Brian Kagen pick: “Fighting Spirit” by Harry Cook

“Clint Eastwood, in The Outlaw Josey Wales, tells his companions that when everything looks bad and it seems you can’t win then you must get mean, “mad-dog mean,” in order to survive. This is the basic attitude necessary for effective self defence and has always been a precept of the martial arts that if we must choose between technique and fighting spirit, then go for fighting spirit everytime.

The bare-knuckle pugilists who fought in the Prize Ring valued courage or “bottom” above all other attributes in a fighter. Captain Godfrey, the author of A Treatise upon the Useful Science of Defence (1740/47)1, comments on one Boswell, a leading pugilist of the day “Praise be to his power of fighting, his excellent choice of time and measure, his superior judgement, dispatching forth his executing arm! But fye upon his dastard heart, that marrs it all! As I knew that fellows abilities, and his worm-dread soul, I never saw him beat, but I wished him to be beaten. Though I am charmed with the idea of his power and manner of fighting, I am sick at the thoughts of his nurse-wanting courage. Fair well to him, with the fair acknowledgement that, if he had a true English bottom, (the best fighting epithet for a man of spirit) he would carry all before him, and be a match for even Broughton himself.”2”

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  1. In Hagakure there is a passage to the effect, ‘to die without achieving your purpose IS to die a dog’s death. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Some would say it is fanaticism, but it is simply the Way of the samurai…’ Getting mad-dog-mean seems, for me, to be a quick switch to doing pretty real aikido. This is not to say that I do mean aikido. The anger elevates my psychic/mental energy sufficiently to make the jump into aikido, “warp drive” if you will. After that the aikido seems to do me more than me doing it. So far I’ve survived, but that’s sort of incidental.

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