Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Martial Arts and Extremism

             Martial arts and extremism have often gone hand-in-hand. Of course, extremism is a relative term, so we will attempt to use it in the sense that is closest to "militantism". Martial (pertaining to war)  thought is often a strong draw to these kinds of groups. From skinheads to anti-racists, from ultra-nationalists to anarchists, martial arts has drawn them all to a certain type of lifestyle that tends to embrace some form of martial art or martial attitude.

 While the terms "martial arts"and "extremist" may leave a reader with a strange image of a terrorist sporting a turban in a gi and a karate headband , part of this is because the term "martial art" has, in many ways, lost its meaning to English speakers. Tto speakers of other languges, the terms fit well together. Terms such as "Kampfkunst", "Боевы́е иску́сства", "dövüş sanatlar", and "arte marcial" have far more gritty connotations to the native speakers of their respective tongues.These are terms that translate to the "art of fighting" - A.K.A "How to Fight".  Not so silly now, is it?

   One of the more historically documented ties between a very popular martial art and militants is actually the popular sport of "Krav Maga". Imrich Lichtenfeld, a devoted Zionist, applied his martial arts skills to develop a fighting style that Jews, and later on the Israeli Defense Force, would use to defend themselves and have the upperhand in close-range urban combat that Israel would be involved in for decades.

     In the US and in Europe, MMA has become a training ground for skinheads and ultra-nationalists. Shaved heads are not an uncommon sight at both gyms, as well as MMA tournament events. In Russia, which ironically has the most Neo-Nazis on earth, MMA, boxing, and wrestling is used to train initiates to skinhead and ultra-nationalist gangs for street combat. In Germany, "Wehrsportgruppen" (defense-sport groups) formed to combat increased crime from immigrant groups in working-class areas. Certain clothing brands have decided to even openly promote the ties between ultra-nationalists and MMA - like "White Rex", for example. Other brands, such as Doc Martens, Lonsdale, and even Adidas have struggled with this image, as well.

    On the other end of the spectrum, antifascist groups and anarchists have also adopted martial arts. One must look only at the "Anarchist's Cookbook" to see advice on how to fight, weak points of the body to strike, and more. These groups encourage their followers to seek training in martial arts. Sometimes they offer "workshops" for improving fighting skills. Their reasons? The same as the far right - preparing for street combat, except against police and their own perceived enemies, just as the skinheads would combat immigrant gangs.

Why are all these radical groups practicing martial arts? The reason may seem simple - "Duh, they want to know how to fight, stupid!"


It is more complex than this. If these radical groups wanted to truly want to know how to "fight to win", so to speak, they would be spending more time on classes dealing with knives, bombs, weapons, infangry tactics, assassinations, and other deadly methods. These are the methods used to topple governments, destroy enemies, and generate public attention. Let's be honest - a gun tends to trump a punch, and an untrained soldier with a rifle can often easily kill a trained martial arist. Martial arts are promoted because they teach a lifestyle of self-sacrifice. To suffer now is to make a sacrifice for the greater good of tomorrow. For many extremist groups, this is the goal in mind.


Anonymous said...

Some interesting thoughts here. Could you elaborate why these people (members of radical groups) choose martial arts to self-sacrifice? What specifically do they gain from this?

TaekwonPro said...

Hello Anonymous!

Many martial arts tend to have a strong "groupthink" mentality. This can be a good or a bad thing. Of course, this happens with any sort of group activity. The difference is that martial arts specifically tend to take people and expose them to pain. For many people in the modern world, pain is a foreign concept. A strong groupthink mentality, a charismatic leader, and exposure to combat and pain can even lead to a warlord mentality. This is not grasping at straws. A very modern instance of this is the rise of Željko Ražnatović, more famously known as "Arkan". Arkan was a Serbian criminal who rose to political and military power through organizing gangs of football hooligans. He first put them through kickboxing gyms, and then later into paramilitary training. His group would be infamous for committing war crimes throughout Bosnia.

Of course, the opposite can be seen. Martial arts can be used to rehabilitate criminals and ex-terrorists. An example would be the story of Usman Raja's program.

I hope I have answered your question. If not, you can elaborate on what is missing and I will do my best to respond to you.

Anonymous said...

this is a problem with "Osmanen Germania" in Germany. they are a turkish motorcycle gang that takes troubled youth and puts them through martial arts training like muay thai, boxing, and wrestling, and then uses them as footsoldiers to shake down businesses.