Monday, July 4, 2011

What is violence?

I was recently asked:

What is violence?

This was my response:

What a good question to ask someone who does martial arts!  When I was in high school, I tried writing a paper on this and found it of little success because at that time, I was under the mistaken impression that it could be written from one single perspective.  Violence as a topic is something beyond a single perspective.  In fact, it is when something has only one perspective that makes it violence at all.

We describe violence as being something in war, conflict and the media.  However, violence is different for each being.  To the average American, it involves one person hitting another.  To a war general, it's casualties on his own side.  To a director, it's something that conflicts with his vision.  To a martial artist, it is inappropriate intent.  To an ant, it's rain.  To a flower, it's drought, To God or the universe, it's irrelevant. 

The best answer to this that this one can give is that violence is a mix of fear and disgust.  These two things are only determined by the one feeling them.  To another it might not be actually violent at all.  There are no limits as to what one can determine as violent and non-violent but their own experiences.

For example, one time a good friend came to visit me during my training.  I invited him to watch a sparring match.  I was hit with a solid kick to the jaw and my gums bled.  The match continued and I was fine with the tiny amount of pain and taste of iron.  After the match, the friend asked me, "Are you okay?  That was pretty violent!"  I shook my head in mild confusion.  "What was violent?" I asked.  "The whole thing!  You got kicked in the face and you bled!"  I had gone from confusion to laughter, which I realize now scared him more.  "It wasn't violent and the kick wasn't hard enough for me to have any problems.  The violence you see is your lack of understanding how hard I need to be hit for it to hurt me as well as the fear of yourself getting injured."  I went on to explain that in time, if he trained, that he would not only do that kind of thing, but he would then see that the actions there were utterly peaceful.  The person I was sparring was only trying to teach me where I was vulnerable and at the same time learn what they were capable of doing.  At the same time I was trying to teach them their vulnerabilities and learning what I could do in such a situation.  The exchange was positive, beautiful and we both were doing our best to help each other.  One who doesn't have that kind of experience and understanding will only see fighting as violent.  To us, it was the most calm and clear moment of our lives.  No thoughts of other things, no worries, no fear, no desire, just emptiness and serenity.

This violence that we think we know as violence is all just manifestations of the way things are in our world.  The experiences have need to be experienced and we must learn to let go of our fears and disgusts.  After all, our presence is nothing but violence in the face of nothing. 



  1. Very insightful. Ive always had that kind of feeling of explanation, but ive never realized how to place it in words. Thanks! :D

  2. Is violence the opposite of peace?

  3. Violence is based on perspective. Peace is based on what? A lack of violence? No. It goes beyond that. It is a calm of power. It is a harmony with all things. An opposite of violence would be more along the lines of pleasure or ceasefire, not peace. It is still based on perspective, fear and disgust, just their opposite end. Peace is outside of that. A third point on the triangle. Perhaps there is still a bit of aggression and perhaps there is still a bit of delight but it is understood from more angles than the small one presented by one set of eyes. Violence and pleasure fight and delight while peace simply is. Thanks for the follow-up question.