Martial Arts: Society’s safe option for controlling conflict – by Nichola Aindow


The ancient art of ‘combat’ in a contemporary world, is not just about getting people to think about health, safety, body and mind; nor is it just a way to provide a space for people to be slightly rougher than normal with one another. Martial arts, quite necessarily, can reach out as a social comment too.

How can combat, boxing, kick boxing orMuay Thai be a metaphor for social expression?

Discussions are prolific with regards to ideas about dealing with integration and social awareness and the common factor which unites these discussions is that of ‘conflict’. Conflict is a natural symptom of civility and conflict always needs and seeks an expression!

Conflict in society is therefore conflict written in and contained within the mind and body. Individuals carry through life what they are exposed too, if we understand that conflict can be internalised we must therefore accept that it needs to be externalised, psychologically this is elementary.  Here is where martial arts literalises the inexpressible; it allows for a safe and controlled outlet for what is otherwise kept inside or put back out into society in negative ways.

A new way of thinking about positive integration, for youths or any persons of a minority group

If society takes care of the well being and safety of its people, then the people will take care of their social settings.People can only feel part of something if they see that the doors are open for them, whatever their needs.

Martial Art means training with the tools of conflict, the thing which has people feeling ostracised in the first place.If then, by putting people together with a controlled set of expressive tools, provided by a martial art, safety and structure gives rise to something which normally feels out of the control to the individual within their social setting.

The significance of the gym

A space is created; a gym, an alternative space and time framework where expression is encouraged, therefore respected, in turn, energy is controlled.It is here one learns about limitations, physically and mentally. But, ultimately it is here one obtains a much needed sense, as every citizen ought to have, of self awareness and protection.

Self esteem and confidence within ones living environment are crucial ingredients to a healthy and successful negotiation of any social space.

This is the point: a strong society is made up of strong citizens and allowing for a space to enact and express this can only be socially self regenerating for the interests of the city.Good integration comes from offering opportunities and opportunities create an identity and therefore a self respect.Martial arts act as this social metaphor by bringing all the qualities required of an individual and forcing them to come out.Once out, they are in turn put back into society, with confidence.

Martial arts is a social ‘direct action’ in terms of going back to basics and accepting that struggle, confrontation and conflict, as history suggests, are not only a significant parts of civilisation, but they are also inevitable.

Another way of looking at this energy

The reality of life is that all energy is created out of conflict; if we interestingly look to an atomic level we can show that where there is Matter there is Anti matter.  Life has a natural corresponding ‘other’, a symmetrical opposite with which, upon interaction, an automatic annihilation occurs, but this creates the substance of life, energy is born from this explosion, it is not something which is a natural catastrophe which we should deny, alter or retract from the fabric of our make up. It simply is written within the blueprint of all matter as we know it.Humans are no exception.

Does this symmetrical opposition not remind us of the fight in a ring? Are we not drawn to interact and give expression? It ought not to be associated with aggression and anger, thus reducing these valid emotional realities to expressions of an animalistic nature.This is human arrogance to suggest we are bigger and ought to be better than this.The irony is, that under the premise of society and civilisation, suggesting that we overcome such behaviour, it is actually because of the restrictions imposed by civility that certain emotions, as aggressivity, is not allowed an outlet.

Instead of denying this, let’s accept it as a truth of the state of the human mind. If people want conflict under control then instead of repressing this and allowing it to distort itself into crime, gangs and the vast array of criminal acts that are about craving acknowledgment and venting anger. Instead, provide a space to express this personal and very real energy. Expression is the only true way to understanding anything!

Nichola Aindow
British women’s Muay Thai champion
Currently working on a Phd in Psychoanalysis on conflict and the life and death instincts.
Nichola currently lives in Oslo, where she also teaches kickboxing to Islamic women and other minority groups.

About Father Dave

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four
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1 Response to Martial Arts: Society’s safe option for controlling conflict – by Nichola Aindow

  1. David Dempsey says:

    Thanks Fr Dave, an interesting and provocative post. Many folk who don’t study a martial art would not have experienced the great benefits of the training. It’s surprising that most who study an art are more calm and relaxed in a conflict situation, because at the core they know that they can probably deal with a verbally aggressive person, like they do each week at training. When conflict resolution becomes a practiced act, conflict no longer raises such anxiety. When boys and men have an outlet for the testosterone built up with life’s stresses, we become calmer at home generally. I find Aikido a great art which practices the art of gently resolving physical conflict in a blending of energy to create new movement. Its analog off the mat is in verbal self defence and assertive language. We might become a less violent society if more people found martial art training at a younger age, if it was seen as an activity which builds character, allows release of natural tension, and improves confidence and courage to speak up in abusive situations.

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