I’m Calling Out Steven Seagal!

Steven Seagal is one of the few action movie stars who is actually as bad-ass off-screen as the characters he plays on-screen. He has legit martial arts credentials, like a 7th degree black belt in Aikido, and more recently spends his time working as an actual member of the SWAT team for an Arizona police department. His early movies, like Above the Law, are a some of the best Hollywood-produced martial arts flicks ever.  Back when I started to study Aikido, many years ago, he was one of my inspirations. In fact, I can say he has been one of my heros.

On a recent trip, I picked up a copy of Fight! magazine and was pretty excited to see it had an interview with Seagal.  While the interview was well done, and Steven had many interesting things to say, there was one part of the interview that really set me off.  Recently, he’s been credited with training some UFC mixed-martial arts (MMA) fighters to use some old-fashion karate techniques to deal devastating knock out blows.  In discussing this he gets into his philosophy on talent.  Here’s what he has to say:

“Certainly, there is a technique that you’re learning and the master you’re learning from, but also there’s a certain sort of natual gift that you are given from God, which has to do with real genetics and what you’re born with.  It’s something that no one can really be given. God gives you that. You’re parents give you that.  In other words, Bill Gates is very good at compuaters, and I am practucally computer illiterate. I don’t have the natural gift to understand those things, but if you look at the Hall-of-Famers, if you look at all the different fighters that have become great, great masters and very successful, those are people who have had  special aptitude, probably since birth and have taken what they specially good at and made themselves better. Those people may not be good at other things and that’s the same way I am — I’ve been learning the fighting arts since I was a child. I’m good at a few things in life and pretty terrible at most of the other ones.”

Now, to me this is just all wrong. Steven Seagal didn’t get good at martial arts because God or genetics gave him a gift. That just smacks of Luke Skywalker syndrome to me.  In reality, he got so good at martial arts because, in his own words, he has been “learning the fighting arts since I was a child.” He got good because he practiced intensely for years!  Now, I’m not a world class martial artist like Seagal, but there are things at which I am world class. In fact, Seagal brings up Bill Gates and computers as an example in this quote. I am a world class computer technologist, and I can say that without hesitation.  However, I didn’t learn about computers from God. I learned about programming from my dad, starting when I was 7 years old, and subsequently spent thousands of hours programming computers. I got good at it because I practiced — just like Bill Gates!

I fundamentally believe that people achieve greatness through hard work, practice and determination, not supernatural gifts. And, I believe this is just as true in martial arts as it is in computers, music or any other discipline. I believe this enough that I go out and train every day so that some day I will be a great martial artist. You can be too!  Feel free to take advice from Mr. Seagal on how to preform the Crane kick to knock out a UFC fighter, but don’t listen to him about whether you can succeed as a martial artist. I know that I can do it, and so can you!


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  1. Trackback: Best of ZZNinja « ZZ Ninja

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