Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Since I suspect MiLK deserves a response...

"Wars not make one great." -- Yoda.

As I have mentioned several times in the past, I have an extensive martial arts library. But realistically, there are only a handful of books that I reapeatedly return to on a regular basis. One of those books is Living the Martial Way, by Forrest Morgan. I reread it at least once every six months.

Mr. Morgan is an Air Force officer with extensive experience in several different martial arts. He is, by almost any definition, a warrior. His whole book is dedicated to the notion that proper practice of the martial arts can (that's can, not will) enable someone to become a warrior.

When someone with his credentials says anyone can be a warrior, I listen. He believes warriors can indeed be found in every walk of life, not only in the profession of arms. In the section he devotes to this question, he points out that doctors, teachers, even waitresses can be warriors. These are people who demand excellence from themselves and those around them. They meet challenges head-on, and do not blame others for setbacks -- and certainly not their own shortcomings. They are standard setters for those around them.

Is he right? I still think there is a difference between those who willingly put themselves in the way of danger, and the rest of us. But I think his point is not to be taken lightly. It even has some history behind it. There are stories from Japan about masters of fine arts being accorded the same respect as samurai. The important trait was the dedication to excellence that made a master.

On story speaks of a teamaster who was challenged by a swordsman to a duel. He sought instruction from a samurai so he could die with dignity. The samurai sensed that this pursuit of even meager instruction in handling a sword indicated a pursuit of excellence. So he asked the teamaster to perform the tea ceremony as if it would -- as well it could -- be his last. The teamaster centered himself and went through the ceremony without a flaw. The samurai showed the teamaster the daijodan high posture and taught him to properly cut down from this position. "Do this with the same conviction you give the tea ceremony and you will at least die with dignity." The teamaster went to his duel and took up the daijodan posture. His opponent studied the teamaster for several minutes and finally bowed and left. He could sense the serenity of the teamaster in this single act. The swordsman might well have killed the teamaster, but he would not beat him.

Apocryphal? Sure, but it indicates that even in classical times, warriorship had many definitions. There are still times when I stumble on my journey to even this kind of metaphysical warriorship. I have decided that the trip is worthwhile because it makes me a better person.

I was a little angered by MiLK's dropping of the "whenever I return home..." paraphrase. This comes from Robert L. Humphery's Warrior's Code (which I'll quote from my sometimes shaky memory):

Wherever I go, everyone is a little safer.
Wherever I go, everyone in need has a friend.
Whenever I return home, everyone is happy to see me.

Mr. Humphery was a Marine in World War II. He fought on Iwo Jima. He knew warriors. And this was his distilled essence of warriorship. His Code was brought into the American Bujinkan community by Jack Hoban.

So while I do still think there is a difference between Warriors and warriors, I defer to men who have been both to help me see the similarities.

8 comments:

mlk said...

jrf-

your words have fire. but my point is this: someone who meets challenges head on and has a can do attitude is fine. i would call them a good person deserving of staying in the gene pool. but does that make them a warrior? does a shaker mover type at fortune 500 company need to be called a corporate warrior? maybe. idon't know. the root word of warrior is "war". now does that mean that because one makes or studies war like tactics in bussiness, in car repair, in sports yada yada- is a warrior? holding certain beliefs and living a certain way makes a person what they are. right? every society since the dawn of time has had stations for folks in that society to help things move along in a progressive direction. the town librarian, the village blacksmith, the scribe.... et al. my quandry is this- the town blacksmith who earns his pay and lives his life as a blacksmith but secretly considers himself as a warrior serves two masters.....right? how can either be served honestly.granted warriorship is not merely fighting but applying upstanding forward thinking to blacksmithing isn't warriorship either. nor is making tea for that matter. warriors study violence and dishing it out should the need arise. i think they also have to study other things too but when it comes down to it...... they know what they have to do someday. real life ending life. i look up to them for it. that's a heavy cross i think maybe.
sorry about sounding too harsh in my first posting. i just stumbled across your site and figured it was just another bunch of a##holes playing at being something.my apologies. i look forward to reading in the future.

Mr. Roboto said...

