The Worse Thing

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

I began training in the martial arts before the Bruce Lee boom and have seen a lot of changes through the years. Some have been good, some have been bad.

         My first self defense lesson came from my father, William Durbin, Sr. because of an assault and because there were threats on my life. I began training only for self defense and have no interest in any of the ridiculous sports that have grown up around the martial arts.


My Attitude on Martial Arts

         My attitude on the martial arts can be best summarized by a story dealing with the great Okinawan master Yasutsune Itosu. Prior to the Japanese knowing about the Okinawan martial arts there were no forms of competition, simply because the Okinawans only practiced for actual self defense combat. They believed that their form of Kempo, now commonly known as Karate, was entirely too dangerous to play with.

         While drafting Okinawans into their army in preparation for their take over of the Asian world, the Japanese learned about Karate and asked the young men they’d drafted who their instructor was. They told them about Yasutsune Itosu.

         The Japanese military then wanted to arrange a fight between a Judo/Jujutsu practitioner and a Karate practitioner, so they asked Itosu to provide a fighter. He refused. The military leaders said he didn’t have a choice. They gave him a time, date, and place for his Karate fighter to show up to face the Judo/Jujutsu practitioner.

         When the time arrived, Itosu walked into the building by himself. The Judo/Jujutsu practitioner was ready to fight and wanted the opportunity to prove that Japanese martial artists were the best in the world. The military dignitaries asked Itosu where his Karate fighter was and he said that he would never ask a student to do something he considered wrong, thus he would not ask a student to fight an unnecessary battle.

         Itosu said that if someone had to fight, he’d do it. Now keep in mind that while his opponent was a young man in his twenties, Itosu was 75 years old. The Japanese were incensed. They thought the Okinawans had planned this so that when their young Judo/Jujutsu fighter defeated the older man, the Okinawans could say it was because of his age, not because the Karate was not as good as the Japanese martial art.

         Finally the Okinawans pacified the Japanese with a promise that if Itosu lost they’d provide another fighter. Finally Itosu and the Japanese fighter squared off. The Judo/Jujutsu practitioner moved to grab Itosu, expecting to throw the old man forcefully so that he would be helpless. If necessary he could pin or choke the old Okinawan into helplessness.

         As the Japanese attempted to grab Itosu, he delivered one hard strike to the man’s chest, rendering him insensate. Itosu immediately gave the Japanese Kappo, to resuscitate him and insure that he wasn’t seriously injured. Then he turned to the Japanese and gave them the speech that perfectly explains how real martial artists feel.


Never Again

         Itosu looked at the Japanese military personnel and said, “Kempo Karate is an art of self defense. Training in the art is for physical fitness, mental development, and spiritual enlightenment. To be used only in self defense, never as a sport. Kempo Karate is not a game. I hope that nothing like this will ever happen again.”

         Then Itosu walked out. Unfortunately the Japanese didn’t listen to Itosu. They began researching the art of Karate, with certain Okinawan masters teaching the art to the Japanese. Through the efforts of Gichin Funakoshi, Choki Motobu, and Kenwa Mabuni the Japanese learned the Okinawan art, or at least part of it.

         As soon as the Japanese felt like they had a mastery of the art, they began taking control of the Okinawan art and modifying it in their own way. Where the Okinawans always kept the art as a strict form of self defense, the Japanese began developing a set of rules that would allow them to turn it into a sport.

         This is not what the original Okinawan masters wanted, even though the Japanese began putting pressure on them to accept the new form of competition.

         There have always been Okinawan masters who still insisted that their students not engage in competition, the most prominent being Seikichi Uehara. Until his death in 2004 he would not allow his students to engage in competition.


Traditional Japanese Ryu

         There are many traditional Japanese Ryu, which still refuse to allow their students to engage in competition. They view competition as a perversion of the original concept of Bu.

         Bu, as we all know, means, ‘to stop violence’. The only way we can have competition is to engage in violence, thus competition is the antithesis of the real martial arts.

         I can’t help but laugh at the people who think of themselves as Jujutsu practitioners, because most of them no nothing about the real martial art of Jujutsu.

         I have been studying Jujutsu, as well as, Judo, since 1970. I know the difference between sport and combat, and most of the people today who think they know Jujutsu know a very brutal form of Judo competition, but that is all it really is, it’s not Jujutsu at all.

         This leads us up to the worse thing that has happened to the martial arts since their introduction to the United States.


The Beginning

         When we think of when the martial arts really started being noticed and practiced in the United States, we have to begin with World War II. In preparation for combat duty the American soldier was taught a basic form of hand-to-hand combat sometimes referred to as Combat Judo.

