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Whose Fu do You Use? Taking the First Steps toward a Personal Justice Art

Wednesday September 16, 2020

“To obtain enlightenment in martial art means the extinction of everything which obscures the “true knowledge,” the “real life.” At the same time, it implies boundless expansion and, indeed, emphasis should fall not on the cultivation of the particular department which merges into the totality, but rather on the totality that enters and unites that particular department.”

—Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

In this introductory article, I’ll be discussing the practical and philosophical grounds for a new martial art. It’s different—be prepared to learn about something which may seem strange and novel, even uncomfortable.

I’ll start with some background and then offer the best formal structure I can, given that this particular art is still in its first stages, and heavy development is still underway.

You can also read more about the philosophical underpinnings that helped me identify the need for a new approach to martial arts.

A bit of background and personal history

Like a lot of INTJs, I spent a lot of time in the martial arts when I was younger. I still find that I need to scratch some of those old itches, practicing bits of old kata from time to time, or tilting to the side, stretching out my upper leg and loudly popping my hip joint like some kind of weirdo.

While I was never anything particularly special when it came to martial arts practice, my progress was good enough for my teachers and instructors to urge me to continue pursuing the interest. Unfortunately I found that I usually had to discontinue formal studies in any particular martial art after a year or two, because of work, scheduling changes, or whatever else came up in life. I studied a lot of different martial arts, and had a lot of fun in the process.

I was a bit embarrassed to discover that my favorite martial arts were way more acrobatic than “practical” stuff like physical self-defense. Sure, it was neat to practice various fighting tactics for a while. I enjoyed learning how Judo’s defense philosophy worked differently from Tai Liu, or whatever else I had tried. But I enjoyed practicing high kicks even more, and still do. I’m not exactly a geezer, but if I get to brittle-bones age without being able to pull off a reasonable tornado kick, I think I might really regret that.

The rest of the self-defense content was only interesting for a little while, until it wasn’t. Then it got really old, really fast. I used to wonder—why is that? Am I just an outlier? Why does “defense against a choke” or even regular MMA practice still seem unnecessarily serious, impractical, and even kind of corny sometimes? Surely it’s not a good thing to get choked out, or roundhouse-kicked in the face?

How much is really practical in the martial arts?

This question has already been done to death, so I’ll keep it brief. I was troubled by the practicality factor when it came to the physical martial arts. I wondered—exactly who is studying this stuff for practical reasons, beyond the most basic point? No matter the art—Judo, Karate, eastern weapons, MMA—why do people keep acting as if practicality is so important, when they are so quick to counter their own advice?

To give an example, one of my instructors had been all around the world studying martial arts, and he told us that if stuff got bad we were to turn and run, no question. If we had to use what we were learning, man was that a bad sign! (A.K.A. the 0.00000000001% solution)

Other instructors at different schools told us to stay out of bad neighborhoods and keep a golf club by the bed.

So why weren’t we out running and practicing swinging golf clubs? When some ego-obsessed jerk came by the school to challenge one of the instructors, why didn’t the instructor run away?

Also, no matter how effective you are at your art—when it meets the outside world it seems like there’s no knowing who’s got something better, or what’s going to work. Maybe they just got the initiative—sorry, no martial arts for you. Plus, these encounters can happen so fast that you may have no way of predicting what you’ll do. A few seconds pass, and it’s over.

The Answer to Everything: Guns

I’ve talked to other INTJs who say they carry guns for this reason. Massive power may be needed when you least expect it, so why not carry 700 joules of potential energy on your hip?

Well, as much as I admire a good contingency plan, I don’t wanna carry a gun, sorry. That’s my “nope” point. I was raised by an INTJ gun collector. Back in the day I shot some very interesting guns with my dad, from the Desert Eagle .50 to some pretty radical antiques, still in firing condition, that the ATF didn’t seem to like very much.

Then I went to university in Utah, and guns were everywhere in Utah. Looking at billboards on the freeway, I started to wonder if there was a single day during the year when there wasn’t a giant gun show advertisement directed at Utah commuters.

I left school early one day to go up in the hills with a friend, to shoot his newly-purchased AK-47 and Makarov pistol. As he quickly and quietly rushed his plastic gun cases toward my car, he chuckled a bit and admitted his wife definitely didn’t want them in the house. We drove up to a barren hillside where we aimed at a bunch of old junk—discarded water heaters, rusty old cans.

In between salvos, I remember turning around and looking down at the beautiful city below, full of parks and green back yards. I wondered: Could those people down there hear us up here, trying our best to trigger-bump and mimic automatic weapons fire? Probably. Were we scaring people? Likely.

