One evening, I hit the sack with my laptop. I played Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and glued myself to the screen. Captain Jack Sparrow, brilliantly portrayed by Johnny Depp, overwhelming occupied my imagination even after the movie had ended. This fascination of mine is a reflection of a natural human trait. People transcend themselves through characters portrayed in the media. This can especially happen if the protagonist is a hero.
In the genre of action movies, fighting is a key attraction. In this case, sword fighting, shooting, and jumping from high altitudes mesmerize and excite the audience. We wish that we could do this in real life. The action intrigues us!
This mind frame could be one of the reasons people join the military. Erick Prince, a former US Navy SEAL, once said that his job was the best in the world. He quoted, “you get paid for jumping out of airplanes, diving, and shooting guns.” An employment with the SEALs enabled him to experience firsthand what most people fantasize over television. In this day and age one cannot live as Captain Jack Sparrow, and not everyone may enlist with the Special Forces. However, physical activity such as martial arts practice on a regular basis may feed our craving for an adrenaline rush.
To look back at our movie character Jack Sparrow, reflection reveals a distressing thought: he’s a pirate. Pirates in the Caribbean back then were essentially dacoits. They were outlaws who looted ships and pillaged from those who were unable to defend themselves. Often, it is alleged they were mercenaries who did the dirty work of legitimate governments. They violated the most basic human rights through child labour, rape, looting, murder and so on. They also did the undercover dirty work of legitimate governments, such as economic espionage, and attacking the ships of competing sovereign countries on international waters. If caught, pirates were hanged for their hideous crimes. Therefore, we can say, that even in their times such deeds were not acceptable.
Nevertheless, audiences are still attracted to pirates in their fantasies and may enact them in ways without realizing. After watching a pirate movie I may order rum when I sit down for a drink instead of my regular whisky or, I may dress up as Captain Jack Sparrow for a Halloween party. I may even purchase a “Jack Sparrow Play Sword” for my little cousin on his birthday. All of which is acceptable.
My little cousin can be running about the house acting as a pirate, imagining getting into fights. Sounds harmless, eh? But then, as a responsible adult, should I be worried about my little cousin visualizing and acting as a violent person in his imaginary play? According to New York Police Department’s, Kyle Shaw, the bomber responsible for a Starbucks attack in Manhattan on May, 25th 2009 was inspired by the movie Fight Club. What would drive individuals to become violent people? Again, referring to pirates, perhaps if born under a different social order, such people, mostly men here, would not have been so violent.
The question looms. Can people have violent tendencies that are perpetuated by their environment, including the media? Professor David Carrie of the department of Biology at the University of Utah states, “Fighting is hardwired into us; it is a part of who we are.” So, one can argue that humans can be competitive in nature. It can be for land, food, companions or just bragging rights. Today, in most civilized communities, violence has decreased. A research essay titled, Examining Dark Triad Traits in Relation to Mental Toughness and Physical Activity in Young Adults concludes that, “DT (Dark Triad) traits, high MT (mental toughness), and vigorous PA (physical activity) are interrelated. This pattern of results might explain why, for instance, successful professional athletes can at the same time be tough and ruthless.”
Instructors can argue that training in martial arts can be like taming a wild beast. We learn to express our desire for violence in a controlled manner. Therefore, it is to some extent, up to the ethical responsibility of your Sensei to guide you towards developing a character that embraces nonviolence, while training in a violent, scientific art.
Mohammed Tanvir (Nick) Mosharraf has been practicing martial arts actively since 2002 and has been exposed to Boxing, Muay Thai, BJJ and Kyokushin Karate among others. He is an avid fan of Boxing and MMA. He believes in using combat sports and martial arts to foster community relations and also enable and empower people from all walks of life.