I don't think it can be argued that what we are doing is the study of conflict (this sentence is true on many levels and gets funnier the more levels you go up).

Is it proper to limit one's study simply to the interpersonal conflict at the physical level, or is it proper to expand one's study to the interpersonal conflict at the verbal level?

Should we expand, as well, up to the generally social level, and examine conflict between groups of people? Should our studies examine the arts of diplomacy and politics? Is it necessary to understand the interplay between diplomacy/politics (verbal) and war (physical)?

-- the title of the question is a hard-to-translate quote from Clausewitz.

  • 2
    Why wouldn't it be? People expand their martial arts study to first aid, crisis counselling, history...it's just personal preference. I guess I'm saying this question is overly broad or subjective. Aug 16 '12 at 16:05
  • +1 for quoting Clausewitz... And the question is a good one too! Aug 17 '12 at 9:07
  • 4
    Downvote on "should" and "proper". The question will generate some interesting discussion and has spurred some interesting thought, but I don't think it is possible to tell whether it has been "answered", and consequently I don't think the answer has any reference value. Furthermore I'm skeptical that it is possible to research an answer to this question, or that an answer from an "expert" would be empirically superior to one from a random person. Very interesting question, but not, IMHO, appropriate.
    – MCW
    Aug 22 '12 at 16:53
  • As I stated above - interesting, but not constructive within the context of MA:SE
    – MCW
    Sep 13 '12 at 16:23

That's going to be a personal choice, and/or a dojangh/dojo choice.

You could find a studio that reduces all study of the martial art to simply attack and defense. I would consider this to be a "cobra-kai" type of studio, in that any offensive is met with instant reprisal, "a man faces you he is your enemy" kind of thinking.

There are other studios that also consider conflict avoidance, and how to walk/talk and present yourself so as not to inflame a situation, but rather to be able to defuse it and walk away without having to resort to the physical.

I suppose that if you have a teacher that is widely read in the classical military strategists, then you could get a trickle down effect in the teaching, but I think for the most part, it's going to be WAY to broad a topic for a MA studio to even think of handling.

For the most part, I don't really think it's within the scope of training for MODERN martial artists to be schooled in international relations/diplomacy. There are even very few that teach the arts side anymore. I suppose there are still schools that adhere to the samurai/shogunate style of teaching where you learn art, instruments, poetry, etc. in addition to the martial side, but those are going to be very rare.

I do believe it has value, but I think if you are going to pursue it in any depth, it's going to be more on a personal interest level.


This depends entirely upon your goals.

"Should" implies a level of obligation I'm not comfortable with in this situation.

Very few, if any, would be prepared with a curriculum of the psychology of conflict at any level, whether personal or regional. If you want to learn that, take classes, and prepare to spend as much time on that as on the more-physical side common to the dojo.

My personal opinion that our studies should be focused on where we're likely to actually deal with. I do study ways to handle interpersonal conflict as part of my interest in Buddhism. On a larger scale, while conflict is of a personal interest, conflict resolution at that level isn't something I'll ever be actively involved in, so I don't study the general politics of conflict resolution or subjects related to it, even if I might study the history and nature of conflicts of a particular region of interest.


Sun Tsu The Art Of War states:

Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

This, in my not so humble opinion, can be applied to personal physical conflicts, to conflicts between organisations such as war between nations or corporations in the market place, and to social interactions of all kinds. For the latter, just think of this quote in the context of seducing someone.

So, whatever martial art you practice will have repercussions in the rest of your life. They are not a governing factor (not all who practice hard styles will end up as amoral killers) but will contribute to it. You, as a martial artist, should be aware of this. Can it be taught? Probably not, it's something you have to discover for yourself.

Note: If you have not read the Art of War, you should do it. It is short, free, and will take you a lifetime to master.

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