I didn’t like that feeling at all.

Going back to my INTJ dad, it seemed like the more he thought about and talked about guns, the more he became convinced he’d have to use them. He could invent gun scenarios that felt so real—in his intuition—that you had to wonder if he was even safe to be around sometimes.

It could get really scary to talk about guns with dad, and mom even let slip one day that dad had gone for his gun and nearly shot me, mistaking me for a burglar when I had to make an unexpected return home late at night. Jesus. All that INTJ research he put into those purchases—just the right gun, just the right home defense ammo, just the right technique and stance. I’m sure it would have had its intended effect.

So anyway—I’m happily in the Jim Rockford / MacGyver / Marty Crane category where guns are concerned. I know how to use them, but I’m not interested in carrying.

But I also don’t think that this position means what gun people think it means. I don’t think it means that the bad guys automatically win, for one.

I think a good martial art should be able to transcend even the power of guns, without needing to invent a better gun.

That “Martial” word

8. When it is impossible to use cannon I can supply in their stead catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other instruments of admirable efficiency not in general use—I short, as the occasion requires I can supply infinite means of attack and defense.

— Leonardo da Vinci, writing to the Duke of Milan

What is a martial art? Everyone seems to have a slightly different definition. Do you have one?

  • Wikipedia: Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat.
  • American Heritage Dictionary: Any of various arts of self-defense, such as aikido, karate, judo, or tae kwon do, usually practiced as sport.
  • American Heritage Dictionary, Definition 2: Commonly, any of several fighting styles which contain systematized methods of training for combat, both armed and unarmed; often practiced as a sport, e.g. boxing, karate, judo, Silat, wrestling, or Muay Thai.
  • American Heritage Dictionary, Definition 3: Military skills, proficiency in military strategy, prowess in warfare.
  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Any of several arts of combat and self-defense (such as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport.

The fact is, you can drive a metaphorical truck through these definitions, so if you want to work within, or change some aspect of the martial arts, it’s probably best to simply define what it is you’re trying to do, then and do it as best you can. (I don’t believe any single definition of the term will ever make everyone happy, and it still causes a lot of debate within the martial arts community)

The way I see it, if there are health-focused martial arts, and if XMA is totally a martial art, that’s amazing and great, but it also means the door is now open to just about any kind of martial art you want to invent, as long as you can show how it’s effective, and why it’s important. And just to be clear, I have no complaint about health-focused martial arts…hell, they may even be more practically useful than every choke hold in the book.

Plus, we have every reason to be creative and fresh within the martial arts. Specific, technique-focused arts tend to come in and out of fashion and go stale fast. In fact, longer-term, structured and focused creativity has always been something of a blind spot in the martial arts community.

In my opinion, the martial arts community has become over-focused on its own traditional, physical strengths—strengths which typically build on a questionable philosophical framework. And these strengths now lose more of their practical applicability by the day. To the degree that any given modern martial art exists as a superior physical confrontation system, its “yikes, be super careful about using that one in real life” factor also seems to increase.

Today, one can make the argument that your opponent’s attorney might have a more versatile and skillful martial art than you do. We can certainly ignore this thought and go back to practicing our physical technique, but that ignorance does little more than push martial arts deeper into the realm of competitive sports. What happened to our practicality?

What kind of creativity is needed?

Let’s reconnect with personality psychology here, for a bit.

The martial arts community leans very heavily on SP (Sensing-Perceiving) psychology. Speaking personally, I know I had more ISTP instructors than any other type. And going to various tournaments, again and again it seemed like the SP types automatically “won” the psychological ground. There were simply more of them, and they ran things in SP ways, and that was that.

(Incidentally, I’ve met some SJ and NT martial arts instructors. One SJ in question was a very highly-respected Japanese master with a mega-refined sense of discipline and honor. He politely informed my instructors at the time that they needed to get into shape, which still makes me smile.)

While nobody really saw themselves as SPs forcing others to Be Like Them, and I don’t blame anybody for the natural bias that I observed, this situation still rubbed me the wrong way. It was its own type of injustice. Nobody seemed to care about the “broader system” or “broader practical effect” of martial arts compared to what the practitioners were advertising. Very little care was given to the big picture implications and the possible reasons behind the way deeply physical martial arts increasingly met with disdain in culturally-refined circles.

From my perspective, there were a lot of wrongs to right, in order to bring some sense of moderated—yet powerful—social effect, big-picture respectability, and quiet nobility back to the martial arts.