Glad that's settled... I'm a new reader and perused through the last several month's worth of writings only to stumble upon this initially grating conversation. Playing the devil's advocate will stimulate conversation for sure, if that's really the goal. I believe that studying warriorship, training in the martial arts, reflecting on both and attempting to live the martial way will bring one closer to both being a warrior and worthy of remaining in the gene pool. If more people did so our free society would be stronger, safer, more courteous, and more able to defend against insurgents. Last I checked, violence does not only occur in Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope that ninja blacksmith is mentally prepared and skilled enough to defend his family and neighbors. Thanks JRF, this is a good site worthy of being read and pondered. I also approve of the soft porn.

jrf said...

Hmmm...
I think a gracious "apology accepted" is in order for MiLK. And I, in turn will apologize to you for firing back.

I do think you have met your goal in stimulating conversation. If this topic is of burning interest to you, I think you should stick around, as it will come up in various ways from time to time.

You and I may share more on this view than disagree. You are right to say that there is a difference between Warriors -- those who put themselves in harm's way -- and warriors -- those who live in a certain way.

Unfortunately, if you were looking for me -- or us -- to provide a definitive answer to you, you're going to be disappointed. Those who post here will have various opinions on the subject; some more forceful than others. I think you'll find that this question of what constitutes real warriorship is, in fact, one reason the majority of us here study martial arts. If we are really worthy of the answer it will be a lifelong question.

The purpose of this post was to point out that Real Warriors -- men who have seen the elephant -- often have an expansive view of the calling. I think that's more or less settled. We're interested in forming some boundaries on the whole concept of warriorship.

Let me throw out a few other notions; ideas that I don't intend to flesh out here, but maybe we'll circle back to in the coming months as the conversation develops.

Killing people ain't no great skill. As He Who Shall Not Be Named (or HWSNBN, our affectionate term for our instructor's instructor because we don't like to name drop) has often said, "If you want to be the toughest guy in the neighborhood, buy a shotgun and a pitbull." Done and... whoops, I'm not a dog lover. But his point is valid. So I do not believe that is the ultimate test of warriorship.

Is it actual the killing of people? No, the prisons are filled with murderers, and generally speaking, I wouldn't include them in the fraternity.

Are you right in thinking that warriorship can only be found in a combative environment? If so, would you say Ghandi was a warrior?

Is warriorship in serving others? that seems to be part of the equation.

Is warriorship connected to compassion for others? Again, I keep encountering that notion as part of the equation too.

But you're right, if you go too far into the touchy feely realm, then we lose touch with the reality of the term, "warrior."

And just what relation does all this have to a bunch of guys who dress up in fancy pajamas and learn how to kick the crap out of each other 3 times a week or more?

Interesting questions... Let's look for some answers.

r. nester said...

i think that you all are being very insensative about anna nichole. what the hell is wrong with you people?
a hot chick offs herself and you guys are having "a my sword is bigger" contest? wtf? she is the new elvis. queers.

sky ninja said...

Just the fact that we can and are able to write about and discuss this type of thing means that we are free. Freedom kicks ass and so do our troops who are securing it for us. THEY ARE WARRIORS of the highest order!I often think of them and wish for their safe and victorious return. I feel that it is our nature as humans to make war and violence. That's why we are at the top of the food chain. The choice is to do it for good or evil. That is the great and defining difference. But then again.... who defines that? The winners? Think about this.............. I wish that I was half the man that my dog thinks I am.

Be Kind, Be Courteous and Be Prepared to Kill Everyone That You Meet.

ps- mlk, you are a tool.get over yourself.

jrf said...

And there, folks, is one of those strong opinions...

MiLF said...

jrf,

Post an article about Anna Nicole.

gene simmons(no relation) said...

Ahh Teacher, I see that you are still, as always, stabbing at the heart of ignorance. Trying to play catch up and I am really liking all the thought provoking posts.
My training is going well. I hardly even notice the bruises anymore and my travels expand. I have, since my last post moved to Soth Dakota with some distant relatives. I work for under the table money at a gun store half a day and at a barber shop sweeping up the rest of the day. I train in Malachi's garage (the distant relative I mentioned)at night. I sold the stretch master on ebay. There is one at the school I have stumbled onto so I use that one. I have a question..... I did buy an "eagle catcher" to improve my grip. Imagine my suprise when I realized that it fits both hands. No left or right. Huh? Anyway, my question is this- do things like "death touch" and "dim mak" really exist? If so, will working on my grip help me to master them?

I await your answer and wisdom. And as always, I remain your wayward student.