weaker than them.

If you are a martial artist or a combat athlete, it's worth taking some time to figure out what your demons are. You don't have to LIKE them, just get to know them and recognize them...and make sure they aren't the ones in control. If you're an instructor, this becomes extra important. Your demon can do a lot of damage to a lot of people...

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