Lessons from the Moro: Self-Denial

Okay, since people love to talk about the Moro and the people and art of Mindanao. They love to claim “Moro Eskrima” (lol), wear the sari/sarong, the pisyawit, play the kulintang, cover themselves with chicken blood (which is haram/forbidden anyway)–even say that their art is from Mindanao, but they have no interest or knowledge of the culture of the tribes of Mindanao. So, I would like to introduce a little of our culture to you, and hopefully you can find some value in what lessons the modern-day warrior can learn from my culture and art.

First, understand that the native culture of the people of Mindanao is based on the Islamic religion. So, you cannot be an Islamophobe while claiming to be doing this culture’s arts properly. Taking a piece of a culture is not really upholding a culture; by limiting yourself to a piece of a culture you are only pretending to be doing that culture. Can someone claim to be an American, but hate the Constitution, not vote, fail to pay taxes, not support the government or the people or the military? Some liberals would say yes, but I would say no–you are just pretending to be American. You may live here, you might have a passport, but to be an American you have to do more than just claim it. That’s like a man who watches gay porno and puts a rainbow sticker in his window, but he claims he’s straight. Just doesn’t make sense.

Therefore, you cannot separate Moro culture and art from its religion. You don’t have to be a Muslim, but you must respect it tenets and at some point–honor them and be knowledgeable about them. Other than that, you are just a guy wearing a dress swinging sticks and knives.

Since we are about a month away from Ramadan, I would like to introduce you to the concept of self-denial and obedience: Sayum/bihilya/magpuasa/berpuasa, or fasting.

Fasting is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith, meaning that we deny ourselves food, drink, sex, or other pleasures during daylight hours. People have a number of reasons for fasting, and they will say things like having empathy for the poor, practicing one’s strength, blah blah blah–but the number one reason we fast is because God told us to. (After all, what other reason could be more important?) Fasting has many benefits, and for the warrior, fasting is a skill as well as a principle.

Fasting is, at its heart, self-imposed suffering. No one is denying you access to anything. No one will punish you if you fail to do it. If the suffering is too great, then just pick up a glass of water and drink it–or pick up a sandwich and eat it. But the weak cannot fast. And what is a warrior, but the strongest of men? As my grandfather once told me, a man who is too weak to deny himself a bowl of rice when he is hungry, is not man enough to resist women when he is married or resist an opponent when he is scared or tired or hurt. Therefore, for the one less concerned with God’s law, fasting is a practice of self-control and inner strength.

And a warrior who can maintain a self-imposed hunger strike  will be able to discipline himself for superiority in the path of the fighting arts. Try it for a week. Wake up before the sun rises (which means no cable TV late at night) and drink water and have a meal. When the sun rises, be all business–no fun, no wasteful TV/radio, no food and no drink–until the sun goes down. It isn’t easy. If you can do this, then you understand what self-control is all about. A little bit of hunger pain and thirst is nothing compared to the warrior of old who sometimes had to endure the heat of the jungle or the desert, the cold of the rain, the fatigue, the pain of unattended injuries for weeks at a time, the swallowing of fear and suspense… and keep fighting. For professional athletes today, I would say that this is one of the things that today’s athletes have lost. Perhaps they have advanced and scientific training methods. But at their core they have become weak, undisciplined failures. These are men who cannot deny themselves the lure of women who mean them no good when they have good wives at home, children who love and look up to them, fans who admire them, million dollar salaried jobs doing what they enjoy, and a team who needs their focus. There is a saying, that a man cannot and will not rise above the level of his character. So if you ever wonder why supposedly great men-Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwartzneger, Mike Tyson, and many others–suffered a great decline when they were at the top of their field, all you have to do is look at their personal lives. These three great men who were inconceivably rich, powerful and champions, were undone by a woman. We could go further to say they were undone by their poor characters and the inability to control their lower selves–their desires that other, less successful men would not have succumbed to.

Trainers of old used to require abstinence for their pupils during training and game time. It is the reason why athletes used to leave their wives at home while they played games or went into training for championship fights. They had to watch what they eat, refrain from alcohol use, get ample sleep and focus. Isn’t this what is required of soldiers in training? Even a guy trying to get a job at Walmart must be on his best behavior when he is trying to get hired.

Fasting is what prepares you for success. Sure you can eat a Big Mac while you are learning martial arts. But if you want to be successful in the martial arts, especially when preparing for competition season, it is the guy who disciplines himself even from a cheeseburger–who will see the most success.

Fasting on a regular basis will develop this kind of strength and discipline. And for those who believe that God directed us to fast, how can any man count on you for anything when you cannot even follow the simple rules that God himself tells you to follow? Every religion I can think of requires fasting, and to have some type of self control. And we are only talking about food and water and sex. If you want to maintain focus, you must learn to fast. Develop the ability to deny yourself these things for a short period of time, and you will be on your way to understanding pain tolerance and suffering, and how the warrior is able to endure it.

Thank you for visiting my blog.