Why Being a Martial Artist Helps Me Think about Money

martial arts and money

Have you ever had a dream where you were fighting someone and every time you tried to throw a punch, either you couldn't or it was completely powerless?

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

I am a lifelong martial artist. What does that have to do with financial markets and politics? Everything. Just as Bill Belichick being an econ major has everything to do with him being a winning NFL coach and economist Bill James changing baseball. It’s about understanding how the world is one general system, and coming from any perspective that is strategic gives you an edge in understanding the rest of the entire system. But only if you can connect all the dots.

So why is my martial artist’s perspective an asset? I want you to really think about this. You see, I've spoken and written about self-defense for years, but that’s not enough to live a fruitful and truly free life.

Have you ever had a dream where you were fighting someone and every time you tried to throw a punch, either you couldn't or it was completely powerless? Did you find yourself hating that feeling? What do you think those dreams are about?

In political theory, there is this concept of sovereignty. A sovereign is anyone who can inflict the most violence; this does not just mean physically, it can also mean financially. They can oppress with threats of physical harm or threats of poverty. Individual sovereignty is the ability to defend his or herself from physical and financial domination.

To defend against domination is the only way to be free. The way we define self-defense today is too limited. Self-defense and being a sovereign individual should be one and the same. (I would include health to this also, but as a nutritionist and strength coach, I've also written about that for years. Which leaves me with only one thing left to cover.) In fact, financial insecurity is what drives most people to learn self-defense. I have had several close friends become gun enthusiasts after bankruptcy. Feeling powerless, these are attempts to regain power. But it's only looking at half the problem. (There is a difference between power and substitutes for power.)

I've covered the physical aspects, but I've mostly avoided the financial security because money makes people feel uncomfortable (even though I was a former licensed financial advisor). But it’s important and as adults we must overcome our discomforts.

What’s the point of teaching a woman how to defend herself if she doesn't have enough money to quit a job with a predatory boss? We need to teach both, or they will have massive holes in their ability to defend against domination. When I hear people use the term “problematic,” they are usually talking about a lack of individual sovereignty. When I hear people talking about their dissatisfaction with the way things are, or with their general unease and anxiety about the world, they are talking about a lack of individual sovereignty. It’s a feeling of having others have power over you (a lack of self-ownership). Feeling like at best all you can do is find a good provider who can protect you from other authorities because you don’t even feel like it’s in the cards for you to be your own sovereign.

Why don’t people leave a town they hate? Why don’t women leave abusive husbands when they want to? Why can’t people quit a job they can’t stand working? They feel trapped because they know they don’t have the means to do what they want. In the case of the abusive husband, he has the physical power, and he has the money for you to live on. It’s not just a matter of finding the confidence, it’s also about building the material means to do something about it.

When bad things happen, or you are wronged, what do you do? Sometimes nothing. Why? Because you might believe you don’t have the means for legal recourse. Meaning, you don’t have the money to defend yourself, and the other party does. This is why many people often don’t say anything until there is a legal defense fund. Or, you might just believe you are too powerless to do something because they are too intimidating. You have no voice… (I told a friend, just because you taught someone how to defend his or herself physically doesn't mean you've changed this person’s state in society. Or another friend who teaches breathing and mindfulness. What can you offer this person to create real material change rather than just more confidence or an ability to be at ease with their shitty situation? That’s not enough.) When I ask people of powerful role models, they name someone opinionated or physically fit. That is not material power. (A sassy secretary in a movie or a fitness Instagram star should not be the bar or the bar is too low.)

Do you feel like I’m articulating a feeling you've had your whole life? And giving this feeling a name and a meaning? If so, there’s also a solution.

The US once experimented with basic income in the 70s. Then they scrapped it. Why? Because divorces went up for those families. Why? Unhappy women finally had the means to leave.

I have heard people say “I’m not a finance person” or “I’m not good at understanding money.” They are identifying with powerlessness. It’s essentially saying you’re not someone who can ever have power or be sovereign, so you've already given up on the idea. It’s why some grandmothers, when they see a successful man, will say, “I hope my granddaughter marries someone like you,” rather than saying “I hope my granddaughter becomes someone like you.” Because in her conditioned beliefs, her granddaughter can never be powerful, so at best, she should find a good protector. That’s bullshit. This is why people make the analogy that many of us are still property because we are not the sovereigns, someone else is. If the lack of financial resources drive all your decisions, what freedom do you have? For all intents and purposes, lack of financial resources is what we mean when we say we are “trapped.”

As a friend recently told me, “I’ve never felt as empowered as when I deleted Tinder and started listening to financial podcasts.”

Sovereignty is more important than self-defense. I've seen great martial artists dominated by smarter business partners and have their lives destroyed.

Sovereignty is more important than financial security. I've known wealthy people who are still bullied or physically attacked (or killed) with no recourse.

Even the ancient Shaolin monks of China understood this; beyond just physical training to stop bandits, they also relied upon a communal economic system, similar to socialism. They protected themselves from economic disaster by creating a separate system, modern example would be American Amish (libertarian socialism).

I’m not saying there’s one right way to do it, but it must be addressed. We just stopped addressing it now because our modern thinking is about categorizing and separating each category when it’s all one ecological general system. What the tree does affects the bush and what the insect does affects the tree, and so on.

But no one is forcing you to learn. I do not have sovereignty over you. You decide what you want to do. I am just leaving the resource out there for you to claim.

(If you liked this article, find more about personal sovereignty at DontFOMO.com)