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karate kidAs the credits rolled in the theater and ooooh….so did my eyes.  Sure everyone loves an underdog movie, but I preferred the cartoon. Walking out of the movie theater back in 1984, I couldn’t begin to find the simplest utterances in how the movie “The Karate Kid” wholly misrepresented martial arts. The cheesy lines and the stereotyping of characters were hard to get past the rewrite of the movie Rocky in a parallel universe.

Now forward roughly 15 years later, much to my protest I am being forced to suffer a second viewing “The Karate Kid.” Being wrestled into my seat and forcibly pinned down, I was commanded to watch the film, again.  I felt, I was experiencing a scene right out of “Clock Work Orange.” Instead of Alex, it was me suffering the Ludovico Technique. After 2 hours and 7 minutes of nightmarish déjà vu, my ordeal finally had end. This time when the credits rolled, my eyes didn’t.

Yes, Ralph Macchio’s thin performance and exasperating whining portrayal of Rocky, I mean, Daniel-san still annoyed the hell out of me. Mr. Miyagi as the post WWII archetype sensei dripping with wisdom, still had felt like a new Disney character.  Though I have to admit I liked the way they portrayed the Bushido code. But, the antagonist John Kreese is who broke through the 4th wall grabbing my attention by the throat.

Earlier, that day, I had a debate with an intransigent McDojo student who felt the Bushido code was archaic non-sense.  I refuted by saying martial arts had a moral obligation, specifically related to China and Japan.  Historically, rogue martial artists where a threat to society; a moral code for marital artists was the best way to insure society wouldn’t be threatened.  Of course, I was met with the contention of proof.  In short, I had to find a true to life Kreese for proof he was wrong.  Whether or not I would ever get to prove my argument face-to-face wasn’t as important. It was imperative for me to validate my reality that traditional martial arts code still had relevancy.

Firmly set on my crusade, I targeted the schools ripe for guilt, and those where the commercial martial arts schools. I framed my search from the perspective that the local martial arts schools covertly operating as reputable businesses were really a Cobra Kai harboring the villain I sought.  Culprits of immorality running amok in society are exactly what I needed to substantiate a traditional martial arts moral code.

After rooting round the local martial arts community for some time my suspicions never came to fruition. My search found nothing out of ordinary.  There was no one or nothing I could point my finger at say see here is the proof.  The schools I looked at defined the typical small businesses seemingly functioning under business ethics. I was perplexed, there were no Sith Lord strip mall cult sensei releasing their evil henchmen on society.  The proof I did find, which I wasn’t expecting, was a different reality. I had to rethink my perspective.

Business operated martial arts schools hadn’t turned to the “Dark Side,” as I thought.  The advancement and changes of modern society out grew a simple moral contract for martial arts. A modern society had turned their swords into goods and services and never looked back.  Martial arts schools now observe a business model adhering to business ethics.  No school would survive long with a tyrant instructor hand picking students to become merciless minions raiding society.  A school is more profitable as a black belt mill, or a McDojo. Martial arts schools no longer where potential threats to society, thus not requiring a traditional moral code. A new moral code was written and became a default function of running a school.  Something so obviously in front of my nose, I couldn’t see it.

I failed to notice that many martial arts business operated as positive members and partners in society. Such schools built a strong relationship with society insuring a positive relationship with and impact on their communities. For example, a lot of schools had philanthropic missions, worked with charities, sponsored school activities, or helped their communities in other ways; in return the martial arts school gained community respect and an honorable reputation.

Being faced with a new reality, I had to subscribe to the fact my beloved traditional code was outdated and effectively replaced by an ethical business model that fulfilled the same requirements.  Society had nothing to fear from martial artists as it did in the past, there was no reason for a traditional martial arts code any more.  A profound shift in thinking and reality the Cobra Kai and sensei John Kreese were nothing more than fiction.  There was no longer a need of the justification for a traditional martial arts code, it was obsolete.

We are use to recognizing an object from one perspective having details provided on a need to know basis. When that perspective changes to something unexpectedly different, as a result of our reexamination important details are revealed, we are stunned by the information we missed.  My selective traditional martial artist point of view was tour de force to find a malefactor as validation for my belief. My traditional training blotted on what if felt were unnecessary details. I was trained well to see only a traditional moral code exercised by noble martial artists, as only serving a value to society.  Upon reexamining by traditional point of view and that of business martial arts did recognize vital information that shaped a more accurate reality.

I was functioning on the belief the martial arts world where any good that existed generally was held only in traditional martial arts. My traditional martial arts mental model didn’t allow me to accurately assess or perceive the reality of my belief.  Or allow for the reality of other approaches to martial arts morality functioned as well or better than traditional martial arts code.  The ability to see change, freed me from being stuck in recognizing only what is familiar and the ability to observe the inverse side. I was no longer holding to ancient conventions of a martial arts moral code. I was able to see that business orientated martial arts was not the evil inverse polar opposite absent of a moral code, as I once envisioned to be the reality.

My situation isn’t unique; we all go through perception changes. Like all martial artists our perception, bias, is the result of what we are trained to perceptive. That is reality, as martial artists we are not aware of any other possibilities or even if others could perceive reality differently. We have a one size fits all perspective.  But, when that is changed, it is a satire of sorts. We to the idea must construct our own reality, a result of our perception.  Perceptions which aren’t always accurate. The moral of the story then is a martial artist, traditional or modern, we are vulnerable to our constructs of reality, and it would behoove us to change our perspective regardless.

Guest post by JP today. Always a different perspective when he sends one in for review. -OMK