         Certain Japanese American martial artists were contacted who helped develop the course, which American soldiers learned. My father was one of those soldiers, being in the United States Army from 1942 to 1946.

         After the war, America thoroughly researched the Japanese martial arts, which included the Okinawan arts. Morihei Ueshiba was asked to give demonstration for the military, as was Koichi Tohei. Many American soldiers studied the martial arts, involving themselves in the Kodokan, where they learned Judo, and other schools of the martial arts.

         Donn Draeger for example not only studied Kodokan Judo, but also traditional martial arts systems like the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, Muso Ryu, and others.

         All of the study in these early years was for self defense. Even Judo training was geared towards combat, not sport. The Olympic sport was years away from being developed, and weaponry was still being taught at the Kodokan along with the specific Kodokan Goshinjutsu, self defense art.

         The Strategic Air Command brought over some of the top martial artists from Japan in the 1950s to give demonstrations of their arts at SAC bases.  Among these masters were; Takahiko Ishikawa – Kodokan Judo, Toshiro Daigo – Kodokan Judo, Sumiyuki Kotani  – Kodokan Judo, Isao Obata – Shotokan Karate, Hidetaka Nishiyama – Shotokan Karate, and Kenji Tomiki – Aikido.


Karate Connection

         When America became involved in the Korean War, many Americans had the opportunity to involve themselves in Karate training when stationed on Japan and Okinawa, as well as, be involved in the Korean Karate, which eventually evolved into Tae Kwon Do.

         Once again the training was geared towards self defense, since those in the military always considered the idea that they might have to go into combat.

         Through the fifties and into the sixties military personnel began bringing back the various styles of Karate and other martial arts. While being military they had a tendency to always emphasize harsh military training, as well as, self defense.

         One of the first Karate masters to teach in the United States (I won’t mention his name because I have no desire to ruin his reputation, though I have the article I’m quoting still in my possession.) said in an interview that competitive Karate would ruin the art of Karate if it continued to grow.

         Sadly he saw the money that could be gained by hosting tournaments and before his death he hosted the largest tournament in America in the 1970s. But his prediction was right according to many traditionalists.


Bruce Lee Boom

         Prior to the martial arts being portrayed in the movies, the main reason people learned the martial arts was for self defense. Tournaments weren’t very big in those days and there weren’t that many people in the martial arts.

         But after the release of Enter the Dragon and the many Kung Fu films that followed, many people began training in the martial arts with the hopes of being discovered and made a movie star.

         As more about the life of Bruce Lee was revealed and it was found that he was discovered at a tournament where he gave a demonstration, the tournaments became more popular with many erstwhile Karate competitors hoping they’d be discovered by attending and participating in tournaments.

         This meant that a lot of people began training; not for the sake of defending themselves but for the sake of looking good when they did the moves. This lack of emphasis began a decline in the skills of many martial arts practitioners.

         But a positive happened at this time as well, the television show, Kung Fu.


Warrior Monk and Extraordinary Skill

         Bruce Lee portrayed a Shaolin monk in Enter the Dragon whose extraordinary skill was due not only to his martial arts training but also his Zen spiritual discipline. Lee was looked at as a small man with the skill to defeat larger opponents and even multiple assailants.

         Then the television show Kung Fu aired and a whole new idea was born. A person didn’t have to be built like a weightlifter with massive muscles, or harbor a killer instinct in order to defend themselves; all they needed was spiritual development and the skills of the martial arts.

         Peaceful people began to have the idea that training in the martial arts would help them protect their families from the criminal elements in the world. Martial arts schools of all types began to experience a boom in enrollment because everyday people felt like they could learn how to protect themselves.


Karate Kid and the Peaceful Mentor

         Then just as the boom was coming to a decline, came the Karate Kid movie in 1984. Pat Morita’s portrayal of Miyagi the Karate teacher once again encouraged parents that Karate could be a good form of training for their children.

         The parents saw that there were peaceful and honorable instructors who would teach their children the skills of self defense in a safe and moderate way. They contrasted the Cobra Kai with the loving nature of Miyagi and knew that they didn’t want their children to learn from a violent character like Kreese.

         Once again people saw martial arts training in a positive light and wanted to enroll their children in those kinds of classes. So far most of the influences we’ve seen in the martial arts have been positive. Even the Ninja movies that came out during the 80s were overall good influences because the ‘Ninja hero’ that were in these movies were of good and high moral character.

