“Have you ever used your martial arts in self-defence?” The student asked.
“Only once,” replied the master, “and only to control a distraught and hysterical person, not to fight.”
But the master was troubled by the student’s question. “Have I trained for years to use my art only in the rare case of self-defence?” The master considered his art and his training. He remembered the teachings of his own master, who had taught him the Chinese rule of the hammer: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, soon all your problems begin to look like nails,” his master had said. It was true, he thought. I have mastered the art of fighting, but not of winning; of truly defeating an opponent by making him my friend. I have learned to win conflict, not to prevent it or resolve it to the satisfaction of all. I have learned nothing!
The master put on again the white belt he had worn as a beginner. He examined his art and began to use the principles of overcoming an opponent physically to the conflicts of his daily life. He began to anticipate an “attack” by noting the pattern of events that made people angry. He learned that when he disrupted the pattern early and with understanding and principle, the anger never materialised, and the “attack” never occurred. He began to let people express their anger until they were spent; he simply listened and let go of his defensiveness. Then he would look for the cause of his assailant’s anger and deal with it through understanding and principle. In time he became a wise master whose council was sought often.
“Have you ever had to use your martial arts?” The student asked.
“Yes, often” said the master, “and since I have begun to use it, I have not had to fight.”