written by Michael Wise
Ministry, law enforcement and the martial arts have been a truly interesting blend of seemingly different pursuits. Yet what appears to be unusual blends together very well. I have had the privilege of studying under martial arts masters Guro Dan Inosanto and Sifu Damon Caro, and following their examples of honor, humility and honesty, the fighting aspects of the arts became the least of what I would learn under their tutelage.
Blending the martial arts is exactly what the Inosanto Academy is about. Tolerance and respect for arts that others practice and earning useful components from others comes with understanding and knowledge. Various religions follow similar guidelines; unfortunately, others don’t. The world we all share suffers from the intolerance of the few. The most respected martial arts instructor of modern times, Dan Inosanto, teaches this by using his own life as an example. Respect the ways of others: only from this can understanding and peaceful coexistence take place. From sharing comes learning; from learning comes true knowledge, self-growth and wisdom.
Just as the arts teach this, so does modern religion. As a police chaplain, I am given a certain amount of latitude because my peers see me working the street. As an instructor, other instructors and students see me more as one of them instead of just a person of the cloth. It’s working in both areas that God has opened doors of communication that would otherwise be closed. The student/instructor relationships are both special and unique. With the training comes a certain level of trust and respect. As students come to know and trust you, quite often they open up with situations and problems in their lives. The position of being a chaplain often helps them take you into their confidence. Many times, it’s just as a sounding board; other times, you find yourself trying to help someone out of a difficult situation. Either way, martial arts has opened the door and allowed me to work closely with many people – both inside professional relationships and outside.
There are so many styles of martial arts, and while many try to prove why their way is superior, in the end, a punch is still a punch. Some are hard styles; some are short. Some are based on power, some on fluidity; some are internal and some are external. Religions are the same, yet there is only one God, in my own belief. So, in the end, one can try to demonstrate why theirs is best, or one can try to understand another’s belief and respect that belief even when you don’t see things the same way. As a police chaplain, I am generic. This means, I must work within specified guidelines and try to help wherever possible. It’s not my job to make others see things my way, or to convert anyone to my beliefs, but just as I would try to understand someone and talk equally to them, I would try to understand different styles and take what is useful while offering them the same in return.
Last, but not least, the martial arts have given me a measure of confidence in some difficult situations. Any skilled martial artist knows that at best, he or she has a slight edge in any arena of combat, but only a slight edge. It’s being secure in my beliefs that are the extension of my life, allowing me to go into places where another person needs assistance. Both the path of the teacher and that of the chaplain are paths of service. Whichever path is taken, at some point in time, they intersect along the road of life. The only certainty is that life offers many roads to choose from. Being allowed to serve in either way or both, each road will end, and more than likely, they will be tied to one another.