To The Hills,
I’m going to lay out a bunch of claims based on nothing but my own perception of history and the nature of things. Feel free to disagree with and correct me in the comments.
Kids used to roughhouse, wrestle and fight a lot more than they do now – at least in the lower-middle-class I grew up in. Such behavior still happens today, but I suspect it is less bonding/testing than it is straight malevolence.
Ancient martial arts were, according to myth and legend, developed either for the peasantry to defend themselves against warlords and brigands, or the combative systems of various warrior groups. In the former case, it might have been practiced in secret or in disguised form as a means of survival. In the latter case, it was vocational.
Neither of these groups would have seen “self-defense training” as a pass-time or hobby.
The modern, Western world is obsessed with comfort and convenience. We’re a bunch of marshmallow people. Much of our economic, manufacturing, health and science efforts are spent chasing greater convenience and comfort for ourselves. We are in the wealthiest, healthiest, most prosperous, safest, most inclusive and tolerant, most progressive, and most free time and place in the known history of the world.
The Distance and Disconnect
Most of us don’t have to worry about our day-to-day survival; where the next meal is coming from, how clean the water is, whether we’ll freeze to death in our sleep tonight, or how long our shoes are going to last. We constructed walls between us and discomforts of all kinds, and distanced ourselves from the sufferings and all-to-frequent death that our recent ancestors experienced.
We’re fat, lazy, soft, and weak marshmallow people. We sedate ourselves in front of digital screens, consumed more with the latest celebrity bullshit than what our local public servants are deciding about our lives and futures. We gorge on the convenience of food that’s fast enough we don’t notice the horror for the thin disguise of precisely engineered tastiness, and promise ourselves yet again we’ll start going to the gym tomorrow.
In our pre-diabetic apathy, we’ve become a people who can only long for more of the comfort and convenience we were born into, and strive only to maximize it. Meanwhile, we pretend we’re actually working hard for something.
I won’t belabor the point. You get it. We all get it, we all know it. Marshmallows. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, enjoying the warm comfort of thick blankets and soft cushions. So we convince ourselves – despite that little voice of warning – that we don’t need to be uncomfortable anymore. Look at all our wealth! Look how safe we are!
Not the Automation You Were Looking For
Meanwhile, there are mechanisms hard at work within us – unseen, unfelt – doing to us exactly what we tell them. Think psycho-cybernetics. Think epigenetics. We set our sights on something – a way of life – and our internal mechanisms go to work making it happen. Our bodies crave, our minds focus and toil, and our genes express in ways that reinforce what we’ve made our vision.
So we become soft, weak, and lazy creatures because our focus is on more comfort and more convenience. We become entitled to it, like spoiled royals. Even worse, because of all this convenience we end up with a lot of extra time to think and worry about really stupid shit. Like, “why do I have to be the one to empty the garbage again?”
Like a drug, if we sedate ourselves we crave more of it. Habits form, associations occur and are reinforced, and we’re making ourselves into stupid little rats that salivate when our bell rings.
We crave boxes, labels and logos, little frameworks to fit within. We crave options and absolute freedom, even when it’s paralyzing, and eschew ruts and routine. We crave an aristocracy, and we’ll make one out of meaninglessness. Give them all our wealth then ask them how we should live. We desire safety – so much so that we’ll trade all our reckless and risky freedom for it.
And we become degenerate, allowing all forms of moral decay to happen right in front of our eyes, which we redirect to the mirror and ourselves – do these pants make my diabetic marshmallow ass look like I have COPD and heart disease? Oops, I died of Covid.
End of Rant, Get to the Point
I hope you’re as thoroughly disgusted with us as I am. Positivity has a place – it’s crucial, in fact. But you can’t use positivity as a tool for good if you’re denying the infestation of horror disguised as happiness.
So what in the actual hell does this have to do with self defense? Everything. Defense of Self is all-encompassing by definition, so we can’t talk about physical violence without also talking about lifestyle choices, healthcare, fitness, nutrition, financial priorities, time management, spiritual influence, entertainment choices, relationship choices, wardrobes and fashion, activity-of-life locations, family planning, politics, religion, history, etc….
So all this time we thought we were building walls to defend, but we locked ourselves in a prison with the worst of enemies – ourselves. And worse, we’ve replaced all the mirrors with idealistic portraits.
Self-defense training is a way out. Not because it’s cool and fun and hard and hurty, though it is all those things. It’s a way out because it’s a Way. And it’s a Way that is completely foreign to the current Western Way of comfort and convenience.
The Way of self defense calls for you to avoid soft comfort; the laziness of rest and warm, smiley fuzzy things. It calls for you to be hardy, and a little prickly; a thistle among daisies.
It calls for you to be responsible for yourself, your family, and to a degree your community. To be resilient in mind, body and spirit. To be self-reliant, with manifest skills and tools, and yet helpful to others.
This Way makes for you different priorities, putting entertainment and self-sedation at the bottom or off the list entirely, with struggle and self-improvement at the top.
The Way of self-defense treats failure as a necessary milestone, and positivity as a tool built for a purpose, not as an end. This Way calls for contentment, not happiness. It balances toil and rest, pain and pleasure, fury and calm, violence and peace.
It begins with one step outside the comfort you’ve known. A single act of self-discipline that says “I don’t want to, but I’m doing it anyway.”
Just a spark. Light a fire. Roast the marshmallow, let it fall off and burn up.
Sharpen your stick.