She was clumsy, unprepared and careless. He was just doing his job. The attack wasn’t particularly brutal, but it was on target, designed to test her slightly, to provide her with an opportunity to shine. Her defense reflected her attitude, and the technique was sloppy. She fell, dragged him with her, slamming his shoulder into the mat, separating it, injuring him. It would take 9 weeks to fully recover.
He stood up. A nearby instructor noticed the lightning-white of his face and knew something was wrong. One shoulder slumped, useless. He instantly knew it was over, that the work, the effort and the sacrifice would, that day anyway, result in no change. His first aider gave him a choice. Either continue or not, but to be sure, either way, he was in shock, definitely hurt, and nowhere near capable.
Of course he would try. Pain shot through nerves with every movement. Body grabs, weapons defense, throwing techniques. Only one challenge remained. Outnumbered and disabled, he was unable to surmount that which beset him. Struck once too many times, he was called to the judgement panel. There, he was told that the test was over, that the injury was too severe, that to continue would be to his detriment. He broke down.
Stories are important to me. Everything we do becomes a story. They hold our triumphs, our flaws, our revelations, mistakes, challenges, our great loves and our worst enemies. Through them, we share our lives with those we care about. We teach. We learn. There are big ones and small ones. Some make you laugh, some make you cry. Some lift you up. Some make you think. Some leave you empty. Some change your world.
And everyone has at least one big one to tell. Everyone has a great challenge to overcome, one great battle in their lives. We all have our dragons to slay, our crosses to bear and they can take many forms. We all have our stories. One question is whether or not we choose to share them with others. Another is whether we’re conscious of the fact that we can affect their outcomes.
That’s why I’m a martial artist.
Because martial arts have always helped me to first find the details of my story, my dragons to fight and then best them. Whether its through kata, or competition, or analysis, or instruction, martial arts have this tendency of making you very aware of what’s going on for you, of what you’re dealing with. Sometimes it can be physical, sometimes it can be mental, sometimes it can be emotional. They are the primary conflicts of our stories and the martial arts are a great way to engage with them.
Now, when you train hard and I mean really hard, you’ll be laid bare before those tests. Your martial art will stick them in your face, beg you to pay attention to them, and punish you for ignoring them. You can either listen to the tale they tell, or not.
And I sincerely try to. I try to listen for the next challenge, for the next turn in the story. Each step along the way, I become, I hope, a better person, a more sincere person. I find a little bit more of myself to know, a more true reflection of who I am. Whether or not the arts I practice shape that self, or reveal it, I don’t know. I don’t care. All I know is the story moves forward, shifts and I try to shift with it, get to grips with the challenge, try to beat it, then move on.
Martial arts can be many things at the same time and I expect that because of that, they will always have a place in my life. There are a lot of things that, I’m sure, could serve the same purpose. But I train because martial arts serves that purpose for me. My martial manifesto:
I train because I am left tired and broken. I train because I am left stronger than I thought was possible. I train because there is more to learn. I train because I can teach. I train because someday I may need it. I train so that I won’t. I train to inspire my friends. I train so my friends inspire me. I train because I think I know it all. I train because I don’t. I train to find peace. I train to find anger. I train to stay blind. I train to find truth. I train to find the next step. I train because my story isn’t over just yet.
If you’re reading this, and you’re a martial artist, then perhaps what I’ve written will make some sense, perhaps not. Either way, my martial manifesto is my own but by sharing it, it makes my reasons for training a little more real, a little more certain. Many times in my career I have had doubts about my commitment to the arts, but each time I reinvest, I find more reasons to train. My advice to you is to keep training; to see where it takes your story, to see what conflicts you can overcome because of it. And don’t forget to share what you find along the way. You’d be surprised how many people will connect with the adventure you’re living.
“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”