Hageshii – Intensity or Violence?

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

What are you going to do when you are attacked by a truly violent person who is intent on attacking you? What will you do if the person wants to seriously injure or kill you? If you are a martial artist ask yourself the question, can I really defend myself? Do I have what it takes?

           What does it take to actually defend yourself against a person who is violently trying to kill you?



           A person wanting to defend themselves must meet violence with intensity. Keep in mind a person who is violent is aggressive and brutal, wanting nothing more than to do harm to another. Martial artists must never become violent, for then we are bastardizing the very nature of the martial arts.

           Remember that Bu, the word we usually translate martial actually means ‘stop violence’. This is the goal of the true martial artist. To stop violence we must first start with ourselves. We must stop the violence in our hearts so that we are neither aggressive nor brutal. Keeping that in mind this is why real martial arts cannot be competitive sports. To be good in any sport requires a person to be aggressive. Without aggression a person doesn’t attack or fight.

           I’ve had many friends who were in the competitive martial arts and they all noted that the arts have penalties for avoiding fighting. If you don’t get in there and mix it up you can be penalized. The more aggressive you are the better.

           Too often competition makes a person brutal, which is the opposite of the peacefulness of the true martial artist. I’ve had friends in the competitive martial arts that have lost friends because to ‘spar’ with them is to risk injury from their tendency towards brutality even in a ‘friendly’ bout. Keep in mind that a synonym for peacefulness is nonviolent, which is the goal of the real martial artist; we must not be violent people if we are to be true martial artists.

           Violence is like a bomb that explodes, doing a great deal of damage with energy that is out of control and going in all directions.



           To develop intensity we must first begin with concentration. This is the focus of performing our martial arts moves. When we practice our martial arts, every move, whether punch, kick, block, throw, choke, joint lock, or weapon manipulation, must be performed with total concentration. Without concentration our skills don’t work well, they have no power or capability.

           When we focus our martial arts techniques we must do so with the idea of putting all of our physical, mental, and spiritual strength into what we are doing. This is the idea of using your Ki. This intrinsic energy empowers all true martial arts techniques, but without full mental concentration, Ki cannot be present or powerful in what you are doing.

           Our concentration is called Kime in the martial arts. Most people translate this focus, but its real meaning is decisiveness. We, with full concentration, decide where our blow is going to go and how hard it hits. We decide our throw is going to work and how devastating it is going to be.

           Too many people do their martial arts moves mindlessly and listlessly, so that they are basically doing nothing. Our minds must be totally involved in what we are doing so that ‘I’, will power, suffuses our whole body. This leads our Ki throughout the body so that we are truly powerful in the execution and application of our martial arts techniques.



           But we must also have real Hageshii, intensity, in our moves for them to really work. Now Hageshii can mean violence, but it can also mean intensity. For those of us who are martial artists we must understand the difference between violence and intensity. The difference is in intent.

           The intent of a violent person is to harm another. Sadly this is true of competitors as well. I remember watching a sparring match in a Karate tournament between two ‘masters’. Actually to be in the ‘masters division’ you just had to be over fifty. The two men began to spar and one man was truly superior, scoring point after point.

           I saw in the other man’s eyes violent intent and told my students he was going to hurt the other guy. When the referee signaled continue, the man stepped in with a hard back fist and broke his opponent’s nose. He lost the match, but he hurt the other man because of his violent intent.

           Now in self defense we know that the person attacking us has that kind of intent. They are attacking us with the violent intent to hurt us, so we must meet their level of violence with equal intensity. The difference is that the intensity is without harmful intent.



           The intent of the true martial artist is to defend. Their intent is not to harm, it is not to damage, and it is not to kill. The intent is only to defend. The mind of the martial artist is fully concentrated, focused, and empowered with the intent to do whatever it takes to survive.

           The intensity of this defensive intent is as strong as the violent intent of the attacker, but the martial artist is moving from the concept of Mushin, no prejudgment or prearranged thought.

           Thus if the defending martial artist can avoid the fight without contact, they will do so. If they must cause pain to the attacker with a block or joint lock, they will do so. If they must knockout, break an arm, or do other damage to the assailant, they will do so. If the situation requires the defending martial artist to kill in order to survive, they will do so.

           But the true martial artist will never do more than is necessary. If they can end a confrontation with nothing more than a block, that’s all they will do. The intent of the true martial artist is to establish peace. If a person can defend themselves and harm no one, that’s exactly what the true martial artist will do.



           But be aware, any self defense situation is potentially lethal. I’ve read of people in fights who have throw one simple punch and their assailant died, usually from the fall to the surface they were standing on.

           This is why martial arts masters of the past told their students to avoid fighting if at all possible. Once a situation has turned into an actual fight, you can not be assured that someone will die.

           Thus, be a real martial artist, avoiding fighting if at all possible and this even means in regard to competition, because many people have died in the fight game. Ask yourself the question, are you willing to kill someone in order to win a boxing, kickboxing, MMA, or whatever kind of competitive bout. If you are a real martial artist the answer would be…No.

           But if your life or well being is on the line, make sure you have the intensity to meet the violence of your attacker. Never do more than you have to do in order to survive, but be sure to survive.

All images and text on this site are the exclusive property of the Christian Martial Arts Association.
All rights reserved © 2010