Justice and martial arts are inseparable. Beyond the physical training — the kicking and punching — the pursuit of what is right and fair is a cornerstone to the martial arts lifestyle.
This is what has made our Breaking Boards Breaking Chains campaign so significant and powerful. Through the participation of the public and other martial artists we are literally supporting people who are taking action and saving lives.
The money raised goes to work instantly through the efforts of International Justice Mission (IJM) and their amazing field staff who are operating in 18 offices worldwide.
IJM estimates that there are close to 36 million people in the world today who are in some form of slavery — more than at anytime throughout history. Of that there are an estimated 2 million children at risk every year to the horrors of sex trafficking.
I believe this is a problem we in the developed world can no longer turn a blind eye to. The facts are there and they are real — as real as the people who are victims of these atrocities.
Countering these dismal numbers are others. Like the fact that globally there are hundreds of millions of students in the martial arts. Imagine if we in this community mobilized and did our part to eliminate these problems. We as martial artists, with the core value of justice, have the ability to change history!
I recently had the opportunity to look under the hood of how IJM works when I traveled to Uganda and Rwanda to see their offices in action. Their dedicated staff, made up of lawyers, investigators, social workers and others — primarily locals — dedicate their lives to protect others from violence and to repairing broken justice systems that trap the poor in a life filled with risk and fear.
In my short time there I learned a lot about Uganda and Rwanda that went beyond anything I could have imagined based what I knew of Africa from television and the internet. It is beautiful and despite the years of hardship that have plagued it there is a magical air to the landscape and people.
They exude a love and gratitude toward others that I have never experienced elsewhere. On many afternoons I was moved to tears while listening to IJM clients tell their stories and express their gratitude to IJM over and over again. To see the human element of this work was both powerful and inspiring.
One of my favourite memories was meeting a real hero named Juliana.
Juliana is a 70 year-old widow who has endured unimaginable hardships, including losing many of her adult children to illness, and was then being threatened with pain and punishment unless she left her property. This is called “property grabbing” and is a prevalent crime in Uganda. Each year thousands of widows are victims to this crime and, until recently, there would be no convictions against the perpetrators.
However, thanks to the work of IJM and the courage of Juliana, her case went through the justice system and resulted in a six-year prison sentence to the criminals involved — the harshest sentence ever for this type of crime in Uganda.
While the thought of eliminating slavery and violence is an incredibly daunting one, I would like to share a different way of looking at the problem.
In his book “The Locust Effect” Gary Haugen, the founder of IJM, explains the 15-70-15 rule. In many of the countries where slavery is a rampant problem he estimates that 15 percent of people are either benefited or turn a blind eye to these injustices while 15 percent are actively fighting against them. This leaves a middle 70 percent who are indifferent, scared or uninformed and are often waiting to pick a side when it is clear who the victor will be.
Haugen believes, as do I, that once the 70 percent see that those fighting for justice are on the winning side they will join with them, creating a strength, confidence and power in numbers never before seen.
Without our moral code and without the pursuit of justice, martial arts are meaningless and eventually leave us hollow. Imagine the feeling of standing in a field yelling alone. Now imagine standing with thousands of friends and fellow warriors all projecting a thunderous “Kiai” of “K’ihap” in unison out into the world.
That roar would be deafening and defining. It would be a united energy and force directed towards one purpose: eliminating violence, oppression and bullying and creating a world that truly has justice for all.