Training, Discipline, Violence, Instinct

“I’ve always thought that because of all the Training & Discipline,

they would be able to keep in check their most

Violent Instincts.”

–Hetti Puntin, Twitter User from Italy.



Well, that is the goal. That is what we are all trying to do. Some of us are even one tie-dye t-shirt away from being outright hippies. Unfortunately, we might be doing it wrong which lends itself to the disconnect in communication between Martial Arts and society at large.

Violent Perception: The Karate Problem

Fort Hood Scandal

The quote above comes from Twitter commentary on an ABC News report about a recent scandal at the US Army’s Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas involving multiple deaths from suicide, accidents and a murdered woman who complained about sexual harassment. 14 top brass have been fired or suspended for their chronic inaction.

Here’s the ABC video and an American Press article for more context.

Soldiers from different units conduct a timed road march on a tank trail March 20 at Fort Hood. Five four-man teams from around Fort Hood competed in the 2014 Best Team Competition. The competition, which was hosted by 36th Engineer Brigade, tests each team’s strength, wit and cohesion through a series of basic soldier skills. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Samuel Northrup, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)



The quote from Twitter at the top also invokes 4 concepts inherent in martial arts.





Mushin: The Empty Mind

Martial arts training (and military training), should result in a clearer mindset through a committed focus on training specific techniques. Hopefully, the committed training will overwrite our basic instincts towards violence BUT it does not eliminate them.

In fact, every single technique gives us an opportunity to confront inner conflict and learn how to deal with it.

Trap Game

But, there are traps to fall into. A lot of these pitfalls seem to revolve around the concept of discipline because the majority of people believe discipline = punishment.

According to Oxford Dictionary, Discipline is defined as:

The practice of training people to obey rules and orders and punishing them if they do not.”

Which is odd, because if you look at, the list of synonyms for Discipline include:

Do you see the word punishment?


Speaking of biblical terminology, let’s take a look at the word Disciple. Do you think it’s related to discipline?

Of course, it is.

A Disciple shows Discipline by their commitment to a cause.

Are Dojos Safe Spaces?

The common denominator between a Disciple and Discipline is commitment, not punishment.

By no means are martial arts or the military divorced from Violence because we kick stuffed bags for an hour or do target practice on human-shaped silhouettes or wooden dummies.

You see advertisements for martial arts clubs declaring they’re a family-friendly safe-space where you can go blow-off some steam and get away from the real world.

This makes no sense, of course because it completely negates the idea of building confidence and character in someone so they can go out into the world and be a competent, productive member of society.

Our intent matters. We shouldn’t train to escape the world. We should train to help ourselves deal with the world.

What we do with what we’ve learned matters. If we receive bad information or bad training, we’re going to make grievous tactical errors. No amount of bad training is going to make it better. Worse yet, nobody wants to take responsibility for those bad decisions.


That is how a culture of fear can take root. Not so much from malicious abuses of power, but by cowardly negligence.

By not being courageous and taking responsibility for sexual harassment policy, people have died.

By not being courageous and taking responsibility for suicide prevention, people have died.

This is what happened in Fort Hood. A failure of leadership.

If you don’t have courageous leadership to act on policy, none of it matters, despite how many committees, rules, regulations or systems you have.

People are dying. That’s a succinct summary of humanity if I’ve ever heard one.


Sensei Jim

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