A Personal Story
The “Martial Arts”, Even to those with no more than a passing interest the very words conjure up a veritable cornucopia of images and preconceived perceptions.
From the serene enlightened utterances of Master Po to the blood curdling caterwauls of Bruce Lee and a thousand deviations in between,the “Arts” have presented a multitude of meanings to the general public.
Perhaps the most enduring representation is that of the square jawed somewhat stoic figure who represents the pinnacle of physical perfection ,who can seriously kick some ass, yet who benevolently smiles on lessor mortals who may be in need of his guidance and protection.
Truth be told it's not a bad image,especially in these days of a very disaffected culture. Strong leadership, an abundant work ethic, the attainment of personal goals and the cultivation of a self protection mindset are all immensely admirable and meritorious benefits of regular training.
An aspect of martial arts which is taken as a given is the development of one's self defence capabilities. The definition of self defence is “the protection of one's person or property against some injury by another”. A pretty apt description given the pugilistic and self esteem assurances of most martial arts.
However, perhaps the amending of the definition to read “the protection of one's person or property against some injury by another or by oneself ” may be more pertinent.
Now ,inflicting harm or injury on the self is not the normal intention of most individuals. However the prevalence of self harm is more wide spread in our society than would be at first apparent,aside from the obvious instances of self harm inflicted by those sadly suffering from physiological issues. On a subliminal level we do know that we are subjecting ourselves to a certain degree of self harm. We constantly eat things we know to be bad for us. We smoke, take too much alcohol and seem to be constantly subjecting ourselves to ever increasing amounts of stress.
The ultimate result of such a lack of real self protection is to invoke an attacker perhaps more lethal than any deranged thug or socio-path:
The Silent Killer, the Ninja of Annihilation -C.H.D. - Coronary Heart Disease.
Before we continue please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Alan Ellis and I am a martial artist. I have practised martial arts for over forty years now and I have taught martial arts extensively. My main system was Kenpo Karate and latterly I discovered the wonders of Tai Chi.
My main raison d'etre was the teaching of practical self defence. My philosophy was (still is) ,that every man or woman has the inalienable right to the means of self protection. The manifestation of that “means of self protection” was always conceived to be in the utilisation of defensive strategies against a psychotic attacker or attackers. Of course the other benefits of martial arts training were also gratefully received. Fitness, camaraderie, a sense of achievement, confidence and self esteem. While ostensibly good health was a natural by product of my training regime I was to discover that fate had a valuable and profound lesson in store.
April 5th 2010. Jogging on Magheramore beach. A local,secluded enclave of golden sand near my home on Ireland's east coast. The best, some say the only surfing beach on the eastern seaboard and a spot where I had enjoyed many a great day amongst the breakers. It was a hot blue skied spring morning and I had taken my favourite yellow Labrador ,Machi, along with me. The beach was deserted at that time , in fact it is normally a very quite spot as access is only gained by walking a mile along a cow patted lane which traverses two dairy farms. One is then obliged to negotiate a near vertical descent down about one hundred concrete steps which are laid along the cliff side leading to the beach.
After a leisurely jog along the sand I spent about half an hour practising some forms on the empty beach while Machi ambled at the waters edge. As the dog ran back towards the grey concrete steps I jogged after him. About halfway up the beach I was overcome with the most unnatural tiredness I had ever experienced.I stopped in my tracks and sat down on the warm sand, feeling compelled to lie down and rest. I lay there for several minutes, on my back spread-eagled gazing at the azure sky.
I lay there for some minutes. Eventually I staggered to my feet and and made my way along the sand towards the steps. I was experiencing palpitations,I was breaking out in alight sweat,was I coming down with a flu? For fleeting moment I thought that I might be experiencing a heart attack but as there was no pain, and as this I assumed was a classic symptom, I quickly dismissed that thought from my mind.
As I came to the step I was overcome with a tremendous weakness. There is a small river which flows alongside and then in front of the steps dissecting the beach as it makes its way seaward. I stopped at the river , which is transvered by s series of ancient stepping stones,and realised that I did not poses the strength in my legs to make my way successfully across. Realising that I need to ascend the the step as quickly as possible and with an impending sense of panic beginning to set in I checked my mobile phone for network coverage, The beach is notoriously black spot for coverage and it didn't disappoint me. So no help. There was nothing left to do but to cross the river and get to the steps under my own steam.
Knelling down I places my hand into the shallow waters which rose to my elbows. Next I entered with my knees feeling the smooth pebbles dig into my skin,Machi splashed alongside me. Usually he would have revelled in this “game” but a deeper sense in him seemed to let him know that this was not meant to be fun. After what seemed an agonising eternity I made it to the start of the concrete steps.
Ascending the steps was my Everest, With Machi ahead of me pulling me sledge dog style I grimly held on his leash and step by step reached the summit. There, I lay on the soft grass verge, Machi standing guard over me. Unsure of what had occurred I contemplated calling out for help. A lone surfer came by, on route to the cliff's edge to make the obligatory inspection of the day's swell. I waved weakly but didn't feel comfortable enough to ask for assistance. After all I was a fit ,strong karate instructor. A mixture of pride and and a reluctant to accept that anything was amiss governed my more sensible instincts.
A few more minute saw me regain composure and begin to feel much better. I struggled to my feet and began the mile long trek back to where I had parked my Jeep. With each step my senses seemed to be returning to a degree of normality. By the time I reached the end of the access lane I was almost back to normal. I sat behind the wheel of the Jeep and put down the window. As I turn the vehicle homewards I felt the cool spring wind on my face. It was a refreshing feeling. Reaching home in about five minutes I collapsed on the bed. I slept for a straight twenty four hours.