There’s a film I like to use in my classes to teach. “Michael Clayton” by Ton Gilroy. I think it’s one of the most underrated thrillers of the last 20 years.
In it one of the characters, who’s an assassin, Mr. Vern (What a cool name for an assassin BTW) tells his boss that they “Deal in absolutes,” meaning they go as far as killing if necessary.
This always struck me as a very elegant way of saying that you’re willing to murder. But it also made me think of other absolutes…life, death, courage, love, hate. Those are absolutes as well I suppose.
I think it’s a very appropriate phrase for the martial arts.
We also deal in absolutes.
The martial arts deal with situations of life and death. One of the major principles of the art of Karate, the idea of the one punch kill, has to do with that very subject. It’s not necessarily the ability of killing somebody with one punch but rather the idea of full commitment when it comes to techniques. That your whole life is hanging on the balance, at every second, so you better be fully committed.
Martial arts also deal in the absolute of hope. I work a lot with veterans where I teach and I don’t know how many times I’ve been told: “martial arts saved my life” or at least something close to that.
The discipline, the sense of camaraderie, the concept of having something you’re doing just for yourself, something you do to improve who you are and to live a healthier lifestyle, both physically and mentally.
Many fighters come from shady backgrounds but the martial arts gave them a channel for that destructive energy and turn them into productive members of society.
The martial arts are full of stories like that. I, for one, wouldn’t be where I am today without the principles of self reliance and discipline that I learned in the martial arts. It’s been a constant school for my entire life. I’ve been at it 30 years and every day I step into the dojo, I know there’s a lesson for me to learn. The older I get the tougher the lesson becomes.
That spirit of challenge is another absolute we deal in. It’s what keeps the soul alive.