Martial arts classes aren’t going to make you indestructible, invincible or able to defeat all comers. Whilst they may make you more aware and more capable in terms of defending yourself. They are are not the panacea to all ills.
I remember being taught Aikido in a London dojo, where the Sensei (teacher) taking the class said: ‘if at night you see two large blokes looking for trouble and heading your way and you duck down an alley and hide in a dustbin, this is Aikido’. Sensei Ray told me that when he worked on the doors of London clubs the first thing he did when faced with any threat was to take a step back and find his balance.
This doesn’t sound like Bruce lee, Kill Bill style martial arts does it?
Many long term practitioners of martial arts spent hours and hours at it and would go to classes every opportunity they could. Certainly in times gone by, even in the UK, classes were longer and more intense. In the original Japanese schools attendees might spend weeks or months just learning one thing until it was perfect like learning how to break fall, doing it over and over again.
Much of Martial arts for the modern practitioner is about physical enjoyment, flexibility and fitness as well as self defence. The process is slower and teaching done at a different pace. For some practitioners, the building of confidence, and learning balance, flexibility and awareness is as important as the flow of martial arts movement that leads to defence and attack.
Most Martial arts classes involve warm up, stretching and fitness routines, and people love the interesting fitness aspects, mostly because it is so much more stimulating than going to the gym, a pilates or aerobic exercise class.
Now it appears that Vicars are being attacked more frequently and there is a call for them to be given self defence lessons. Personally I think this is a good idea as long as it is progressive. The best training is long term and aims for continuous improvement but a few quickly learned bits and bobs are more likely to be part of a taster leading to more in depth training and if used on their own could make more trouble.
Martial arts is very similar to religion and asks for education through dedication, perseverance and continuous instruction over a long period of time.
Now I am not sure what the Vicar or the curate might say locally, if I asked them for a taster session, because I’d decided to do a bit of preaching in my spare time. Their answer would probably be that I would probably create more problems than I could solve. However, if they thought it might be useful I would be better dedicating myself to some proper theological training.
In my experience without continuous training in the Martial Arts you will not deal with an attack or threat, as you will be too busy trying to remember some bits and bobs learned on a short course ages ago.
Some of defence as well as martially force, balance and skill is about releasing your inner animal, this in self might be seen as a spiritual or therapeutic experience on its own.
Then again, many people who learn martial arts see themselves as peacekeepers, and use their skills and confidence to stop violence and avoid challenging situations, so I would encourage the clergy to learn. The joy of learning a martial art can really help you learn an inner peace that is reflected in how you are able to deal with situations, ideal for vicars perhaps?
The truth is our problem as a society is we want simple answers to complex questions or a quick fix, neither your vicar nor a martial arts instructor can give you this. However, both if good at their job should be encouraging, supportive and help you to build up an inner strength.
We will not be encouraged by being asked to take part because of fear, whether that is of the street criminal or damnation, fear is something that needs putting aside to encourage growth, development, strength and awareness all central to martial arts training, the end result being self belief, quiet self confidence, respect and self defence.
So fancy coming down on a Tuesday evening to the Landport community centre in Lewes at 8pm and getting fit, losing a bit of weight, distressing and learning some defence techniques, maybe training as a vicar, or both?