Speaking in terms of temporality, the fighting mentality was mostly something like this:

  • Mental and physical training before a fight
  • Just before the physical fight
  • The physical fight
  • The end.

Huh. That’s not very optimal. Just looking at the timeline, my NT-intuition spidey sense tells me something’s weird:

  • Why are you only prepping for a physical confrontation? Doesn’t that play into the physicality food chain effect?
  • Why does the fight end with the cessation of physicality? What if you lost that part? Is it not possible to resume and win by other means? And why doesn’t there seem to be any distinction between a battle and a war, for example—metaphorically speaking?

Not that anybody ever talked about this. You ever bring up this kind of NT stuff with your SP martial arts instructor? I didn’t make that mistake too many times.

“Huh, well maybe that’s important, NT-kun. But you see, this is getting into woo-woo theory stuff! Does anybody care about that? You could be thinking about this stuff, out there in lala land, walking down the street, and then you get your ass handed to you by a couple of thugs!”

I mean…there’s always a chance of thugs handing me my ass when I’m distracted, I guess.

But theory and intuition and creativity are also my core gifts, for which I get natural bonuses on my dice rolls. So why not use the strengths as strengths?

Born This Way

So, where martial arts-thinking is concerned, I’ve decided that, much like those SP’s, I’m going to work from 1) my strengths and 2) my values, some of which I’ve covered above.

I’m interested in martial thinking, in some ways. And I’m interested in those outcomes, particularly the concept of justice.

I’m probably not going to stop thinking about this, and the world needs Bat-people of all kinds.

So:

Welcome to my dojo, ramshackle as it may appear at this point in time.

Here we go.

Introduction to the Personal Justice Martial Art (PJMA)

PJMA is an art which leverages a formal, refined, and skilled pursuit of personal justice against the problems of the world, starting with problems in your world.

PJMA emphasizes educated discipline in the controlled pursuit of justice, as opposed to reckless action. PJMA is meant to help individuals take control of their life and discover new ways to right wrongs, offering them an arsenal of methods for approaching whatever issues come their way.

(The name is admittedly pretty generic, but so are bananas, and people love their bananas.)

Principles of Personal Justice

First, PJMA works from the inside out. PJMA starts with you and your situation:

  • Are you satisfied with the outcome and equity? Example: Did you just get your ass handed to you, and did that feel unfair?
  • How do you feel about what’s going on?
  • Who do you perceive has been wronged?
  • Where do you see this process starting and ending?

After those immediate inner concerns, PJMA integrates immediate outside concerns:

  • What is the other party’s position?
  • Were there any witnesses?
  • What other information is relevant?
  • How would I identify others who can help me explore this?

The process then moves outward with even greater effect toward the end goal of a high-quality resolution.

Thought Exercise: Imagine an opponent who is a tough, extremely physical fighter who is coming for you. Can your imagined opponent punch you over the phone? Can they respond to you directly and in a threatening manner, when you communicate with them through their respected and humble grandparent? What happens to their fighting motivation when you tell them you have mutual friends who have a stake in the matter? How will the stakes change when you invite this opponent, quite unexpectedly, to write a letter of apology to their children? Or, how will their energy change when you show them that fighting you means fighting untold numbers of unseen, energized, and upset people they’ve never met before?

Now imagine a thousand other solutions, each tailored not to this imagined foe and improbable scenario, but to a specific, defined threat that actually exists in real life. And recall that in most cases, you don’t really have to think on your feet and can use time as a weapon. This realm, in which theoretical possibilities are deployed to serve probabilities which are anchored in specific, real context, is the realm of PJMA.

Finally, imagine that you throw a well-timed and forceful punch at your opponent! This, too, is a possibility within the realm of PJMA. PJMA transcends the dichotomous “fists or feet” mode of thinking, especially when a method promises good results toward equity and conflict resolution.

Second, PJMA envelops or transcends a typical combative martial arts timeline.

A PJMA process can start, and be won, before a fight ever happens.

A PJMA process can start, and be won, after a physical fight is lost. (I am very proud of this particular leverage point, hoping it can change the way we think about, and too often rush into, conflict)

A PJMA process holds the question of “winning” up to refined scrutiny. It is probably not necessary to kill, destroy, hurt, shame, embarrass, harass, or belittle someone to “win”.

Third, and finally, PJMA takes ethics and equity seriously.

