THE MARTIAL ARTS OUTLET
I think most people that start taking martial arts have a pretty good idea of why they’re doing it. Some want more confidence and what better way to achieve that than the idea of mastering yourself? Others want to get into shape; lead a healthier lifestyle, and you then you have people that want to just try something new for a while just to say they did it.
I personally feel that most people that start studying the martial sciences aren’t honest with themselves about why they chose this way as opposed to archery, or pottery or some other quasi absurd skill that for all intents and purposes could fill the same gap.
When I started training, I was 6 years old. My parents got me into Tae Kwon Do because I was getting beat up at school, at the playground, everywhere and quite frankly, and everyone was tired of it. So I made it very clear in 1991 that I wanted to learn how to fight. Well. Whatever it was that I had to do to learn how fight like the people on TV, in my video games, I was going to do.
Now I wasn’t some Karate punk that just went around picking fights, but once I got to the point where I felt confident in my abilities, I wasn’t backing down from any either. I would take what I learned in the dojo and apply the techniques in the street to see what worked and what didn’t. It makes sense, right? You have to test-drive a car before you buy it. I never cared for point sparring tournaments; I only competed in a few. The idea of playing tag just didn’t excite me as much as real combat did.
When I was 14, a friend of mine was one of the top 3 amateur boxers in the world and took me to boxing training with him after baseball practice. He figured it could only help my traditional martial arts practice. At 15, I started training in Silat. My instructor was ex-military from Indonesia. He stressed the importance of real world importance and combat in its truest form. He would tell me traditional teachings and all that was fine but, “you’re memories can’t hurt anyone”. A lot of the things we worked on were what paved the path for the way I practice and teach today.
Martial Arts always provided me an outlet for coping with whatever it was I was dealing with. My training always evolved with me. Once I learned to fortify my body, my technique became like stone. Flexibility and calmer thinking from training to focus lent a water element to my art. Always changing with me. One of the largest struggles I’ve had, and I think a lot of us here in the west have, is spending so much time enhancing our Yang and neglecting the Yin. Just due to our culture and day-to-day life and grind, we tend to overlook the importance of internal health. I’ve trained with masters, two specifically that come to mind that have given me a glimpse of what’s possible when pay full respect to your art.
I started competing in underground fight rings around 2002 to earn a little money but really just try to see what I was capable of. I was 15-16 years old fighting with a lot of grown men, bar room brawlers, weekend warrior types that didn’t offer much in the sake of competition, so the next logical step was sanctioned bouts. I ended up taking to boxing like a duck to water and I was able to compete at a very high level. An injury that I didn’t let heal correctly ended up dissolving my pro career before it started, so I looked to round my studies of martial sciences by reading, really looking at the theory and application as opposed to just hard and soft skills.
Eventually, I became very protective of my art. Not in the way a parent shields a child from the world, but rather the way a wild animal raises its young. With steadfast attention I cultivated my body to push past it’s physical peak and use my mind to eliminate barriers that attempted to hold me down. The older I got, the more athletic, resilient and focused I became. I’m in my 25th year as a martial artist, I’ve earned 3 black belts, including a 3rd dan in Shotokan and a superwelter weight amature boxing title. Those titles and ranks have done well for my ego, but at times left me arrogant and difficult to train with, so of late, I’ve been subjecting myself to humility as much as possible.
Recently, while writing this essay for Budo Brothers, my black belts were stolen out of my jeep along with a few other personal belongings. I was crushed and I still am. I felt that part of my soul was removed and that somehow erased the two plus decades of training I pushed through, then I thought about a saying: "Being too enamored by your black belt will leave you defeated by it." My rank is not indicative of my skill, nor does a piece of cloth define me as a martial artist. I will use this adversity to my benefit, to my ego, and training.
Yours in the arts,
Farooq Ameen Al-Said