The Crab & the Seagull: A Martial Myth From The Jersey Shore

27 Jun

The martial arts in general and Goshin-Do Karate DeFelice-Ryu in particular, contain many myths, fables and stories that breathe life into martial ideology and philosophy. Every so often, the drama of these fables plays out in our daily lives. The following is a true example of a martial fable come to life.

Growing up in New Jersey, I always enjoyed summers visiting the magical boundary where the salty Atlantic Ocean kisses the sandy shore. Many a memorable summer day was spent on various beaches of the Atlantic Ocean from Cape May, New Jersey to the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

My visits to the shore were not always for mere recreation. Many times, my students and I would train in this pristine environment. It was in the late-1990’s during one such training session that the following true events leapt from the lifeless pages of martial folklore into the dynamic drama of life.

During the training session, my students and I witnessed an encounter involving a seagull and a blue claw crab. In the original martial fable, there was a fox, (represented by the seagull) and a rabbit (represented by the blue-claw crab).

The tide was able to wash a blue claw crab up onto the beach. A seagull, being ever vigilant, was quick to seize the opportunity. The seagull landed on the beach and chased the crab in an attempt to make the crab its dinner. The crab utilized its claws to fend off the seagull. The seagull then took to the air to attempt an air assault upon its reluctant dinner guest. The crab raised is claws and scuttled to and fro. The battle continued in this manner.

The group training this day was composed of a dozen karate-ka, including my youngest daughter, Kim. At that time, Kim was a brown belt and one of four senior Numansha. I wanted to ascertain her impressions as to the battle we were witnessing and asked her, “Who must win the fight?” Kim naturally said the seagull. After all, it was larger, stronger and given it had the capacity for flight, was more mobile than the crab. The other karate-ka nodded their heads in agreement.

I informed my students that, notwithstanding their collective assessment of the battle, according to the ancient fable, the crab and not the seagull must win. My students and I continued to watch the encounter. The fight continued with the crab counter-attacking every time the sea gull came in for the kill. In this manner the crab kept the seagull at bay. The crab tenaciously defended itself and bided its time. Eventually a large wave washed a-shore and carried the still fighting crab away to safety. The sea-gull flew off frustrated and hungry. Kim asked “Why must the crab win”? The answer is simple.

The seagull was fighting for its dinner, but, the blue claw crab was fighting for its life. The crab must win because it had more at stake in the confrontation. Simply stated, the winner of a physical confrontation between an aggressor and the person forced to defend against attack would be the person with the most to lose in the confrontation.

The above encapsulates the generally accepted analysis of the martial fable. There is; however, a fatal error. Unlike the animals used in the martial fable, we humans are capable of perception achieved through intellect and emotion. It is therefore necessary that human perception must be an analytical component of the martial fable. As between humans, the winner of the confrontation must be the one who perceives that he has the most to loose.

To illustrate this point, assume that the crab and seagull were mysteriously bestowed the gift of human perception. Notwithstanding the laws of nature, if the seagull’s perception of a lost dinner was greater than the crabs perception of a lost life, the seagull should win the encounter. How may a perception of a lost dinner be greater than a lost life? Assume the seagull is a poor hunter, or has his hunted prey routinely taken away by other hungry competitors, the seagull may perceive that it is on the brink of starvation. In this instance, if the seagull does not eat the crab, he will die. As such, based upon this perception, the seagull would be fighting for its life. Therefore, perception has changed the dynamic of the encounter.

Sensei John & Sensei Kim Szmitkowski, Cape Code, MA, Circa 2000

As you walk the path of karate-do, reflect upon the above battle of the crab and the seagull as it unfolded one fine summer morning before the eyes of earnest martial artists while training on the pristine sands where the sea gently kisses the shore and reveals the mysteries of its depths.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski
Karate-Do No Renshi
Goshin-Do Karate-Do DeFelice-Ryu

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