For this week’s post, I would like to put into words some thoughts I’ve had about why combative ability is important not only in the martial arts but also in and of itself. Though I believe that the discussion of this topic could easily warrant the writing of a longer essay, I would like to briefly introduce it here and attempt to encapsulate it in a standard length blog post. I have written on related topics to this before, but never through the lens through which I would now like to examine this topic.
It will be necessary to discuss this topic in two parts: each being reflective of a separate world view. I am somewhat torn in that I would rather present both views at once so that the reader may get the entire thought at once; however, the length required for such a presentation would be, in my opinion, inappropriate for a blog. Readers will have to stay tuned for next week’s installment in order to get the entirety message I wish to convey.
The two fundamental world views that would be appropriate for this discussion, that I am aware of, could be called deterministic and attraction-based respectively. A deterministic world view is the one that most modern day Westerners appear to subscribe to. An attraction-based world view is one based upon the teachings of philosophers like Napoleon Hill and others who teach what is typically called The Law of Attraction, and it is becoming an increasing prevalent view of the world. I would like to first discuss the deterministic world view approach to the virtues of combative ability since it is a world view that I think most people would be familiar with and is our culture’s standard viewpoint for logical discourse.
A Deterministic World View
As stated above, this part 1 of this two part post will discuss the virtues of combative ability as seen through a deterministic world view. A deterministic world view is one in which there is world outside of the self and is completely removed, separate, and larger than the self. In this sort of world, things happen to the self that come from the outer world with no input from the self. The self encounters things like trees, cars, other people, good luck, bad luck, free money, car accidents, illness, health, etc, and these things come into the self’s life from the outer world. Again, these encounters occur due forces of the outer world. In this sort of world view, as the saying goes, “sh*t happens.” In this way, the self has no control over what comes into the life of the self, and the self has to deal with what the outer world
brings or what life brings; the self encounters life and has to deal with it as it is.
In a deterministic world view, an individual is not necessarily powerless or at the mercy of the world. an individual can act or work to bring about a certain change like working to earn money, working to build a house, working to organize a group of people etc. Still, there is an understanding that the result of that work is still not up to the acting individual; a hardworking man may still be poor, and a beautiful house can be destroyed in a storm. Individuals have the ability to affect some change that can benefit their lives, but the bulk of what happens is still up to the outside world.
There are perhaps many world views that can be described as deterministic. Everything from the traditional Catholic world view, to Hobbesian discussions of free will*, to post-structural theories that see transcendental signified (no grounding understanding through which the world can be interpreted through) can all be view as deterministic world views.
It is easy to see how this is the standard world view in the Western world. A statement like “I can’t believe I got into an accident,” would commonly be met with “Don’t be hard on yourself, it could have happened to anyone.” One may have also heard people say, “There’s a flu going around – take care that you don’t get it.” Both of these instances reflect a world view in which the occurrences in an individual’s life happen in large due to forces in the outer world that the individual has little influence over. In this common world view, it is not so hard to see why combative ability would be important.
In a world in which an individual is constantly encountering an outer world that the individual has no control over, it is easy to see why combative ability would benefit an individual. In an instance where an individual’s person or property was being attacked or assaulted, an individual possessing combative ability might be able to over come the assault or at least reduce the amount of damage and harm done by an aggressor. The greater an individual’s combative ability, the greater the chance that the individual will be able to overcome the situation.
A deterministic world is all about statistics. There is a certain possibility that an individual will be assaulted based on the individual’s outward appearance. There exists a certain possibility of an assault occurring with just one aggressor which is different from the possibility of it occurring with multiple aggressors. There is also a statistical distribution of how strong or forceful an aggressor may be if encountered. Possessing combative ability of various sorts and amounts will protect an individual against various sorts of assaults that may occur or not occur in relation to how great the combative ability of the individual is. Just like everything else in a deterministic world, it all depends.
