The Highest Ethics of Self Defense: Real Kempo

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

I saw a tape of a fight the other day.  It was one of those brutal and bloodied fights that people these days seem to think are so great.  Personally I find them disgusting.

          In this fight, the winner kicked his opponent in the face and knocked him out.  The loser lay on the mat insensate and didn’t regain consciousness for an extended period of time. The winner looked over with concern for his opponent several times.  Finally, the man came to and appeared to be all right.

          An interviewer talked with the winner and asked him how he felt when his opponent was unconscious.  The winner said he was really concerned because he was afraid that he had killed the man.  He’d noted that in the past he had knocked people out but they usually regained consciousness in just a second or two, but when the man stayed unconscious for a period of time, it really worried him.

          The interviewer then asked the man if the winner would change how he fought, since he was afraid that he had killed someone.  Now as I watched this interview, I thought this was a time for a life changing epiphany, if the young man had a decent bone in his body.  He should have come to a realization that endangering another human being, potentially killing them, was not worth a trophy or any amount of money.  If the man had cared about his opponent at all he would have said how sorry he was that he had hurt the man and declared that he would never again harm another person in the ring.

          Instead the young man said it would make no difference in the way he fought, he’d still go for the knockout, without any concern for the well being of the people he fought.  A wonderful moment in a young man’s life when he could have become enlightened and grown as a human being was missed as the idea of glory and fame, money and prestige, lost out to the idea of not harming another human being.

          Shortly after watching that fight, I saw a magazine article, which told about the sad deaths of two men who fought in the mixed martial arts-ultimate fighters style of competition. I’ve listened to the inaccurate ravings of supporters of the mma-uf style of competition, saying that this form of fighting was the closest thing to real combat (which it isn’t) and saying that it was safer than boxing (another inaccuracy), until I am sickened and disheartened.


The Truth – Death

          Now it is understandable that young men who are ignorant of the repercussions of their actions can get excited and involved with the egotistical methods of fighting that we see in kickboxing, full contact brawls, mixed martial arts bouts, ultimate fighting bouts, and even boxing.

          But just as people used to start smoking, believing it was healthy or at least nor harmful, we now know that smoking causes cancer and can led to horrible deaths with illness throughout the body, starting in the lungs but ending up in all parts of the body.

          Maybe if I didn’t know what really happened to the human body when it is beat, pounded, or simply abused, I’d be able to ignore the full contact fighting nonsense going on today, but I do know what happens to the human body when it is involved in full contact bouts and can’t ignore what is going on.

          I began training in the martial arts under Richard Stone because I had been threatened, beaten, and told that I would be killed because I wouldn’t join in the illegal and sinful behavior of my peers.  Eight years later a friend of mine who knew Bill Wallace introduced me to him and I began training with the great Superfoot, but I also joined Juko Kai Kokusai Remmei under Rod Sacharnoski.

          The two men are great martial artists, but they represent the diametric opposites of the spectrum.  Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace is the consummate competitor.  I really believe he was probably the greatest ring fighter in the world.  Rod Sacharnoski is one of the most knowledgeable traditional martial artists in the world.  With his years in military service and police work, Sacharnoski probably knows as much, if not more, than any other person in the world in regard to ‘real’ self defense and actual combat.


Decision Time

          In 1979, I felt compelled to set my goal in regard to the path I would take in the martial arts.  Wallace and Sacharnoski seemed to set the two directions from which I had to choose.  Competitive martial arts or traditional martial arts.

          At that time, as now, the main competitive martial art, ‘full contact Karate’, had not been around long enough to have any ‘real’ statistics as to the danger of competition, but boxing on the other hand had been around and was the same kind of competition, just without kicks.

          In studying the effects of boxing on people, I found that there had been many deaths, severe brain damage (which we playfully call punch drunk, but there’s nothing funny about it), and other serious injuries such as detached retinas and other maladies.  I couldn’t, as a humane person, want to be involved in anything like that.

          Thus I began the journey of following traditional martial arts and finding out what that really meant.  First of all, the training methods of the true martial arts were not about brutal matches.  People trained to fight for real, in real combat, on battlefields, or when facing bandits and robbers.

