Totality of Ritual & Reality

What I have come to appreciate is that because Dog Brothers Martial Arts is a diverse system, people come to us for diverse reasons.  Stated thus, the point is blindingly obvious, but that has not stopped me from not appreciating it as much as I could and should have– and sometimes this has led to confusion. 

Now that I have begun thinking about it, it seems to me that there is a continuum, which in order to have a manner of talking, I divide into three sections.

Some people come to us due to their interest in the Ritual Space, e.g. a Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack and/or the health, fun, artistic and philosophical aspects of our system.   At the other end of the spectrum are people who are intensely interested in developing real world skills for the challenges of Reality. Typically these people are the Protectors.  In between the two are people who may not have pressing immediate real world concerns, but like the idea of using the Ritual Space of a DB Gathering as a moral venue to explore and prepare their adrenal state skills should in Reality the flying fickle finger of fate ever reach out and touch them to say “You are on, right here, right now.”  In short, they seek to Totality of the Tao of the Dog.

What I have come to appreciate is that many members of the first group explicitly prefer to have their experience free of what Carl Jung might call “the shadow issues” of real world applications.  

Similarly, many members of the second group seek precisely to deal effectively with the shadow of those serve or are in the thrall of the Dark.  Typically these people prefer to have their experience devoid of what might playfully be called “martial arts & crafts”, “dead patterns and tippy tap drills” and the like.  

And there is a third group  –those who prefer a blend and a balance of the preceding two archetypes.  Personally, this is where I find myself– in search of the totality of ritual and reality.

Because it contains unique questions, let us turn to matters that pertain specifically to the Reality end of the spectrum and its denizens–  the Protectors.  As I get older I have come to appreciate with greater depth than before the moral complexities of teaching the reality dimension of a weapons oriented martial art that originated in jungle warfare.  I sometimes joke about how I used to be a lawyer, but decided to go for the big bucks in Real Contact Stickfighting– the meaning of course being that there really is not very much money in this path.  Although it is my profession, I am not a mercenary.  I do it because I believe in it as part of my path in walking with our Creator.  

And because I believe in it I respect the power of its shadow.  There ARE people for whom this Art is not intended.  The reality dimension of this Art is for those who serve the various paths of the Heart– those who seek to Protect.  
The people for whom this Art is not intended I organize into three basic categories:
1)   The emotionally unsound and/or immature;
2)   Criminals;
3)   Enemies of Respect, Reason, and Reciprocity e.g. Islamo-fascists and others of this meme.

First, concerning the emotionally unsound it is my belief that teaching applied knife awakens some very dark energy, perhaps much more so than a gun.  In a sound Protector awareness of this energy and be able to tap into it is a good and necessary thing, but in the emotionally unsound or immature the consequences can be tragic.  For a fuller discussion of this point, see the clip titled “Rambling Ruminations: Knife” at

Second, obviously criminals (In defining criminality, I do distinguish malum per se from malum en prohibitum in this regard) also should not receive this training.  

Turning to the third category, I’d like to share a little story.  In the year 2000 I received an email that in a simple sentence of imperfect English asked me to teach knife to his group.  I responded by asking who he was.  “a syrian kickboxing club” he replied.  I did not respond further.  In the aftermath of 911 I remember reading that some of the hijackers had received close quarter combat training from a American martial arts instructor (in Florida if I remember correctly) and wondered if the group that had approached me was part of the same conspiracy.  Since then I have had a couple of other incidents wherein I was left wondering if someone had been pinging me.

I mention these things to give a sense of where I’m coming from with regard to security issues.  Yes, I know that with a knife what matters most is the will and the understanding of how to use it.  Yes, I know that plenty of people out there are teaching really deadly knife technique.  Yes, I know that most people have access to guns and that again, and again, that what matters most is the will and understanding of how to use it.  I know this!  I know this!

To the extent that what we offer is generic, I suppose it is relevant to note that “everyone else is doing it”—although even that doesn’t really suffice morally or spiritually.  And to the extent that what we offer is not commonly found, and I think it is, we need to look to ourselves to determine right action, not to others.

The criterion I use when teaching our Reality material (known variously as “DLO: Die Less Often” and “IGKEH Interface of Gun, Knife and EH”) to the general public be it through our DVDs or personal instruction is to avoid teaching things that will improve the level of the bad guys—the thugs.  For example, in DLO 1 we show the good guys something that thugs typically do— the “prison sewing machine” and what we think is a good way to solve both it and empty handed attacks on the same lines.  In the DVD we most certainly sought to provoke awareness of the dangers of this kind of attack, but by so doing we did not raise the level of thugs—they already know how to do this after all —but sought to raise the awareness of good people to what we believe to be a primal reality of knife attacks.  

Still this leaves the question of how to teach the things which are not for everyone.  As I have discussed previously (see e.g. our clip “Rambling Ruminations on Knife) training knife for application, as versus the Artistic/Ritual flow drills, disarm patterns, etc., can call to something very dark that sleeps within us and that once awakened in unsound people it can lead to tragic choices in pivotal moments.    Indeed it seems to me quite likely that this is why many FMA teachers go the artistic route—the physical knowledge is transmitted, but cannot be readily activated without certain keys of understanding.

One option certainly is simply not to go into these things– but is this really a solution?  In today’s world even on “youtube” and its like we see an ever accelerating rate of dissemination of knowledge and information which proceeds with or without Dog Brothers Martial Arts and the Protectors whom we seek to serve have need of it.  

The first step as I see it is to filter whom we teach.  The second I think is to anchor the physical training with morality.  This latter point is an important discussion in its own right, but I do not enter into it now.  

Concerning the filtering, first and foremost the main line of defense is the traditional responsibility of the instructor to “smell” his (her) students.  Of course filtering out those of bad intention or unsound emotions can be a good trick.  After all, many people come to martial arts for some sort of emotional healing and we would like to be able to help them if we can.  And people of bad intention have been known to dissemble about their true intentions.

With the Dog Brothers Martial Arts Association the question presented becomes complicated by the absence of face-to-face relationship with many of our members.  To a limited extent we already have been doing filtering for some time with the application for our Association, and the rigor of this process will be increased to the extent reasonably feasible.  For those within the Association we will be developing a separate category dedicated to more complete study of these things for which the filtering process will be even more thorough.  

This filtering process is very much a work in progress.  For example we would love to be able to simply run a criminal records check on all applicants, but apparently this is not possible.  We are looking into what it will take for applicants to provide it themselves.  It is also important to understand that we are humble about what this work-in-progress for filtering can accomplish.  To state the matter plainly, given the limitations of what we can bring to bear we know that we may not catch everyone who should be excluded.   Similarly, there will be cases where we turn someone down unfairly because we cannot bring enough to bear to make a fair determination.  By definition those who are unfairly turned down will not be offended or angry because they truly get who we are, what we are about, and what we are trying to accomplish.

The Adventure continues,
Guro Crafty

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