Bullshit and Lies


Do you want to be an eagle or a crow?

Common sense and admiration are fantasies.

We look at the eagle, the hawk, and the falcon and think of the power, beauty and above all deadly efficiency of the raptors. Why would you want to be the common, when you can be the exceptional?

Who wins a fight, Crow or Eagle?

The eagle has talons, and that wicked hooked beak. It’s bigger than a crow. We name fighter jets after eagles and falcons because we recognize the true warrior power of these creatures. If you want to inspire with your martial arts school, you would have no problem using a raptor as your logo.

A crow is a small bird. Sure, it’s smart, but it’s got tiny claws and a beak better suited for opening mcdonalds waste packaging than hurting anything. They are drearily common, and mostly derided as a filthy pest.

When I was learning to fly raptors, one of the lessons we learned was that raptors won’t fly if they see crows.

The crows win the fight, every time. Single or in groups, they always win. Raptors are focused killers, and that focus, that specialization, leaves them completely vulnerable to the generalist crow. The crow is an excellent and agile flyer, and completely outclasses all the raptors that I know of.

So why do martial artists worship the eagle and hawk, and not the crow?

I don’t abide racism, sexism, homophobia or any other such stupidity in my school. It’s not for any altruistic reason, it’s because the most important lesson in martial arts is to not worship the eagle.

The difference between martial arts and sport is eagle worship. Sports is about being the best, being a sports fan is about admiring the best. Martial arts is about survival. You want to survive the little tricks life can play on you, especially in the world of combat, you have to learn to see the truth.

When you have a habit of sticking a label on someone, you have a habit of seeing people through that label. You make yourself blind.

Had a student last night talk about how she’d reached a point in her fighting where she was frustrated at not being able to do the things she thought she should be able to do in sparring. She’d been in a slump for a while. Last night I noted that she seemed to have broken through it. What she said was that she’d given up trying to do things. She’d given up on trying to get better, and had just thrown out all her training and bag of tricks.

Instead of doing what she thought she should do, she resigned herself to being incapable and resolved to just watch her opponents and spend a while just absorbing what was going on. She said she felt like she was moving through molasses, moving steps behind herself almost. But she was consistently landing good shots and outmaneouvering all of her opponents.

She didn’t intend to even really fight, but by observing, she saw moments where it made sense to just reach out and touch someone with her sword. With her vision stripped of the overlay of her normal patterns, there was so much more to see.

First flight of the crow.

You build habits of labeling things. You get angry at the “PC police” and think it’s stupid that you can’t tell the kind of jokes you want, when you don’t really mean any harm. You are so caught up in labelling and trying to organize the things in the world, that you no longer see what is actually there. You build a virtual reality of your own imagining.

It confounds me that any martial artist would let themselves do that, but then I remember that they think, in their secret hearts, that they are eagles.

And they think that is a good thing.



  1. I suppose a comment/argument I would have is that if one is trying to be the best they can’t afford to be close minded and static. A person who is truly elite will continuously learn and observe regardless of their discipline (for example, “continuing education” is part of my license requirements).

    The labeling of what sports and martial arts is about I would argue falls into the trap of the sentence immediately following that statement. The general point can still stand on other points but the strict categorization of sport and martial arts as presented is an internal contradiction within your philosophy.

    • David R. Packer

      Blog posts are a stream of conscience thing for me. No edits, which I usually regret. In this case, I would delete the whole reference to contrast between sports and martial arts in that section.

      Your point about being truly elite fits more with what I usually think of as “professional.” It’s an approach to striving to be your best when you are at your worst, and constantly putting in the effort required to be that way.

      • Don’t mind me, I simply enjoy being a contrarian, In writing is more pleasant than in person. Cleaner.

        Our brains are designed to label, categorize, stereotype for efficiencies sake and makes an open mind hard to keep.

  2. And personally I prefer ravens 😛

    • David R. Packer

      You know, I have no idea how ravens and crows compete. I’ve seen them bitch at each other in the tree in my backyard, but mostly they seem to ignore the existence of each other.

      • Ravens are generally more aloof, they don’t have sleepovers like crows do. They prefer generally rougher terrain. Cliffs, hills, water. Fighting wise depends on the size of the opposing bird(s). With seagulls, crow size birds they just stare them down and go “u wot m8”. With eagles I’ve seen a raven pecking at its tail feathers until it flew away.

        They’re smart, and can have 60-70 years of life if taken care of.

        The raven population in vancouver (along marine drive, a few near stanley park now) seems to have gone up in recent years.

  3. Very interesting article, David!
    I have noticed myself that when I’m making a conscious, willing effort to focus at a task, I struggle with it, but when I relax and just “do it”, I’m actually better able to focus, and both my effectiveness and efficiency increase immensely. I’ve noticed this while working, or playing video games, or playing sports etc.

  4. Nice article , David. I was recently experiencing a similar problem as your student. I tired to fix this by working on my technique and on all kind of related stuff like biomechanics and so on. Eventhough I made good improvements, I always felt that I couldn´t bring it into a fight.
    And with every sparringsession I got to focus a little more on the “inside” and sometimes got frustrated because whatever I tried wasn´t working out they way I hoped it would.

    But then a few days ago I´ve read your article and the story of your student really got me. So I tried to activley focus on the “outside” instead of the “inside” and it felt like I was busting through a plateau.

  5. Not even a little bit for altruistic reasons? I mean, isn’t a training environment, paradoxically, supposed to be safe?

    • Well I like to think some of it is altruistic, but I was raised in the 70’s. Certain patterns are deeply ingrained in me, and it’s an ongoing process of learning how they have damaged me. It’s very easy to think that I was raised just fine despite the environment of the time, but I am aware that the reality is that my point of view is often flawed.

      As for a safe training environment, the last bit of our printed Sparring Rules is this section: “anyone who engages in discriminatory or harassing behaviour will be removed from class and may also lose future training privileges; this includes — but is not limited to — discrimination based on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic or religious background, and ability, as well as verbal, physical, and sexual harassment”

  6. I think I’ve been reading too much xkcd. When you said ‘raptors’, I automatically thought velociraptor.

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