         But actually starting back in 1974 and due to some movies and then one particular event the martial arts have experienced the worse thing that has ever happened.


The Worse Thing

         There have always been some violent people who have entered the martial arts and they usually infuse their violence into their way of teaching. This goes back throughout the years and you can see them referenced in every generation. But these are considered the blackhearts of the martial arts, not the norm and most of all not the standard for other people to emulate.

         While Karate sparring was never really safe, it was an attempt to try and not harm each other while engaging in competition. Unfortunately there were those in America in the 1970s that decided it was time to engage in full contact fighting to see if Karate really worked. At first these bouts were tacked on to point tournaments but soon people decided they could make some real money with the idea of full contact Karate and the sport was born.

         The Western sport of full contact Karate opened the door for actual kickboxing to be introduced to the American public as well.  With the larger size of the Western fighters more harm was done in the ring than ever before.

         Now people were being injured, bloodied, and harmed, but some people were making money and so the brutality continued. This opened the door to more brutality until in the 1990s, being fueled by movies of make believe blood sports and kickboxing matches as they never really were done, there arrived the worse thing.


Ultimate Fighting Nonsense

         There is no ultimate fighter, a person wins one day and loses the next. All fighter get beat because they keep fighting. An old Samurai text tells the young warrior to be peaceful and not engage in unnecessary fights.

         It literally tells young Samurai to not engage in battles over words, pride, or for fame. These are fleeting moments, which have no meaning in a life of honor. Now this was advice given to real warriors not people who engage in make believe battles, that while brutal are shams of actual combat.

         People engage in these brutal matches, where people have died and many people have been seriously injured. The people making money off the fighters try to say that the sport is safe, but then again they’re not the ones who have died or been injured.

         A friend of mine who has been in these kinds of competitions said that the promoters don’t care about the fighters, all they care about is the money.

         Training in the martial arts should be a life affirming, peace infilling, and enlightenment endeavor, not a competition of blood and violence.

         Learning the martial arts should be about protecting yourself from violence, not making you engage in violence. A friend of mine visited a sport Jujutsu school and on the first day the instructor broke his arm. Too many of these competitive Jujutsu or mixed up martial arts schools are simply being run by people who enjoy brutalizing others.

         The worse thing that has happened to the martial arts in America is the introduction of the ultimate fighting nonsense. The people who need to learn the martial arts are being turned away from them and the kind of violent people attracted to this sport are people who shouldn’t be learning the martial arts for it only makes them more dangerous.


Real Martial Arts

         First of all real martial arts are about ‘stopping violence’, the real meaning of Bu. If a person is interested in fighting, they are not a martial artist. It took me many years to understand this and lots of research into the ancient martial arts, which included studying the Chinese, Japanese, and Okinawan arts. In all of these countries the martial arts were used only when it was necessary. From a personal point of view that meant self defense.

         Self defense doesn’t just mean defending only yourself, but also your family and friends if necessary. In regard to self defense our goal is not to do any more damage than is necessary. This is not only from a moral point of view but also from a legal point of view. If we use excessive force in self defense it could lead us to a jail sentence. While the old adage, ‘It is better to be tried by twelve than carried by six’ holds true, at the same time no innocent citizen wants to go to prison.

         Those who train in the martial arts for police work, and in truth all people in any form of law enforcement whether private or civil security or police forces should, the idea is the same, they must seek to do no more harm than is necessary to arrest a criminal. However the police are expected to use deadly force when necessary in the cause of public safety.

         Finally those who are in military service who train in the martial arts know that they may also have to use the martial arts for real. Once again it would do well for the career military person, or one serious in their desire to serve their country, to make sure and train in real martial arts. This is because a soldier’s use of martial arts is different than a civilian's. The solider because they will be in actual combat will have to do the maximum amount of damage possible.

         But still, whether civilian, law enforcement, or military, the cause of the martial arts is to ‘stop violence’ and establish peace. The civilian does it on a personal level, the law enforcement officer does it on a community level, and the military does it on a national/international level. They are to stop whatever violence that is threatening their situation and return the environment to peace.

         Those who engage in fights of any sport have left behind the real martial arts. Training does not have to involve competitive fighting. There are two main methods of training, which are excellent, but do not involve the danger of injury or death in the way that competitive fighting does.

         So the first difference between a fighter and someone who practices the martial arts is the idea of ‘stopping violence’ hence they do not engage in violent competitions, rather they train in the skills to defend themselves.


