The Waiting Game

How do we go about explaining the apparent paradoxical relationship between practicing violent technique and supposedly gaining self-mastery and self-control?

Many would say that it is by confronting this violence in a controlled context that we better appreciate it’s destructive effects both physically and psychologically. However I am not convinced. If that were the case, then policemen, soldiers or MMA fighters would be saints. There is a fairly good review of the literature on combative sports (including MA) and reduction in aggression levels, but much of it is flawed and of very low quality in terms of research methods and analysis.
Continuing the topic of martial arts and violence, it seems that in earlier times in the history of Karate-do there was a protracted period of waiting that a new student had to go through before being accepted. Take for example the following conversation between Miyagi Chojun and Miyagi An’ichi as found in The History of Goju-ryu” by Higaonna Morio.
One day An’ichi asked Chojun Miyagi, “Sensei, wouldn’t it be a good idea to put up a sign outside the dojo to attract more students?” Chojun sensei replied, ” Ah, An’ichi, I understand your reasoning, for I posed the same question to Kanryo sensei when I was a young man. I saw the way dojo advertised in Japan during my army days with a sign hung outside, and I thought it was a good idea. However, Kanryo sensei told me, ‘ that will lead to violence and death’. The martial arts at that time were taught to only carefully selected students whose character had been observed closely by the teacher. This of course, was not a guarantee that all persons selected to become students met such qualifications, hence the long term testing and evaluation period of performing chores and learning only basics. The unworthy would be weeded out or kept at a basic level. (pg. 133)
Kyoda Juhatsu taught the same way and had my Tou’on-ryu teacher, Kanzaki Shigekazu, visit his home every day for over a month before he was accepted as a student. My acceptance as a student wasn’t nearly as difficult, but it didn’t happen over night and there was a period of waiting involved. What we can glean from this tradition of making students wait is that the apparent paradox of martial arts reducing violence may simply come down to a selection bias as this sort of practice would aid in weeding out undesirable students, but not completely eliminate them.
But times and methods have changed and this restrictive and conservative practice of weeding out students is no longer in fashion in commercial schools. Indeed, in any school that is run as a business there is little recourse for the instructor. She simply has to accept anyone who shows-up at the door. However, some of my friends’ dojo retain this old practice in some respects and are run on a semi-private or private basis which appears to work well for their situation.
Good training.