This is not a bee.
In an old blog entry on the subject of Steven “Runs Like a Girl” Seagal, the martial teacher and commentator Steve Morris noted that the secret to the success of liars like Seagal is that they are able to convince people of their ability, despite the fact that they lack ability. He stated:
“their greatest talent does not lie in what they get paid for doing, but in their ability to get people to believe that what they do is for real and what they say is true.”
This is the art of the mimic. In nature, a mimic is something which has- through the process of natural selection- evolved over countless generations an uncanny similarity to another thing, be that thing an inanimate object, a part of a plant, or another animal. This similarity offers protection from predators… Or disguises the mimic’s dangerousness, depending on the type of camouflage employed.
Mimicry between animals is the interesting area for the purposes of this article. For instance, a form of defensive mimicry is demonstrated by the Ash Borer, a harmless moth which resembles a wasp so closely that potential predators who might enjoy eating a moth are put off, for fear of being stung.
But equally, and more applicably to this text, a form of aggressive mimicry is demonstrated by Photuris, a breed of firefly that closely resembles and imitates the mating signals of a female Rover Firefly, another species… when the male Rovers arrive and attempt to mate with Photuris, they are consumed.
It’s worth noting at this point that it is not important at all that you and I can tell the difference between a wasp and the Ash Borer. It’s equally not important that you or I might be able to tell the difference between Photuris and its hapless Rover prey. What’s important is whether the prey can tell the difference.
Here’s another form of aggressive mimicry: Stevenus Seagalis. This ghastly little parasite mimics another species altogether: Martial Artists.
Now to the trained eye, to the expert eye, Seagalis is clearly not a member of the same genus. But this does not matter. As stated before, what matters is whether the prey animals recognise this fact. Who are the prey animals in this case? Some low-level martial artists, certainly, but also a swathe of Buddhists, film-goers and film-makers.
This is not a martial artist.
What form does the mimicry of such ghastly creatures take? Well like the Ash Borer, there is no sting in their tail. A no-hoper like Seagalis does not… CAN not mimic the martial or physical skill of a creature like Marcelo Garcia, or Georges St Pierre. But they don’t have to. Most people cannot tell the difference between a fake Aikido move like an Aikido Koshi Nage (Aikido Hip Throw), and a real move (a move that can really be applied on a resisting, aware opponent) like a Hip-Toss from wrestling (also used in Judo, of course). Because in order to be able to tell the difference, you have to have a certain level of physical awareness or experience. You have to know intuitively that people will not move the way the attacker in the Aikido clip moves. You have to know intuitively that opponents won’t let you hold their arms the way the Aikido attacker is allowing his Sensei to hold his. You have to know what someone who is unwillingly tossed into the air will do when they realise that they are in jeopardy. And lastly you have to know what someone throwing another person looks like while they’re doing it; what shapes their body will describe as they take the weight of their opponent onto their own base, and what motion they will have to apply and commit to to execute the move.
If you have this experience, this insight, then the Aikido man’s move looks even more fake, cooperative and contrived than moves from pro-wrestling… and that’s saying something. At least pro-wrestlers sell their moves a little better.
Most people lack this lens of “physical intellect”. So, to convince the lay person all a martial mimic has has to do is something that looks roughly similar.
Or that sounds roughly similar, for that matter.
Because mimicry in the martial arts isn’t restricted to what the mimic shows his prey. It’s what the mimic tells his or her prey that really seals the deal. Seagal’s full of bluster and self-aggrandizement, as in this clip where he takes credit for one of Anderson Silva’s victories. Again, to the trained ear (the ear of someone who knows something of Seagal’s history, for instance) his claims do not hold water. But to the average schmo watching the TV, I’m sure it all sounds very convincing, even though the sunglasses/bandanna combo he’s wearing make Seagal look like a village idiot. He also bizarrely claims to have been “raised in Japan”, which could have been a slip of the tongue if anyone else had said it, but is more likely just another self-serving lie coming from Seagal. He was in his late teens before he relocated to Japan. He claims in this interview to have known Bruce Lee through James Coburn as well, a claim which is strange, considering the fact that Seagal was only twenty-one when Lee died, at which point Seagal was presumably in Japan, and as far as I can tell they never met.
The really sad thing is that those who can see Seagal for what he is are in a minority, and despite our best efforts at publicising this information we simply hold no sway. Because the media loves a fast-talking chancer like Seagal. The media is in the business of promoting Seagal and his ilk, because the media is also full of unskilled idiots who are all talk. Most journalists fall into this category, for instance.
Which brings us to politics. Mimicry in politics is rife. In fact it’s true to say that politicians are all in the business of mimicking a species they are not… people who give a damn. A politician doesn’t have to do anything to benefit his or her local community… he or she merely has to promise vaguely to do such things at some indeterminate point in the future, and they will be elected. Welcome to your very own Schumpeterian system of governance.
How about business? How about the fact that the executive levels of all businesses are populated almost entirely by independently wealthy, skill-less buffoons whose only talent is to talk a good fight? Those pustules who leave all the actual work to their subordinates and describe themselves as the “blue sky thinkers” of the company, as if this meant something?
But I digress. Back to the martial arts. Yes, there are the Seagals, and the Sofoses, and the Cooks… But these are merely individuals. How about arts? Can a whole art mimic a more martial art?
This is not a martial art.
Yes, of course. Aikido and Karate are prime examples. With the exception of Daido Juku and Kyokushin these arts involve little or no contact, no useful application and very little resisting opposition. So how do they resemble real martial arts? First, there’s the violent movements, then there’s the angry shouting… but mainly the factor that causes most lay-people to mistake Aikido and Karate for real martial arts is… the talk. Karate men and women talk as if they’re martial artists. Aikido men and women talk as if their art is martial. They use words like “warrior” and “combat”. They behave as if they are… and often believe themselves to be… fighters.
This is the sad result when a mimic finally encounters the real thing.
Nothing good comes from mimicry in human affairs. Either people are conned out of their hard-earned cash; are convinced that they can do something (like… fight) when they can’t, or simply have their precious time wasted. Mimics are parasites living among us in all walks of life. They should be prevented from engaging in their harmful and deceptive activities by anyone with the wit to spot them.
If you think you’ve seen a thing… look again.
Sadly the last and most important thing that mimics trade on is the fact that the majority of people want to be deceived…