Martial Arts Scepticism: Taking it on the Chin and Listening to Fools
We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
—George Orwell (1946)
The process of martial arts training can be a long and arduous one. Many of us have our stories of disciplinarian and perfectionist teachers who would be fast to notice minute faults in our technique. Sometimes we would be corrected by more than one instructor over the same thing. What one instructor put “right” another would find fault and put it back the way it was and we’d start feeling like some sort of tennis ball being batted one way and then another. Students have to accept error when their teacher points it out. The fierceness defined by training in martial arts inspires an atmosphere not to question the instructor – you are humble in the presence of his knowledge and experience. Perhaps it speaks to our tribal instinct and puts us into a state of automatic awe of an alpha figure who we assume won their position through combative superiority. Perhaps it is part of the legacy of a time when the military and religious institutions influenced all places of learning. Humility is a regular topic in the world of martial arts training and many students are taught about its virtues by their instructor. And yet few of us stop to wonder how humble the instructor is when he is wrong?
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