(This is an article I wrote a few years ago, and I thought it appropriate for the first actual post here at the new OHJ. You may have read this at the old site if you are a subscriber, but I believe it is worth re-visiting…….)
Warrior’s Path: A Way of Being
‘He stands over the mangled bodies at his feet, his gore-drenched axe finally satiated in its bloodlust. He takes in the destruction around him, barely seeing it through the still red gaze of his slowly subsiding fury, Another glorious battle, he thinks to himself, more fallen enemies to my name, and most assuredly, one step closer to Valhalla…’
For most, this is the quintessential Warrior. A man-at-arms, a champion, a blade-slinger, fighting great battles and marking his many names throughout heroic epics with the blood of his foes. While there are of course grains of truth to that image-both historically and within contemporary society-this limited idea falls quite short of the true nature of the Warrior. It is not necessarily a path forged by the sword; it is a path of the mind, the heart, and the spirit. Fortunately, more and more people are becoming aware of this understanding, but still there are many misconceptions and untrue stereotypes of what constitutes a Warrior.
The path of the Warrior is not necessarily just one of war and battle. The individual striving for success to support themselves and their families; the person fighting the demons of addiction; the person overcoming a debilitating (or potentially fatal) illness- these are all Warriors of the Spirit. We all know someone in a similar situation, we may even admire them for their strength and courage. These situations are not the blood-drenched fields of battle conventionally associated with the Warrior, but it is a ‘battle’ nonetheless. A core virtue of the Warrior is determination, always striving towards a goal, or needed change, with an unwavering sense of purpose. Self-discipline is a crucial element of this virtue, keeping to one’s intentions and staying focused on the task. This often requires great courage- not necessarily in the face of spear and sword, but the ‘slings and arrows’ of negative influences, undue criticism, and obstacles (even self-imposed ones). In the times we live in now, I also recognize another type of warrior- the ‘infowarrior’. These are people who educate others about their personal liberties, inspire others to seek truth within the darkness of propaganda, and inspire others to be self-actualized and empowered as strong, caring, sovereign individuals.
So, like our conventional archetype of the victorious soldier, the Modern Warrior strives against all odds to achieve goals, whether it’s a better life situation, personal healing, to educate and inspire others, or even just to grow and learn in a new direction.
“Hence to fight and conquer in battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence is in defeating the enemy without fighting”- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Another misconception of the Warrior is what is portrayed through modern media and popular movies- unbridled rage and aggression, and larger than life ‘heroes’ dealing with problems with fists rather than brains. This is also not what it means to walk the true Warrior Path. A Warrior virtue is balance- seeking a harmony within the mind, body and spirit. This develops a greater sense of ‘center’, and being more attuned to our own beings. This balanced internal dynamic resonates into the world around us. As my Sifu (Grandmaster Khan) often said to me. “Be of calm mind and rightful spirit”. To me, this means maintaining my inner anchor, and always knowing who I am and what my intentions are at all times. If we lash out violently in anger or rage, or just plain stupidity, we are definitely not in control of that center. A true Warrior is aware of their control, and maintains it. There is a great difference between reacting emotionally, and acting appropriately (or ‘acting as trained’). In my professional experiences working abroad, I have had cause to use my skills and training in a protective context in some risky situations. However, I responded with only what was necessary for the situation, nothing more and nothing less. One who is on this path should not hesitate to act in an appropriate manner to do what is necessary, nor should they overreact out of uncontrolled fear or blind hostility.
For a Warrior (especially a trained one), a dynamic of personal control is taking responsibility for one’s actions. In the context of the martial arts, if you are fully aware of what you are capable of, you will have greater control over how you choose to respond to any given situation. In everyday life, our awareness of personal control gives us a strong sense of responsibility- knowing how our physical, mental, and energetic actions connects with and affects the world around us. For the Warrior, it boils down to a very simple truth- ‘Knowing Self’. With that, one can walk the Warrior Path with a strong sense of resolve, greater self-confidence, and a peaceful and balanced mind, body and spirit.
“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death”. – Sun Tzu
The heart of the true Warrior is not one filled with brutality, aggression and arrogance. It is a heart filled with compassion, and the need to aid others. Perhaps one of the most important core virtues of the Warrior is service. It goes far beyond service in the name of one’s land or leader, but service to one’s community. It is a person who possesses the Warrior Spirit who reaches out to aid those in the community, or to strive to better the world around them. It is indeed the most important service of a Warrior to selflessly lend a helping hand wherever they are able. The same hand that wields the sword must also reach out with caring. It is through such action that one finds peace, harmony, and healing within. If we find healing within, we are better able to have a positive impact on all that is around us, to which we are intricately connected.
Another important way in which the Warrior may be of service is to teach and guide others. This is not only in the context of teaching those skills associated with the arts of the Warrior (physical defense, security, and other related dynamics), but guiding others to discover and implement their own strengths. As an example, I have been teaching the martial arts for several decades. The core principle I share with all my students is not just physical prowess, or combative tactics, but self-empowerment. The most efficient techniques possible would be useless without self-understanding, or awareness of one’s strengths or gifts. It is part of the service of the Warrior to guide others to see their own strengths, even if on the basic level of offering a kind, supportive word to someone in despair, insights and wisdom you have gained, or to offer simple lessons learned from your own experiences.
A Warrior walks his or her own path with humility. Even as I served as a protector, I approached the task with a sense of calmness and quiet balance. This allowed greater safety for myself, and for those under my charge, by not projecting ego or any pretense of what I was actually doing (‘ghostwalking’). In that sense, I was able to do what was necessary and serve efficiently without relinquishing my sense of center. I have learned that true humility allows one to be more attuned to their own strengths. ‘Open heart, open mind’ as I call it. If you are open to always learning, you are open to seeing new potentials within yourself. This is also a strong Warrior trait- always seeking to learn and integrate new dynamics; always striving for personal growth. Although I have been a martial artist for close to 40 years now, I consider myself always a student.
” The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.”- Sun Tzu
This understanding has also impressed upon me how a balance of compassion and humility serves in a leadership position. Grandmaster Khan was always an excellent example for me in this context. Many years ago, he led many personnel in high-risk situations throughout Southeast Asia. Yet, despite his high position and vast combat experience, he always signed his name with two Chinese characters that translate directly as ‘man of the fields’- essentially, ‘servant’. He considered himself simply as one who serves out of compassion, strength, and a protective spirit; while maintaining his own sense of center and self-value (or, as he often would say to me ‘Bow TO out of mutual respect, don’t bow DOWN out of fear’).
One can lead with the quiet confidence earned through experience, wisdom, and sense of self. This taught me a deep understanding of the true way of the Warrior- one can walk this path with both firmness and gentleness, both a peaceful and protective spirit, and most importantly, tempering action with wisdom. The Warrior must always seek the balance.