          Thus workouts in real martial arts must leave people fresh and ready to fight at a moments notice.  The Shaolin monks, Japanese Samurai, and the Okinawan Bushi didn’t engage in competitive bouts, they trained in two man forms of training, which were cooperative in nature.  Some called these two man forms Kata and others called them Embu, but they were not competitive fights, they were cooperative methods of training.

          Today this is the main method of training in Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei, along with solo Kata that are extremely important in the development of real self defense skills.  In my youth I had engaged in sparring and had done my share of knockouts, but I found that in my heart I knew it was wrong to harm another human being, whether in the name of training or competition.

          It took a while for me to achieve this enlightened state, but achieve it I did.  I just fear for all the competitors of the mma-uf competitions today, in that they are experiencing so much damage in the bouts they’ve been having without a full knowledge of how badly they are hurting themselves.

          Some say that as long as they are only battling each other, they are hurting no one but themselves and they should be allowed to make that decision.  But people who do illegal drugs say they should be allowed to do so since they are hurting no one but themselves.

          However people who do illegal drugs have been known to kill family members or victims of criminal acts brought on by the drugs.  They have been known to cause train, car, and other accidents, causing the deaths of innocent people.


More Harm Than Good

          We may not know the full effect of the damage being done to the mma-uf competitors until many years from now, but common sense tells us that pounding someone in the head repeatedly can’t do anything but damage the brain.

          Then we have the death report from one of the mma-uf fighters mentioned above.  In the hospital they had to do brain surgery and found multiple blood clots in the brain brought on by the bouts in which the fighter had engaged.

          Supporters of the mma-uf style of competition try to say that the man didn’t die because of the fight, but from an accumulation of fights and I agree, but what this really says is that everyone who fought that man in training and competition contributed to his death.  Is this really what the people want?  Those of you who watch a bout on television, are you really wanting to know that each punch you see a man take is accumulating until enough has happened to kill him?

          Always remember that Kempo is a true martial art, which is designed to help a person stop violence.  This is first accomplished by ending the violence in our own hearts.  When this is accomplished, we don’t want to fight, even in competition.  I love to train, but I don’t want to harm anyone.

          This is the essence of real martial arts, real Kempo, that we want to do no harm to anyone.  Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in self defense and doing what needs to be done in order to survive.  But I do not seek out confrontations or opportunities to engage in battle.

          Now I have used my skill in actual self defense and in the capacity of a security guard.  I have trained men who have been police officers, prison guards, military personnel some of whom were Special Forces.  Many of these individuals have used their skills in reality, not in some stupid, insipid match.  They have been able to defend themselves in real combat against dangerous opponents for which I am proud, but I am just as proud that none to my knowledge have purposefully engaged in competitive bouts, which caused harm to another human being.


The End of Competitive Fighting

          I would like to see competitive fights stopped, because I really care about the competitors.  I would like to see our country give the same protection to human beings that they do dogs and roosters.  I don’t want to read about any more mma-uf competitors dying from the damage done to them in unnecessary bouts.

          Most of all I’d like to see honor and respect return to the martial arts.  I remember when the image of the true martial artist (whether Kempoka, Karateka, Judoka, Aikidoka, Jujutsuka, or Bugeisha) was one of a gentleman with the skill to do battle, but with the control and restraint to avoid fighting if at all possible.

          I remember when the image of a martial artist was a mixture of priest and warrior.  It was someone who could battle to protect themselves, their families, and if necessary, their countries, but who were also spiritually oriented with a desire for enlightenment and the contemplative life.

          I have met some true martial artists in my life.  Men and women who were first and foremost men and women of peace.  These individuals were deadly, but they did not seek out conflict, though they had no fear of it either.

          Many people become fighters because they are afraid and to try and show how brave they are, they fight.  This is the same drive that motivates bullies, though I doubt that most mma-uf fighters would recognize themselves as little more than bullies still fighting on the playground.

          But know, it takes more courage to stand up and not fight when the world says it’s the way to show you’re a man.  It takes the ability to overcome fear to be a really peaceful human being.  The true warrior will fight when necessary.  They will fight to protect life and limb, family and country.  But the true warrior never fights needlessly or for money and glory.

          The highest ethics of self defense will always be, do no harm to anyone unnecessarily, protect when necessary, and live peacefully when you can.

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