The Endangered Concept of Service
We teach students dangerous, harmful, and sometimes deadly techniques in the hopes that our students never have to use them in self defense or to defend someone else. That is a lot of power and responsibility to put in the hands of a single person. If we look back to the forefathers of martial arts, and eschew the ego that often goes along with tracing our martial lineages; we see that most of the martial arts practiced today are derivative of another martial art, which is derivative of another, and so on. When we get closer to the source, we will most often see that it stemmed from a service organization.
Two examples that most people are familiar with are the Samurai, and Shaolin (Buddhist) monks. The word Samurai literally means "those who serve", or "to serve and attend." These members of society pledged their entire lives wholeheartedly to serving their master(s). It is not the aim of this blog to discuss the political or ethical ramifications of those policies, but merely to point out the extraordinary and willing sacrifice that a life like that entails. The martial Shaolin Monks are a second clear example of this doctrine of service. A Buddhist monk's first priority is to preserve and practice the teachings of Buddha. Their second priority? Use this knowledge to help society as a whole. Again, we see a community where service is one of the top priorities.
Why was this a common practice (and in the Buddhist monastic community, still is)? Service begets humility. If you serve others you are less inclined to serve yourself first. This is a paramount characteristic of a responsible martial artist. As instructors, we are constantly wary of training bullies and thugs. In my humble opinion, community service is the disappearing standard that is a necessary safeguard against just such personalities. Students who come to our dojos, dojangs, temples, and training halls simply to learn violence for the sake of violence tend to not stick around when the calls of the community are answered by the school. So warriors, how have you served your community today?