Just like a house shelters an individual from weather, so does combative ability shelter an individual form aggressors. The extent to which a house shelters an individual is based on how strong the house it, how properly designed it is for the weather, and how powerful the weather is. Even if a great storm overpowers a house, in many cases the individual will still be better off for being at least partially sheltered in the now damaged house. Similarly, combative ability that can respond to an aggressor will at least somewhat shelter an individual from the harm an aggressor may inflict if not prevent it all together.
Sovereignty of Individuals and Nations
When the benefits of combative ability (like in martial arts) are discussed from a deterministic standpoint, self defense is often brought up, but sovereignty of individuals or communities is rarely, if ever, discussed even though it is just as important. Combative ability is more than just the ability for self defense; combative ability is also a cornerstone of law enforcement and freedom of individuals or groups.
From a historical perspective, this is perhaps easy to see. Weaker groups have often been overpowered and conquered by stronger groups. Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Mongols, Spain, Great Britain, Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan are just a few examples of some of history’s great conquerors; some of them ruled the conquered fairly while others ruled quite cruelly. The ability to conquer or fend of a conqueror is based on a nation’s combative ability.
This isn’t to say that a nation in possession of great combative ability will necessarily be an aggressive conqueror. Nations can be a lot like people in that many are content to simply go about their business, and only a few would stoop so low as to force their will on others. Sparta is an example of a nation that had immense combative ability, but was content to leave its neighbors alone and fight only when needed for defense of Sparta.
It can be hard to see how an individual plays at all into this seemingly big picture of nations and sovereignty. It is important to realize that no matter how large a nation is, it is ultimately composed of a group of individuals, and the attributes of that group of individuals will have a great affect upon the attributes of the nation. Imagine a nation where all individuals were in possession of great combative ability. This nation would be very able to fend off aggressing armies and retain its freedom. Just as a drop of water raises the level of the sea, so does an individual’s personal combative ability raise his or her nation’s security by that extent. Viewing this through a group mind is important.
An anecdote of the United States and Imperial Japan during World War II two may illuminate the contribution that individuals can make to their nation’s security. When Japanese General Tojo was asked why he would not lead a land invasion of the United States, he replied that it would be fruitless because “there is a gun behind every blade of grass” in the US. Because private gun ownership is so widespread in the US, Tojo did want to invade a country whose citizenry was commonly armed with the means for comparable combative ability to his soldiers: the American citizenry of course far outnumbering the Imperial Army.
Similarly, the US military did not want a land invasion of Japan because they knew the Japanese, being of a culture long steeped in Bushido, would all fight tooth and nail to defend their homeland. Though the Japanese citizenry was very poorly armed, the willpower alone of all of its members created a collective combative ability that the United States Military did not want to mess with. The US then also saw a land invasion of its enemy as equally fruitless or fool hearty based on the combative strength of the opposing citizenry.
In a deterministic world, every citizen’s contribution is then important to a nation’s security. In this way, an individual increasing his or her combative ability does, in fact, contribute to the overall security of his or her nation. The propagation of combative prowess and knowledge throughout a group or community will therefore contribute to that group’s safety and ultimately its ability to survive and remain free.
It is important to note that disarming a group of citizens (i.e. decreasing that group’s combative ability) has historically been used to secure a ruling group’s power. In both the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan and Nazi Germany, the ruling government disarmed its citizens so that the citizens could not revolt and were therefore be at the mercy of the ruling government. I don’t know how the citizens of the Tokugawa Shogunate made out, but everyone reading this post is probably well aware of the horrors that the Nazi government inflicted upon its then defenseless citizenry. In a deterministic world, those with strong combative ability are able to, if they wish, rule over the weaker however they see fit.
From a deterministic viewpoint, combative ability allows one to avoid harm from aggressors and secure one’s freedom. Because one is at the mercy of what the outer world brings into one’s life, one must act prudently to be prepared to prevent and control damaging or hostile forces. From this viewpoint, this is why combative ability is virtuous.
Stay tuned for next week’s post in which the virtues of combative ability will be discussed from the standpoint of an attraction-based worldview. Thank you, and see you next week.