Over the last fifty years that I have been a student of the martial arts I have seen many people come and go. I am still somewhat amazed at the attrition rate in the martial arts. That’s a topic for another day however.
In the beginning, I was amazed at the beauty and grace of an advanced practitioner and the skills and abilities that were displayed. Later I learned not to be impressed with the outer display of skill, but on the true character and strength of the few true masters I had run across. These few had been men that have not only been great technicians but great human beings.
People like Fusei Kise, Isao Kise… and a small number of others I have met. These are true masters of the art, truly understanding the path of the martial arts and not just mere practitioners. It is not the arts themselves that are the truth, but like the seed being planted in the ground, under the right leadership, the harvest produces phenomenal human beings that walk the walk and are the perfect role models for others.
From these individuals I have learned quite a few things that have impacted my life and one of the most profound is the four “Ifs’” of being a true warrior.
The first “If” is: You are a true warrior IF you continue to learn.
A true warrior reviews his experiences and learns from them. If you have trained under a good teacher for a few years, then that is a sufficient period of time in which you may learn from those experiences. Take time to analyze and evaluate the training and life lessons that have come along and learn from them. Also, learn from other people’s experiences, what we call OPE.
Over the last 5 years you have probably had a lot of opportunities to learn and the question is, did you take advantage of those chances? Imagine someone training for 30 years and then you have the opportunity to take advantage of all that knowledge in a one-day seminar. Wow, powerful. Well, that is if you took advantage and went to the seminar. Have you read the “Book of Five rings” or “The Art of War” recently? For the person that is reading the right books, attending seminars, the daily training… what a small price to pay for the ultimate reward.
The second “If” is: You are a true warrior IF you try. When the final chapter on your life is written, have them quote your wins and losses but for heaven’s sake, don’t have them say you never tried. How do you know if you can achieve anything in life if you never try? Just because you try it and it doesn’t work the first time, doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Try again. Try it harder, try it faster, use a different angle, use a different team, but don’t give up. A true warrior knows that failure is testing, temporary and now you know another way that doesn’t work.
Remember that failure is feedback to use to find the right way. The Do or Dao (Tao) in Karate-do means path or way. Any failure simply means you need to change direction slightly to get back on the path toward constant and never-ending improvement (Kaizen no michi). But never give up. A true warrior always tries and rises one more time than he falls. “Nana korobi ya oki”
The third “If” is: You are a true warrior IF you learn to stay, to persevere. You must learn to hang in there and not give up. Have you noticed in the martial arts, around 80-90% of the students drop out of their training in the first 12 months? Why is that you might ask? Well, it is just one of those things. If you look at a typical university and look at how many freshmen they have and then the number of sophomores, that number drops. In fact, it drops every year. They leave, they quit, they die, or they find other paths. It is just one of those mysteries of the mind and instead of racking your brain as to why or feeling guilty because you are not doing something better and taking the blame for them, just recognize it as just one of the truths in life.
For yourself, make sure you stick to it long enough to reap the reward. Farmers plant in the spring, work the crop all season and then get their harvest in the fall. It is amazing to me that so many leave before the harvest. As a true warrior you must learn to have persistence and to stay the course.
The final “If” is: You are a true warrior IF you care. It is said that students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I find that to be very true. If you care at all you will get some results but if you care enough, you will have great results. Care enough about yourself and others. Care enough to become all you can be. Care enough so that you will never need to look back with regret. Care enough to give all you have. Care enough to be a true Warrior.