PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA — I am a Master Teacher of the martial arts. I took my first lesson in 1969, received my first degree black belt at the age of nineteen, and today I teach martial arts teachers all over the world how to do what they do, better. Self-defense training is a big part of the martial arts. It is my experience that just about everyone, martial artist or not, wants the ability to protect herself and her loved ones from harm. This is why, today, authentic self-defense training must include lessons in subjects such as environmental self-defense, conscious consumption, and attitudinal defense.
Many of us are much more likely to be hurt — and even killed — by things we do to the environment, by how and what we consume, and by our attitudes about things such as race, gender, and consumerism, than by any kick, punch, or throw. From my perspective, as an expert in self-defense, learning how to reduce one’s footprint on the planet is a thousand times more relevant to personal protection than are lessons in how to block punches and kicks. While this opinion is not yet common in the martial arts world, the idea is starting to catch on.
For a small but growing number of martial arts teachers, environmental consciousness is self-defense. Martial arts school owners Mike and Karen Valentine of San Rafael, California, own the first dojo in the nation (and most likely in the world) that has made an ocean-based environmental cleanup project a part of their black belt test requirements. Environmental engineer turned karate teacher Tim Rosanelli asks each of his students to perform ten acts of “environmental self-defense” to earn their green belts in his school in Pennsylvania. My program, The Ultimate Black Belt Test, requires high-ranking martial arts teachers to organize environmental cleanup projects as a part of their training. This requirement is already responsible for more than fifty cleanup projects worldwide.
In the near future, millions of “karate kids” and other martial arts enthusiasts will learn, along with their various stances and grappling moves, the ABCs of conscious consumption and the basics of living a sustainable lifestyle. To teach authentic, culturally relevant, here-and-now self-defense, we cannot leave out the very subjects that have the potential to do us the most harm. After thirty-nine years in the martial arts world, I recognize, as clear as a punch on the nose, that self-defense is not a matter of fists and feet; self-defense for today’s world is global and green.