Real Fighting Skills

         As funny as it may sound, the competitor does not actually train in real fighting skills, but rather watered down versions of the true fighting arts. When people watch the bloody violence of the ultimate fighting nonsense or see full contact fighters go at each other, it is easy to think that what you are seeing is real combatives, but the truth is, as brutal and violent as they are, they are not really doing real martial arts.

         What they are doing is damaging and punishing themselves in extremely harmful ways which will very possibly have them end up with permanent disability or even killing them, for no good reason. If these guys really wanted to do something with their ‘fighting skills’, they should become police officers or soldiers and then they could engage in some real fighting that would test whether or not their skills really work.

         In a ring all they are doing is proving that they can harm another human being for nothing. Nothing at all is proved when two people get into a ring and battle each other. All they are proving is that they can uncaringly hurt another human being and get hurt themselves.

         Watch many of the fights on television these days, and outside of the lucky punch that gets thrown every so often, you will see men punch each other sixteen and seventeen times without harming each other. James Masayoshi Mitose used to say that a real master only needs to hit someone once and damage is done.

         In actual self defense I have delivered one strike which ended the situation. I have known several people who in self defense have delivered only one strike to end a situation. These are the real exponents of self defense, not the fighters of silly competitions.

         I have trained women who have defended themselves, as well as, soldiers who have actual combat experience. You don’t teach these people simple punches and kicks, they will not always be sufficient to the situation. Rather it is important to teach ‘real’ vital points that will harm an attacker regardless of size.

         In competition you match people up according to size. Even the ultimate fighting nonsense realized that to have ‘fair’ fights they needed to pair people up according to weight categories. But in self defense it’s not going to be a ‘fair fight’.

         I’ve been in confrontations in my days in law enforcement with a professional boxer and a football player. Both men outweighed me greatly, but I was successful in my defense and I didn’t do it by rolling around on the ground. The football player had two of his friends with him, if I had gone to the ground with him I would have been in serious trouble.

         I stopped him with one strike and then took him into custody with a hold that allowed me to escort him to where he would be taken care of. The laying holds used in the ultimate fighting nonsense are impractical. However the hold I used has been taught by Jujutsu, Judo, and Aikido masters for years to their practitioners who were police officers who used them to escort prisoners.


Harming the Growth of Real Self Defense

         It seems that today we have to reeducate the public about the martial arts because of the mixed up martial artists who people think are the epitome of true martial artists. I know martial artists today who have been training for fifteen to twenty years who don’t even want to use the term martial arts anymore because of the negative connotations they bring to the mind of the common man thanks to the brutal fighting competitions.

         While some people say that these competitions are the fasting growing sport in the world today, they are harming the growth of the real martial arts. While there might be a lot of violent people who enjoy watching that kind of sickening action, they are seldom people who will ever actually train in the martial arts.

         Worse I have to explain to people that we don’t teach that kind of brutality at our school and how much of a perversion it is in regard to the real martial arts before many people will give the training a chance. People who are not blood thirsty and who are in actual need of self defense need to have explained to them that what they are seeing in the ultimate fighting nonsense is not indicative of the true martial arts.

         Everyone who is in need of self defense skills need to know that the mixed up martial artists and the ultimate fighting nonsense is not the real martial arts of self defense. They need to know that they don’t have to look like or act like an animal to learn how to defend themselves. They need to know that they won’t have to use drugs in order to be capable of fighting an attacker, like so many of the competitive fighters do.


Education of the Public

The worse thing that has happened in regard to the martial arts has been the development of full contact sports and ultimate fighting nonsense competition. They have brought a lot of violent people into the ‘supposed martial arts’, which are devoid of the true non-violent philosophy of real martial arts. They have kept the people who really need martial arts training from entering schools for fear that they will be made to fight and bloody other people which is to their distaste.

         If we would see a return to the positive image of the real martial arts we must educate the public and discourage people from even being spectators of the sports. Money drives the sports based on violence, if people quit watching they will fade away.

         In example the ultimate fighting nonsense almost faded from our country. The last pay per view show before they were connected to a television network was a failure. Unfortunately a network made a contract with the promoters and the exposure revitalized the sport. Personally I don’t know how people can watch the bloody violence of the sport and it makes me worry about the spiritual nature of America and the rest of the world that some people do like it.

         However, for those of you who want real martial arts, there are still people out there who teach the real thing. I advise you to stay away from those who claim to teach the craziness of these competitive styles, I keep getting reports of people beat up and hurt who enter these types of schools, which makes me believe that it is dangerous for anyone to engage in training in these competitive schools. Therefore those who want self defense training need to seek out those who teach traditional and true martial arts, which have at their heart the foundation of peace and harmony.

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