For example, a basic goal of PJMA is to differentiate common revenge from the pursuit of Personal Justice:

  • PJMA processes start with a simple inquiry. An inquiry is like an investigation. This simple act helps assure your basic psychological processes that action is being taken and progress is being made. Even this result is often a quick win, no matter where the inquiry ends.
  • PJMA processes are anchored by objectivity as quickly as possible. We look into things from a variety of viewpoints, and we direct our psychological energy outward to balance the stress and pressure we feel inside. This act alone is a relief. It can also bring immense pressure to bear on those who may deserve to feel such pressure.
  • PJMA processes leverage timelines to bring creative solutions into being. By measuring and precisely controlling our use of time, we create an ally out of probability. The dice start to roll in our favor more often.
  • PJMA processes are aware of, and integrate, human emotion. We immediately work to integrate emotional reactions so that they don’t undermine our important heroic tasks down the line.
  • PJMA processes reward patience and even idealism. Our little victories inform a broader, deeper consciousness of societal victory. If you are happier and more satisfied with your solutions to life’s problems, your neighborhood and community will also feel safer. Practical, problem-facing traction can help you climb a step higher on Maslow’s pyramid or even just regain a bit confidence you recently lost.
  • PJMA processes can integrate with broader, non-personal justice systems, for example a state’s justice system. PJMA can help you know what to expect when you work with others who may want to help you, but who are also working within practical limits. You may even be able to work within those limits and use them in your own defensive or offensive positions.

A Short Manifesto for PJMA

PJMA is the Art of Personal Justice.

  • I look into things. I examine them from within and from without. I gather opinions, information, and ideas.
  • My aim is the pursuit and capture of Just Outcomes and Equity. You may be surprised by my persistence.
  • I don’t take myself too seriously, but I look out for myself and I hold others accountable.
  • Before your art gets warmed up, mine may have already won.
  • When your art ends, mine may only be getting started.
  • My art is flexible. I can use it in parallel with other systems.
  • Exceptional physicality is optional. Some of the best PJMA work I do may be done from a chair.
    • (PJMA is designed to be Batcave-compatible)
    • (PJMA also reads like PAJAMA and so of course it’s also Pajamas-compatible. Always make yourself comfortable while you reflect on emotional things.)
  • Like my pajamas? Have a banana.
    • The logo is a banana next to the letters PJMA.
    • Having a banana is a cue—chill, take care of yourself, and think about things for a bit. Did you start this war while feeling like a monkey? Finish it by thinking like a human.
PJMA Personal Justice Martial Art Logo, a banana next to the letters PJMA

