An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
This legend, for me, also applies to the duality in training. The first wolf seems focused on external validation, on events and achievements and comparison to others. The second wolf focuses on intrinsic reward, on self development and the betterment of the group. There are many reasons for training in the Martial Arts, but at a very core level, we are always making a choice in terms of how we see our involvement. At any moment, do you believe that your martial wolf is one of status, of achieving defeat over others, or do you believe the beast you interact with exudes a warmer kind of love, that builds you up and makes you smile.
When your concentration is on defeating opponents, when your anger drives you, when you need to be the best, you’re feeding that first wolf. When you instead focus on being the best that you can be, on giving yourself time and on trying to bring the best out in others around you, the second wolf is made stronger.
Sitting down to write this post, I sincerely thought I would be telling you to think about that second wolf, on why it’s so important to bring your gaze inward, and work on acceptance, rather than ascendency. But, my truth is that you need both to be a good martial artist, that you need both to succeed in life.
Both of these animals have their place in the order of things, and without a sense of balance, you will stumble. A soft soul, preoccupied with peace is often taken advantage of, walked upon, made to be a victim as stronger forces sweep it away. A cold and hard approach can forget the more gentile aspects of existence. Instead of either exclusively, be flexible, adaptable, ready to call on the right wolf at the right time. You must be at peace with both of these animals, with your yin and your yang, your masculine and your feminine aspects.
If you feed one wolf too much, as the old Cherokee says, it will win the fight. The other will die. But you need both. Keep them both fed, keep them both in fighting shape, and you stand to benefit from their best characteristics.
“Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.”
~ William Blake