The Mysterious Martial Art Of Morris Dancing – Why Learning To Beat People Up Is Actually Quite Good For Your Mental Health
In recent weeks, I have taken to the habit of waving sticks around in my back garden. Don’t worry, I haven’t finally succumbed to my inevitable total nervous breakdown and I definitely haven’t had an attack of Morris Dancing. What I have done is started taking lessons in Eskrima, which is a Filipino stick fighting system. Google it if you haven’t heard of it. You will soon find out that, although both activities involve stout sticks, Eskrima is definitely not Morris Dancing.
Having said that, I have a theory about Morris Dancing. Of course I do, I’m a man. That’s what we do. We drink beer, refuse to do housework and think up theories. My theory goes something like this. Morris Dancing is not dancing at all, but an indigenous form of British martial art. Not only that, but it is the most fearsome and powerful martial art in the world. This is why its practitioners disguise it as laughable displays of mediaeval fertility capering. It’s to distract from Morris Dancing’s dreadful and destructive nature.
Go to You Tube and watch some Morris Dancing videos. Look carefully at what they are actually doing. Just prancing about? Not a bit of it. Flying knees to the groin, distracting opponents with flurries of brightly coloured hankies and finishing off grounded adversaries with the butt ends of their stout sticks, that’s what they’re doing. Not to mention the bells on their legs. I don’t know about you, but I find those very disturbing. Definitely designed to confuse and disorientate the enemy.
Of course, in a battle situation, the hankies would have razor blades sewn into them, or be filled with some sort of toxic, blinding powder. And I’ve always thought that Morris Dancing has more than a faint whiff of ritual magic about it. Those wooden sticks can, if necessary, be charged with the powers of malevolent forest spirits and become supernatural weapons of supreme power. Rest assured, if Britain’s shores are ever invaded, our Mighty Morris Men will leap to the fore and fly around the battlefields, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” style and vanquish any foe, no matter how heavily armed they might be.
Unfortunately, this is one theory I will probably never be able to prove. Apart from a few sporadic attempts, Britain hasn’t been successfully invaded since 1066. Though this is probably down to the subsequent, sporadic invaders quickly realizing that there wasn’t really much here worth stealing and buggering off home sharpish before their fellow countrymen have guzzled all the best wine.
One theory I might be able to prove though is the theory I have about certain mental illnesses, namely Depression and ADHD. Depression is very common in the developed world, and I would argue that it is far too common to be an actual illness. I think it is just the natural reaction in some people’s brains to very unnatural circumstances. The human brain is still hard wired from the stone age and has not even begun to adapt to modern life. We are designed to live in small groups and to be extremely distrustful of anyone who is not of our tribe. And even then we are programmed to keep a watchful eye on the tribe members who are not actually close family.
When your boss is standing in front of you, demanding why you didn’t do that thing he asked you to do, when in fact he asked you no such thing and is covering his own arse, a strange conflict is happening in your brain. The veneer of modernity which covers your covers your cerebral lobes flashes up the message “Just nod and smile until he goes away. Don’t say anything stupid and get the sack”. However, way back in your hindbrain, your inner cave dweller is deeply confused. “Why you not hit this man with rock” your inner troglodyte is saying. “You hit him on head with rock, his head go splat and his mouth not bother you no more”.
Sage advice back in the day, but sadly no longer appropriate. Life, particularly city life, throws up conflicts like this on a daily basis. Human beings are designed to just move on if something about our environment makes us uncomfortable. But modern humans buy houses and rent flats and have careers, so we can’t just up sticks and wander off to find another cave or clearing in the forest. We are frequently trapped, or at least think we are, and depression, which is really just your mind’s way of warning you that things have to change, becomes a serious problem.
ADHD, or “being a little boy” as it used to be called, is another perceived problem. Parents dose their sons up with chemical coshes such as Ritalin when a much simpler approach is often more productive. If your little boy has too much energy, then make the little bugger do something that will wear him out. Martial arts are brilliant for doing this. No matter how inattentive yet energetic a little boy might be, every little boy wants to be Bruce Lee in his heart of hearts. Get him along to a martial arts class, preferably a Japanese or Korean one because of their emphasis on order and discipline, and see how much energy he has after two hours doing reverse punches and roundhouse kicks.
If you have problems with low mood and you’ve never tried a martial art, then do so. If your boss is giving you the face to face hair dryer treatment, just knowing you could beat the shit out of him at any moment is very comforting. It allows your inner caveman to have some sort of peace. Though there is just the chance that you are, as an employee, really fucking obstructive and annoying. And that your boss is taking Krav Maga lessons so he can take comfort in the fact he could break you like a twig anytime he wants, rather than just shouting at you.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013