Only idiots or psychopaths know no fear!
In September 2013 Kaicho Jon Bluming wrote the following to me in a letter: "Anybody who knows no fear must be an idiot or somehow mentally disturbed. In the Korean War I often felt real fear,…"
"… but I still acted and rescued friends from danger. I was honoured with a medal by the Special Forces Rangers for this.
Before martial arts competitions I was always nervous, but that was over as soon as I stood on the mat.
In street fights I was just angry, and mercilessly beat up anybody who had treated me badly or grossly insulted me.
But when they found out who I was in Holland, people gave me a wide berth.
I turned my students into fighters by giving them a hard time while mentally preparing them for their fights.
But for competitions I only chose those who were mentally suitable, and the others I turned into good teachers.
And I was always there for my students.
Without 'kokoro', the heart of a fighter, the whole of martial arts is just an empty shell."
Jon Bluming, 10th Dan Oyama Karate, 9th Dan Judo
In 2018 two great fighters were taken from us:
First Master Uwe Kopplin (Berlin) in November, and then Kaicho Jon Bluming (Holland) in December.
Their prowess and fighting strength was not just physical but also mental, they possessed the heart and spirit of a fighter.
They had fighting spirit but were not without fear, instead they showed courage and a strong will even when faced with a hopeless situation. Real courage can only manifest itself where it has to overcome doubts and fear. Courage is not the absence of fear.
Jon Bluming and Uwe Kopplin were aware that their lives would soon end, and they battled with the despair they must have felt: Why me? Why so soon? What's happening to me? What will remain of me? What will happen to the loved ones I must leave behind?
Neither of these two fighters submitted to the awful fears played out in their imagination, but continued to plan and act for their loved ones and students to the very last.
Uwe Kopplin's final thoughts were for his wife Marion, his EWTO academy in Berlin and his students, for example.
Despite his "fear", my mentor and friend Prof. Horst Tiwald likewise remained resolute despite knowing of his impending death: he figured out how many months he had left for me, and not only continued a highly intensive, "organic" course of study in sport and movement with myself and Natalie, but also looked through all my planned book projects and made critical comments and annotations. He would often send me 30 to 40 pages at night, and I read them repeatedly as his legacy.
What these three great men had in common was decades of intensive study of the Asian martial arts and their philosophy, i.e. Zen or Chan, which can help individuals to cope with confronting their own mortality.
My new book has just been published. The "Seven Great Capabilities" begin with awareness and consciousness, revert to the animalistic battle for survival and culminate in true human fighting spirit characterised by the cold-blooded confrontation of danger, stoicism, mental resilience, focus, energy and determination, and complete the circle with presence of mind, empathy and mindfulness.
As we can see from the example set by these three great fighters, they also include love, sympathy, loyalty and dependability beyond death.
Keith R. Kernspecht