For most modern-day-mainstream-Americans, the world militia might conjure up images of rednecks with excessive amounts of guns calling each other colonel all the time. It is unfortunate that opinion of such an important part of our American history has fallen to such a low image in the eye of the general public. At its founding and at its heart, the American militia is about the highest order of public service, social responsibility, and self-reliance, and these are all things that should be equally dear to the heart of the martial artist.
It’s the Law
US Code Title 10, Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 13 of the United States military law states that,
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
The expectation is clear: if you able-bodied and are a citizen of the United State, and even if you just want to be citizen, you are expected to participate in the defense of the United States. Think about how this existed in Revolutionary times.
George Washington’s army was a volunteer army, and there were not contracts or set periods of service; members of his army came and went as they pleased. Furthermore, his army generally went without pay. This means that every member of his army was there because they chose to sacrifice their time and livelihoods (to mention their lives) to forge a country free of British tyranny. They didn’t sit around and demand that a government “help them.” Instead, they helped themselves and expected help from their fellow countrymen, but not from a government.
The British Army had more than just George Washington’s forces to deal with. When the redcoats would march past a town or village, it was not uncommon for farmers from that village to hide in the woods and shoot with rifles at the British soldiers as they passed by. Once again, we see common citizens risking everything in order to be free from tyranny.
Through this lens, motivation of the legal definition of the militia can be understood more clearly; if you want to enjoy the wonderful freedoms that this country allows, you better be willing to defend them and fight for them the way we, the founding population, did. These were a people who did not seek a solution from some higher group. They found a solution for themselves in and of themselves. This is such a contrast from the modern entitlement-mentality that many modern Americans have in which they expect the government to solve their problems instead of seeking to solve their problems themselves. It is also notable that the founders of this country saw the responsibility of the country’s welfare resting on the shoulders of all the common citizens; everyone is expected to help.
Martial artists are the same. Instead of seeking a solution outside of one’s self, a martial artist seeks to solve his or her problems from within. A martial artist holds his or herself fully accountable for the events of his or her life, and does not try to pass this responsibility on to anyone else. The martial artist trains consistently to meet this daily responsibility. Martial artists are also willing to help others. If you are a martial artist, it should be easier to now see the virtues of why the concept of the American militia was created and why it is healthy for a country and society to think this way.