If you are a martial artist and you have not seen the movie “A History of Violence”, you should.
In fact, I’m surprised it didn’t get more recognition at the Academy Awards.
There are many films that have been entrusted to me to demonstrate various aspects of courage and positive values. They include “Braveheart”, “The Last Samurai”, “Rob Roy” and “Gladiator”.
But none of these really delve into the NEED and INTIMACY of violence as “History” does.
Tom Stall, the main character, owns a small cafe in a secluded town in Indiana. This is the kind of place where you have to say “hello” or “hello” to people passing by. I have lived in a very similar Hoosier shelter, and this movie captures the atmosphere very well.
One night, two certified bad guys walk into the cafe at closing time and Stall tries to dissuade them, but he relents and serves them coffee. The situation rapidly deteriorates, and Stall is the last man standing, having displayed murderous moves he did not believe himself capable of.
His answer puts him on the evening news, seemingly everywhere. More bad guys come to his cafe, intimidate his family and put him in a “fight or flight” situation.
There is a central mystery in the film that I will not discuss, because it would reveal the essence of the plot.
But these are some of the key points that I extract from this movie that I think are applicable to all martial artists:
(1) Some fights cannot be avoided. Be prepared for them, always, and do what you must, without hesitation or regret. It’s “okay to fight” more often than you’ve been taught.
(2) A famous philosopher said: “Force is the supreme virtue.” Is it more important than love? Can love find a home without the strength to protect and shelter it?
(3) Battles are often not between good and evil, but between extreme and lesser evils. They are not the same. A trace of virtue is better than nothing, and it can be completely defensible.
(4) Personal transformation is possible and desirable, but the dead hand of the past will still reach us, so be careful. Your past will find you, and no matter how you interpret it, today others will have a competitive vision that they will refuse to let go of. We will always face who we were, or at least what others think we were.
I’ve seen this movie twice, and I’ll probably watch it another dozen times, getting more nuance with each view.
I think it will be worth it for you to see him with some fellow martial artists. Your physical appearance will catch your eye, but long afterward, the issues you pose will really impress and possibly change you.
And you’ll probably come away asking, “How much do I look like Tom Stall?”