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The Modern Warrior: Directionless to Darwinism

by Steve Fowler

     The Martial Arts of the past grew out of necessity and developed through culture, and while Martial Artists through the ages have tried to develop skills in all aspects of combat, what we refer to now as cross training, we are the only culture in the history of Martial Arts to draw solely from the past, study alien cultures entwined with their Martial Arts teachings and not rely on practical, ‘battle’ experience to create our path to martial skill.

     We are a world of warriors forever changed by technology, both in the way we wage war, and the way in which disciplines have spread throughout the world. From Japan to Brazil, from Thailand to the United States, we are the first humans with the desire to learn the art of combat with such a remarkable choice of styles and the concurrent cultures which adjoin them.

     In this unique environment a culture has developed borne out of the dislocation from real combat - the modern warrior.

     There are two prominent area’s of sociology which prove invaluable when studying the development of modern Martial Arts and their culture. The first tracks the trend of belief selection. Attributed in most instances to religion, this phenomena also relates to the origins of the Martial Arts.     

     Belief selection is the process in which people will enter into a faith or adapt to a culture, and once stabilized, will pick and chose which parts of it suit them and their lifestyles. For example many Christians will practice their religion without necessarily attending church every week, something considered a fundamental in their religion’s credo. It is not hard to see the foundations of Martial Arts were irrepressibly linked to religion. From India to China, then to Japan, Buddhism and martial discipline were intertwined with the practice of martial arts.

     However when these martial arts have been brought to the west they have only retained a spiritual mysticism which many Kung Fu practitioners lament as media creation. We must stress that this is a creation of de-spirituality in modern times, as the knights of Europe were fervently religious in the practice of their fighting arts, and solely modern developments like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Russian Sombo have no pure religious connection – this, in a sense, is why they are so popular with us. Along their journey to our side of the world Martial Arts dropped their religious fusion and became about discipline, positivity, physical fitness and at best, diluted spirituality.

     In this reality we can easily see why certain Martial Arts are booming, and others, in general trends, are being left behind. We are no longer conscribed by religious beliefs, so what makes those of us who live the Martial Arts culture do so? Well there are innumerate reasons, of course, but one school of thought is beginning to rise, and this quote from Jiu-Jitsu fighter Gerald Strebendt illustrates it perfectly.

“I would always like to submit someone. When I wrap up on them slowly and watch them fight for air it makes me feel like I am some kind of predator. It is one of the few things in the world that is still pure. I want to make them tap out so there is no doubt I have them mastered. If we were in nature and we were fighting over food or women I could decide their fate... This is the moment that every submission fighter lives for.”

     Darwinism now stands as the prevailing common knowledge belief for Western human beings on our origin and the nature of nature. We are a society swept up in complications and minutia, consistently distracted from the essence of existence – survival. We live in opulent surroundings, no longer required to fight for food and family, we now have the room to consider, to self analyze and to cogitate why combat is in our blood.

     The second area of sociology that helps us is connected to this pervasive Darwinism and it deals with isolation and anomie in modern cultures, as the proving ground and fixated role for the male hunter-gatherer disappears into the new millennium. The time when we didn’t consider why we practiced Martial Arts is the time when they were developed into the legacy we reap. There are many now who feel that warrior spirit within them, the desire to fight and to win, that primeval urge to compete that motivates so much of what we do in sport and in business.

     The purest connection the modern man has to this simple, uncomplicated reality is the modern Martial Arts. Without the religious motivation of the past, many of us look at the practice of fighting in a disciplined and honourable arena as harking back to a better time, when things were simple, pure and clinical. This predatory instinct drives the Martial Arts into evolution through the years and we now sit on a generation without a conformed, comforting set of beliefs who are going back to their animal roots for guidance.

About the Author:

Steve Fowler is the President of Durham University Mixed Martial Arts. This article was part of a sociological thesis on modern martial arts culture and was graciously donated for inclusion in our site.

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