A Piece of the Action

CommunityRecently I talked about building community among martial artists within a school, though the discussion veered off to a debate between sports related martial artists and science related martial artists, jocks versus a chess club. The real lead became buried. How does one develop a community among folk of vastly different interests? This is a problem that invades our very society.

Community is an interesting concept, a group of like-minded individuals working toward some greater goal. Sports are often seen as community builders, but may be the exact opposite. Outside of team sports, all remaining sports are individual based. The benefits, and the failures, fall squarely on the player. They may tout their school or camp, their coach and even the heavenly father, but they themselves are the purveyor and benefactor.

It is a radically different situation in group or community events. Take the member of a band. It could be the keyboardist of a pop group, or the third of the third string trumpets in a high school marching band. The accomplishments of an individual may have marginal bearing on the group as whole. The great skills of one are balanced by the lesser skills of another. That said, it is possible for the group to create something of high or recognized value.

If the movie is good, it is not good only because of the main actor, or the director, or the sound editor, or the second team craft services cook. It is good because the entire work came together. The work is beyond the sum of its parts. Some quality formed out of the combination rises out of the communal effort. Every member takes pride in their participation. It goes on everyone’s resume, even if the second team craft services cook burned a few lunches or the third trumpeter in the third string blew a few sours.

But the solo singer or the boxer bear the full brunt, and rightly so. If there is a tournament winner in your school, can the other members of your school really take pride in the winner’s accomplishment? I think not. The tournament winner wins on their own, no matter that they fly your school’s standard. Perhaps the winner adds points for your school’s team, and perhaps your team wins overall. Can the non-player members of your school take pride in that accomplishment?

Certainly they can, but is it correct for them to do so and can they really feel they are part of it and earned that pride if they, through no real fault or blame, had no participation in it? Individuals won their individual contests. The team of players won the team goal, but that does not reflect directly on the overall community of the school. The measures of win or lose are wrapped around individual achievements.

How would a loose collection of diversified individuals build a sense of community like one might find in a movie crew or marching band wherein all members are involved toward a single, common, greater goal, thus allowing everyone to share the pride of the accomplishment? How, in a school of martial artists, all individually based, do you bring every single individual into a common goal? Worse, in a mixed martial arts school, what common goal could there be?

It is one thing to be selfless and help your fellow student, to be a standing striker and provide a grappler in your school with a partner to work with. That is certainly honorable. But when the grappler wins a tournament, can the striker draw from that? It is honorable for the grappler to assist the standing striker by providing them some focus mitt targets, but when that standing striker wins a kata or form contest, what pride can the grappler obtain?

Setting aside the idea that all things are possible and focusing on the realistically obtainable, what communal event could be devised that can bridge the diverse qualities and interests found in a mixed martial arts school? Is the concept remotely obtainable, or in obtaining it does one have to dismantle the inherent diversification?

About Sifu Keith Mosher

My new book, "Astro Boy, Sensei, and Me" is available now, as is my Sci-Fi joy ride, "On a Sphere's Edge". I have a Bachelor of Media Arts degree from USC. I have been an Audio Producer / Engineer, a Law Office Manager, and I am currently an Author and a Martial Arts Instructor.
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