Questions for Me

  • What is this? It’s a martial art like Karate or Judo, but less physical, more philosophical, and more idealistic (it’s wide open to exploring circumstances and some surprisingly positive outcomes are possible, which isn’t traditionally within the scope of restricted physical combat arts). It’s a mental practice in large part. For this reason it can be surprisingly effective: It gives you more time to operate behind the scenes and build leverage, and your opponent may not even see you coming. A very sensory opponent would be deprived of their senses. (PJMA may also incorporate a more physical component in the future, though so far it’s looking a bit different from what you may expect)
  • Is it dangerous? If I practice this, would I regret it? I don’t think it’s any more dangerous to the practitioner than any other art. It will also offer you the ability to choose the level of danger, which is where I think a lot of martial arts completely miss the mark.
  • Is this some fantasy thing? Nope, it’s very real and serious. But a physical fighter may not feel comfortable with it at all, which is kind of amusing, but also kind of unfortunate for them. You are already surrounded and enveloped and influenced by justice systems every day. This one will be superior to many others by being intentionally built and modeled for best effect.
  • So are there “moves?” What about “kata”? Yes, we will use those, but mostly as metaphor. And metaphor is awesome.
  • Og no understand non-physical parts. Og feel upset. It’s OK. This is admittedly better for humans than for cave people.
  • Are there ranks? Not yet. I’ve studied martial arts with and without ranks. I don’t know that they’re really necessary.
  • What if somebody just shoots you? Shouldn’t you just carry a gun? Come on.
  • Why is this called a martial art, when it’s not about serious physical combat? That’s the old way of thinking, but it’s no longer logical. Typical martial arts combat is constrained in its seriousness, as I’ll go into below. And PJMA is about serious combat, whenever combat is appropriate within in the PJMA framework. Think about this: If you want your combat to be serious and bring about serious effects, it has to be engaged as part of a refined justice framework. Otherwise you are risking your life by flinging your arms and legs around and choking people out, and you must expect investigation and intervention on the part of third-party formal justice systems like your state’s criminal justice system. To expect people to nod and let you off because you are a good fighter, or because everyone agrees with your subjective moral judgment system, is naive. This is why other martial arts, the traditional physical and combat martial arts, are always reigned in, the more serious they become. The more serious and demonstrative you make your physical martial art, the more you will need to create a system of rules concerning weight classes, equipment, and so on. This is because we are no longer cave people, we believe that human life has intrinsic value, we built a legal system to protect human life above and beyond what any martial art can do, and if you act to threaten human life, you will most likely get your ass handed to you in court or even just in legal expenses, or in a million other different, bureaucratic, culturally-refined ways. So instead of a “combat martial art,” now you have a game, or a sport, on your hands. This is automatically a liability, a huge dead-end if you need to make serious, real-life progress against a foe that seriously threatens you, in practical, real life terms. Hence the need for a new martial art.
  • So my existing mental framework of just beating people up might still be OK in some ways? You’re thinking too small here. If you’re like most martial artists, you’re thinking, “me versus one other guy,” or “me versus maybe a few guys.” It’s too limited and you end up pursuing an edge case. It could be that you need to raise an army. PJMA is not going to rule that out, whether it’s an army of concerned neighbors or a literal team of guerrillas. PJMA is meant to give you logical, philosophical, and moral frameworks that will help you identify what you need in order to resolve the situation, and help you figure out how to get it while operating in a real-life environment with rules, laws, and human rights. With PJMA you can fight systemic corruption or you can fight a parking ticket, and it will be there to help you you through every shaky encounter along the way. What other martial art makes so bold and realistic an effort? Believe me, despite the pornographically-advantageous physicality that you see in the movies (which is best consumed as metaphor, IMO), you are not going to physically choke your way out of a corrupt system, and you are not going to shoot your way out of an unfair parking ticket without creating serious trouble for yourself.
  • So this is a lot more serious than I was thinking? Can I share something personal with you? PJMA was originally designed to help me not destroy another guy’s entire life. This person had hurt me—it was nobody close, nobody that I had any reason to care for. But it stung badly, and I knew they were bothering and probably even hurting other people as well. I had my finger on the trigger (metaphorically) and I had built up a full profile and a suite of assets, tools, and strategies, all specifically targeted at this one person. That’s when I realized—I don’t want to operate like this. I simply can’t live my life like that. But at the same time, I wondered—rather than just avoiding, rather than disengaging in defeat, and rather than going nuclear, what are my options? How do I pursue my justice, and push back, even if just a little bit? Where’s the middle ground? And what would a really good resolution look like? I think a lot of INTJs can intuitively understand the need for that position. Once the emotions kick in with that amount of seriousness, you need a framework or things could get way too serious, way too fast. In this situation, I realized that my years of martial arts experiences offered me basically zero tools with any practical use. And out of this situation, PJMA was born.
  • Your new idea makes me feel a bit grumpy and critical. I mean, I get it. We’re INTJs. Think about it: Our inferior Se and tertiary Fi can cause us to think that we, each of us, are the best when it comes to appraisals and critiques of raw physical efficacy, and a lot of us have already identified the “best” physical way to do that, be it BJJ or something else. So yeah, be the critic if it suits you, but yeah, also maybe allow yourself to be taken by your psychological blind spot here and thrown around a bit. Physicality and physical combat technique is not everything—not even close. Please give these concepts some time, see how they feel after some study and thought. The INTJ psychology is a blessing, but it can also be a curse where new, outside ideas are concerned. And keep in mind that this new system is already very integrative by design, so nothing is really taken away from the world in which you currently operate, except maybe outdated assumptions that I think you will understand are weak and troubling in the first place.

Questions for You, The Reader

So, that’s the very basic introduction. I have much more to share, and I will keep tooling away at it.

In the meantime, let me ask you:

  • What do you like or dislike about this new martial art?
  • What questions does it raise when you think about your own past experiences?
  • What other questions or ideas does it bring to mind, thinking forward into your future?
  • Does it bring to mind any black-and-white scenarios which seem troubling?
  • What, if anything, does your intution tell you is terribly wrong with this approach?

I find it’s good to get those questions out there as early as possible.

I’ll also add that, to an INTJ, a lot of this material may seem natural, even obvious. You may have been thinking about this since you were a child. That’s how we know we’re using our natural gifts. To others, I guarantee you it will not feel this way. And that is also a pretty good leverage point.

Well—I’ll develop this more as I have time, but for now, do get in touch if you’re interested.

Thanks to Wikimedia user Telrúnya for the helpful banana starter-image. Now, exactly why did I create a banana-based logo at 11 p.m.? But somehow it works.

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