I was heavily involved in martial arts in the 1990s. Having had no access at all to martial arts in high school, I had just finished a career as a wrestler through the 80’s. I started training in Shotokan karate and Cheng-system taiji in college, before being introduced to wonderful style called Hwarang-Do by a college classmate. I spent several years at this school, training under the late Franklin “Butch” Fowlkes, an ex-Army Ranger who would later found the Five Elements Martial Arts System. In addition to being an instructor of Hwarang-do and the senior student of Michael Echanis, Butch held advanced ranks in taekwondo and hapkido (both learned while serving on the Korean DMZ) and wing chun; all of which he surreptitiously inserted into our lessons.
Sa Bahm Nim Fowlkes eventually cured me of my military-hating liberal ways, and I shipped off to be a late-blooming military policeman in the U.S. Marine Corps. In addition to high-expert ratings with rifle and pistol (and later MOS qualification as a Primary Marksmanship Instructor), I was trained in L.I.N.E (this was before MCMAP), Combat Hitting Skills, and pretty much everything Monadnock had to offer.
Once in the fleet, I spent three full years on Okinawa; training in Shorin-ryu karate, kobujutsu, and jujutsu under Grandmasters Shimabukuro Eizo and Kise Fusei. I was also briefly deployed to South Korea, allowing me to train in hapkido is some of the same places that Butch had. Upon returning, I briefly worked as “security contractor” until war broke out in 2002, at which time I returned to service in the National Guard. When my first deployment with the National Guard was over, I trained to the level of Instructor Candidate in the kali-silat system of MasGuru Greg Allend, before my instructor moved and I was once again in a wasteland with no training available. So, I got my NRA training credentials and worked on that for several years.
Now, as I finally approach retirement from the Guard, I find myself in area with several “martial arts” schools available. Except that they aren’t. Martial arts have been almost completely replaced in the U.S. by combat sports. My choices are, for the most part, to engage in sparring against athletic hopefuls half my age in systems with no weapons training at and which largely rely on rolling around on the ground for effectiveness; or to train with elementary school children in a sort of pajama’ed gymnastics routine which may or may not involve waving bits of plastic around in semblance of “weapons”. Even firearms training consists almost exclusively of medium-range rifle shooting at stationary targets from a bench.
The human race is not at the top of the food chain because we are the strongest or fastest animals on the planet. We are at the top of the food chain because we know how to make tools which largely negate the advantages of speed and strength from those who DON’T use them. Somewhere along the line, the citizens of the United States–who use tools for everything that they do–have allowed themselves to be convinced that using tools IN DEFENSE OF HUMAN LIFE is wrong.
This needs to be corrected.