Thought Piece: Two Paths, Two Choices in Martial Arts
It’s true that to a large extent, we are all, as human beings, shaped by our history — personal, cultural, and evolutionary. This then informs how we engage with both the practice and experience of martial arts. In short, each of us carries both our ancestors, and our own primal nature, within us at all times. It will by it’s very nature, show up on the mat. But the presence of our primal past is just one part of the story. Each of us also has the creative power of intention and choice, and we can override or redirect our biological, psychological, and cultural conditioning.
In our martial arts training if we can be mindful of how our conditioning affects our actions, and by cultivating presence and awareness of what’s happening inside and around us, we can make choices above and beyond our social and biological conditioning. Mindfulness liberates us from our stories. As martial artists we can (and should) honor our primal nature, including all our deep-rooted conditioning, while simultaneously exercising choice and intention so that our actions become purposeful and responsive to our values, rather than being habitual, unconscious, or instinctive reactions.
At its heart then, being mindful of your warrior energy, where, in the moment of martial action, we simply have two options: to act with destruction, aggression and dominance — or to act with compassion, empathy and love (especially for ourselves). In each case, the choice is ours to make.
There is of course times, when someone is intentionally trying to physical hurt us, or those we love — and we not only have the right, but the duty to defend them and ourselves. Self–sovereignty over ones body, and mind, (and defending that right of others) is a fundamental human right.
But there is also destruction void of these qualities. It is this dark destruction, applied through martial skill, that one should guard against. If you are fighting because you enjoy hurting people, because you enjoy the feeling of being more physically powerful than another person, or because you want other people (Men) to fear you — not only will you harm them, physically, psychologically and emotionally — but yourself as well. You will never conquer your inner opponent this way, all that happens is that you then become more of what you already don’t want to be.
“The one who has conquered himself is a far greater hero than he who has defeated a thousand times a thousand men.”
In the end, as a martial artist, you decide how your martial arts training will show up in, and enhance, the rest of your life — if at all.