He Had His Art
written by Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny
Several years back, a man I had fought at a “Dog Brothers Gathering” went out behind his school and blew his brains out. He was involved in intense law enforcement work and I was told that his marriage was ending. He left two daughters and a separated wife.
He was a part of the extended Inosanto Tribe as well the Dog Brothers tribe and so I mentioned it to Guro Inosanto. He was surprised, and instantly exclaimed “How could he have done that? He had his Art!”
As I tried explaining how perhaps there had been gremlins planted or unleashed by his work, and that perhaps he had cracked as his family was breaking up, Guro seemed to not even care what the reasons were– he had his Art and why had he not turned to it?
I certainly had no answer in his case, but began to reflect upon the Art and its larger role in life.
At its core level, martial arts is about Love, the belief that you (and those you wish to protect) are worthy of defending from the Aggression of others.
So what is Aggression for?
In DBMA we often look at things through a lens of evolutionary biology-psychology and speak of the three reasons for Aggression: Territory, Hierarchy, and Reproduction. There is much value in this perspective– but we do not experience our lives in terms of evolution.
We experience our lives as individuals living the time we have. As men, this usually means we are The Protector. The Protector faces a great dichotomy– he must be ready to connect with his Darkness in order to neutralize or defeat the Darkness of others– and at the same time be conscious of his own Shadow tricking him into being the Problem instead of the Solution. The greater this dichotomy, the profounder the transformation that results from balancing its halves successfully.
Thus, as a natural person living with our Intelligence and our Animal Natures in service of our Heart, (I refer here to the three corners of the triangle of the DBMA emblem: “Mind, Heart & Balls”) we come to “the three H’s of Bando: Hurting, Healing, and Harmonizing”.
Typically we come to the Art seeking to learn how to Hurt. In the process of learning to do so, we too are hurt, and thus develop the need to Heal ourselves. With this beginning experience of our own mortality, with empathy we learn to see others as no different from us. From there, an Awareness is available which takes us through a portal to different way of seeing things. It is to realize that the darkness we recognize in others, named by Carl Jung “the Shadow”, is also within us, and those with whom we conflict the most have a Shadow most like our own –a truly annoying and
challenging thought this is! Yet, by so doing we bring consciousness to our solutions to Aggression. As Jung said in the words opening the first video in our first series, “The idea is not to imagine figures of light, but to
make the darkness conscious.”
The Art becomes seen not as a matter of doing Aggression well, but of dealing well with it-which may or may not be a matter of doing it “better” than The Other. In other words, we become increasingly able to engage with others in a Harmonious way, and become increasingly inaccessible to hostile intentions, provocations or neurosis on the part of others.
And the more grounded we are in this space, the clearer and more effective we should be in our will to act when circumstances require-and as surely as no one beats everyone, equally sure it is that there can be times and places beyond one’s ability to harmonize. If the flying fickle finger of Fate puts you on Flight 93, it is time to say “Lets Roll.”
Those who dedicate their lives to protecting others (soldiers, policemen, prison guards, etc) deal with those with whom efforts at harmonization may well be suicidal. These Protectors face the dichotomy in particularly acute form. I remember a conversation with my good friend and hero, Dogzilla – a federal prison guard. We were speaking as we often do, of his life at work. He runs the kitchen (a truly weapon intense environment) and is on the cell extraction team-particularly high adrenal jobs both. “How do you do it, day after day, keeping alert surrounded by bad men with nothing better to do for the next 20 years than to study you for weakness and opportunity to exploit it? How do you go into a cell to extract a criminally insane man in a psychotic killing state and drag him out without becoming that?” I asked him.
“That’s not the hardest part” he answered. “The hardest part is getting in my truck at the end of the day and not going off on all the jerks on the road and going home to my wife and little girl and walking in the door in a state of love.”
“So how do you do it?”
“I have my Art. (Those words again!) I go out back and train. I train to be able to move through a room full of men looking to take me down and kill or make me pregnant and get out the door at the far side of the room and make it home to my family. I enter into the space where I am capable of whatever it takes. When I am done tuning up my body, when I am done discharging all the fear and all the unexpressed anger, and I know that I have trained with what Don Juan called ‘impeccability’, then my workout is done and I am ready for both my job and for my family.”