No Fear

By Bud Malmstrom

I know the “No Fear” is a brand name but I see trucks with signs on them that say “No Fear”. I assume that means the driver has no fear of anything, and somehow that is supposed to tell those who read it that the driver is macho or manly. It tells me that the driver is inexperienced and immature. From my experience, anyone who has ‘No Fear’ hasn’t been there.

Why is it in the western movies when the Indians are about to start an uprising, it is always the older men who are cautious about declaring war on the US soldiers? Why is it always the young braves that want to declare war and send all of the tribe’s braves off to prove the strength and courage of the tribe? I sense the young brave has to prove to himself and others that he is not afraid to fight. The older man wants to weigh all the options first, until war is the only option. If it is the only option, he will take it, but it is fear of what will happen that slows his pace to conflict. He fears for his tribe’s survival or possibly the death of the young brave. Experience has taught him the hard lessons of combat and battle. He has fear because he has been there. He has lived enough life to know that death is permanent. After all life is our most precious gift.

The greatest martial artists with whom I’ve trained are those who are kind and humble. Why is that? I try to see the causes of things because in the root is where all things gain life. It is again from my experience, I have resolved, that these people are humble and quiet because they know it takes no effort to wage war, whether it be division against division, or man on man. Anyone can fight, and only half can win. Not really good odds when you think about it. The great martial artists usually have a good sense of humor and mock themselves when possible. They have no fear of being the butt of a joke. Laughter takes most of our consciousness further from the reality that life is not permanent.

I witness martial artists in my art, Bujinkan Taijutsu, and in other arts, who train so hard they injure themselves and their training partners. They brag about how hard they train and ridicule those who don’t train like them. They may have excellent techniques, speed, power and agility, but I call this immature training. I see this type of training as the same conduct of the young men who have “No Fear” on their vehicles. Why? Because they want the world (and more importantly themselves) to believe they could really hurt someone if they were serious about it. Why do they want others to see them in this way? I have found through my experience that they have no confidence in their ability and they need to get as close as they can to “real combat” to test themselves so they and others can be sure it works, or, it will when they need it. If they had been there, instinctively they would know if it works. By the fact that they have to test themselves proves they are not sure of their ability. Tests prove or disprove knowledge or skill of something. Tests gauge proficiency. Those who are proficient tend not to need tests to prove it. Once you become a CPA, do you continue to take the final exam from your last year in college, just to prove that you still have it? If you have survived combat or conflict you will not need to continue to prove that you can survive it by finding ways to do battle.

Training is training, and combat is combat. They can never be the same. If you are in the dojo and someone gets angry and starts a fight, it is no longer training, it’s a fight! If you are training on building clearings but both you and the bad guys are using live ammo, it is no longer training. It is combat. In combat, you can’t work on techniques that go wrong then ask your enemy to try it again so you can work on it some more. The strategies, tactics and techniques of training need to be real but not dangerous. If you are training so hard people get injured, then the injured people have set themselves back because they will be out of training until they heal. What has that proved? Your training partner is doing you a favor by giving you someone from which to judge and learn timing, distancing and angling. Your partner should be respected for his willingness to help you learn and visa versa. It is foolish to train so hard that one of you risks being injured.

Men know whom they are and what they can do, and feel no need to prove it to anyone else. Men, grown men, don’t ride around with their mobile boom boxes playing music (if you can call it that) so loud that everyone around the car has to hear it. Why are they playing their music so loud? It is their way of screaming at the world to be recognized as someone to be reckoned with or someone important. Why would they need to scream that at the world if they already knew in their hearts their personal character was enough to show the world their value? The obvious answer is, they wouldn’t. The act of contributing to society in a meaningful way would be enough statement to prove their worth.

Those who have sat in cold foxholes in 6 inches of water throughout the night don’t become irate about the hotel room that is not up to their standards. Men who have fought for their lives in mortal combat have an underlying calmness that takes more than the average chaos to ruffle their feathers. Men of this caliber seem to migrate to each other. There is a bond even they have a hard time talking to each other about, and find it impossible to relate that experience to someone who has not been there. It is like trying to tell someone what it is like to be in love if the listener has never been in love. The words come out but sound hollow to the speaker and the listener. The conversation usually reverts to, “You just had to be there”.

I suggest that you slow your training down and work on the perfection of movement, angling and distance. I suggest you revere your training partner for the experience he will help you gain. Share your progress and break throughs with your fellow martial artist so they might learn from your training experience. Talk to other martial artists about the problems you have learning a technique, tactic or philosophy. Then you both may gain from it.

Life threatening situations are costly. I don’t recommend you go looking for them. Some people are called to conflict and I encourage them to follow their sense of responsibility in the military, law enforcement or rescue service. These organizations have training so you are better prepared for the conflict ahead. The dojo is not the place to test yourself. The dojo is a place where friends meet to train and grow, not do battle.

I offer a salute to my past and current friends who are in harms way. Men and women who by choice offer their safety to secure ours. They have my highest admiration and my most humble gratitude.