Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tempest in Teapots

Those of you who know something of silat, and particularly Silat Sera, know there is a fair amount of politics and no small amount of contention among the various branches.

I won't go into it here; suffice it to say that there is mucho sangre mal -- bad blood -- and no end to the old arguments in immediate view.

However, now and again, I get a note from one of the other schools offering a kind of olive branch. Usually this takes the form of them saying they aren't all insulting blow-hards over there, that some of them are willing to live and let live, and they hope that we aren't tarring them all with the same brush. The trash-talkers, they say, don't speak for them all, and they hang back because they don't want to get involved in the war of words.

I appreciate this kind of overture. But after a recent exchange from one of the more reasonable guys in another lineage of the art, I realized what will take is for that kind of position to become an official one. That if they don't agree with the strident among them, they need to say so -- otherwise it becomes the default position, and why should we believe anything else.

Burke's Dictum.

The solution, as I see it, is if you are the ranking guys, you need to step up and say the loudmouths are wrong, in public. Those yahoos got it from somewhere, and if that's not the official party line, then you need to say so.

That would go a long way to cessation of hostilities. But tacit approval by not pointing out the error of the dweeb ways is also a default position.

Of course, I don't see how this can happen until the most senior teachers pass away, since a lot of this crap comes from the very top down. And if you get crosswise with the senior teachers, they have shown a quick willingness to boot your butt out the door ...

Ah, well. Like Chas Clements says, when you get a bunch of martial artists together, why are you surprised if a fight breaks out ... ?


Bobbe Edmonds said...

Tempest in a teapot? Now THAT'S trouble brewing!

I'm sorry to say this bluntly, but we have spoken of it before: The old gaurd WILL have to pass before something new and *good* can come out of it. Of course, the smart money says bet on the continuation of hostilities because we (generation next) have been shown no other way. Extending the olive branch never seems to be the FIRST act, it's always after irreversible things have been said, lines drawn and sides chosen. By then, well, the scabs never really close do they?

And in this day of the internet it's ever so much more harder to live something down. In fact, if you said it in public, be
prepared to eat it 20 years later. No forgiveness online, that's for sure.

Can you have pride in your art if soemone else claims to be honest but acts differently or teaches a completely different curriculum and says YOURS is the one that's wrong/false/made up out of thin air when questioned? Can you retain integrity if you align yourself with a teacher you later find to be untrustworthy?

If one of the ranking practitioners/Gurus WERE to speak up, that individual would most likely find his ass parked close to a used Nissan: Out on the curb. Why stand out? Like the song says, "When a leader speaks, that leader dies". How many people did Victor DeThouars toss out like so much garbage when he was exposed and confronted? 20+ years and Bob Vanetta was cut adrift for all his hard work and loyalty, and for my money he WAS the best Vic ever had. And a genuinely nice guy to boot. Those who know Maha Guru Plinck's story understand a similar reality, and any search for Bukti Negara on the internet wayback machine will reveal an astonishing character slur of the name of the single most inspirational and kind-hearted martial arts instructor IN THIS UNIVERSE. Again, years of dedication, loyalty and hard work only get you a life sentance to the gulag of outer Siberia. Where's the attraction in that?

It's sad and regretful, but integrity and a burlap sack in Martial Arts is worth exactly the burlap sack. Personally speaking, that's why no one ever gets an exclusive contract with me anymore. I don't have enough years left to devote to someone who "might" give me something good,m and leave my good name intact in the aftermath. Gotta life to live and a family to feed.

Steve Perry said...

Outside the narrow confines of silat, nobody cares; inside, nobody can seem to find a way past it. It seems that bickering over who learned what from whom and how that stacks up against what somebody else learned some other place is always going to be with us.

Like I told my correspondent about this only yesterday, ego and insecurity together are an ugly mix. They feed off each other.

We can be in accord on ninety-nine things, but if we differ on the hundredth, all bets are off ...

"You study martial arts?"
"Pentjak silat?"
"Great! Pukulan?"
"Terrific! Serak?"
"What?! No 'k' on the end? Die, heretic dog ... !"

Dan Gambiera said...

Shades of an old joke...

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: "Stop. Don't do it."

"Why shouldn't I?" he asked.

"Well, there's so much to live for!"

"Like what?"

"Are you religious?"

He said, "Yes."

I said, "Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?"


"Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?"


"Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"


"Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

"Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

"Reformed Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"

He said: "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915."

I said: "Die, heretic scum," and pushed him off.

Steve Perry said...

Emo Phillps used to do that bit, funny stuff.

Dan Gambiera said...

Emo's comedy routines should be classed as a martial art. His unique delivery can cause anything from mild discomfort to major organ failure. Fortunately, he seems to be the only person who can pull it off.

Irene said...

It's a bit like the politics of academia, where reputation and status are everything. At least in the corporate world, it all comes down to money.

Steve Perry said...

Magister Ludi, or The Glass Bead Game, by Hesse ...

Dan Gambiera said...

The academics have an advantage. The twenty pounds of paper you have to generate to get tenure gets read and passed on by other people in the field. If they don't like it, you don't publish. And in the sciences and technical fields there's a simple check. Is it true? Did the experiment succeed? Did the bridge fall down?

It isn't all about money in business. There's at least as much status and politicking involved. More these days. To be a successful CEO you don't even have to make money. You can get rewarded beyond the wildest dreams of Oriental potentates for being a complete failure as long as you "make the tough decision" to axe employees and wag your staff aggressively enough. Witness the explosion in executive compensation for companies which are losing money.

Michael B. said...

This problem transcends system or style...there are few if any martial organizations that don't have in fighting, politics, liars, bastards and self appointed saints. A good friend of mine once told me that the worst thing about martial arts is it's practitioners...and he is oh so correct. I have met good ones and humble ones, assholes and want to be's but the one thing that always holds true is the human condition to believe bullshit...and if you truly break down all of this political and organizational in fighting you will find lying at the center a big mass of bullshit!

Whats the answer? Who knows, some hope that when the old boys die off it will get better, but chances are the old boy mentality will just manifest into another quagmire of shit led by another self appointed or politically pointed knob who couldn't whip ice cream with an out board motor. To me that's all that matters, your ability to use it to save your ass and the ability to pass YOUR knowledge and interpretations on to those interested.

My advise, disenfranchise go your own way do what makes you happy....if your skills up to par then there is nothing to freak about just do your best and train and teach...who gives two shits and a Dixie cup what you call it?

Ximena said...

Que sera serak?

Steve Perry said...

Yep, my son, when he was working out a few years back in the Sera class, made the T-shirt: "Que Serak, Serak." We knew the "k" was silent, so we got the joke.

I once had a bumper sticker -- and a T-shirt -- said:
"Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera -- If you need to ask, you don't need to know ..."