Are You a 21st Century Warrior?

Disarming an attacker using a "sword taki...

Image via Wikipedia

Many of us begin martial arts training with a picture of a warrior. Our most frequent image is the samurai, the legendary armored swordsmen of Japan who were also poets, politicians, fathers and farmers.

In samurai cultures, men practicing martial arts did not practice for a belt. They practiced to improve: physically, mentally and spiritually. A physical workout, self defense skills combined with meditation and introspection was the genuine essence of samurai.

Does this translate to the 21st century?  How could anyone possibly be expected to commit to anything approaching that level of dedication to training and lifestyle?

You might want to look at the path taken by 8th-dan Steve Arneil who studied Kyokushin Karate with Masutatsu [Mas] Oyama beginning in the 1960’s.

In his initial interview Mas told him, “If you train with me you train for life. You will start as a kohai and you must train regularly.”  Every day a kohai cleans the dojo and launders (wash AND iron) the senior students’ gis. And he trains.

Evening training began at 7:30, students on the mat at 7:00. Bowing, loosening up and rigorous stretching.  Next came a variety of physical exercises and breathing routines [rapid and abdominal] followed by martial arts techniques: fore-fist thrust, back fist strikes, knife hand strikes. The sequence included 17 techniques.

Finally there was free-sparring with all of the students including black belts. (Keep in mind that striking to the face was allowed in those days.)

Ultimately, the expectation for the dojo was, ‘you’re here to train.’ Most evenings training ran until midnight. A rare, exceptionally short training night ended at 10:30.

With that information as a backdrop, the questions become:

  • How do I define myself as a warrior?
  • What price  am I willing to pay to become a martial artist?
  • Does my picture of ‘excellence’ include other features of samurai training like meditation, introspection and other disciplines?
  • If you’re a black belt and dream of opening your own dojo, where will you draw the line?  How do find balance in your training program so that it doesn’t feel ‘watered down’ yet you attract enough students to pay the bills ?
  • And when we compromise from the ideal, what, if any, of our  warriorhood  is lost along the way?
  • What does it really ‘cost’ to be a 21st century warrior?
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