“Secrets” of the Filipino Fighting Arts
Words from a Modern-Day Warrior

The Marriage of the Warrior and Religion

Some of you atheist-types might get mad at me. And I’m not apologizing. It would help if you stuck around and read this article before rejecting my statements prematurely.

When I was a kid, my grandfather had once said that a warrior with no religion was like a gun with no sights, notches, or other means to aim. Since the beginning of time, the warrior has always been bound to a set of tenets governing his life. This is true even today, as soldiers in the military are held strictly to the UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice) and the duties of patriotism, service, and self-sacrifice. I don’t know about you, but when I hear of our young men and women charging headlong into battle in this Iraqi war–especially those who die–I am reminded of the bravery of Japanese Kamikaze, the Filipino guerillas, the Viet Cong, the Sandanistas, even the Jihadis in Afghanistan and Iraq who are their enemies. After all, they all were fighting an occupying force invading their countries. (Hopefully, you aren’t believing that we were invited to occupy them)  It is also said that the strongest of men are the ones who put others before them, whether they be meals or their own lives. I watched the men of our families stand around at family gatherings while we ate. The rule was “women and children eat first”, and once I hit puberty I was expected to adhere to that rule–as a man. The warrior is like that. He puts all others before him, the kind of guy who will put the mask on you first, before himself, on a descending airplane regardless of what the flight attendants say. He will endure injuries and impending death in order to save his fellow fighters. He will stand in the cold so that you can sleep. He will even go 3 years without seeing his wife and children if asked, to fight in a war he has little interest in. There is a reason why they say that war is the creation of cowardly, rich old men, to be fought by the brave, but poor young men.

It is also said that war is the tools of the Godless, who talk tough because their weapons are money and other people’s lives. I can guarantee you, that there are very few atheists in the trenches of battle.

In high school I read with sadness, the plight of our soldiers during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. They fought during the harsh winters of the Atlantic Northwest with no shoes, little food, and almost no medical attention. As they traveled from town to town, these men were fed by farmers and families they encountered, and when outnumbered or outgunned–many of these brave young men charged into battle to take out as many enemy as possible rather than wave the white flag. Hmm… sounds like a juramentado to me.

In places where the warrior is not a short-term, temporary role, but a lifestyle–the Filipino mandirigma, the Shaolin monk, the Korean Hwarang–the tradition of being a warrior is steeped in religion. Even the Samurai, who is not a monk, is living by a code that religion-like. I had a good friend who is Samoan, and he practices a dance that is very warrior-like. The moves in the dance uses a boat oar and wooden club as a weapon. And those who practice this dance do more than just dance–they are supposed to behave and live according to a semi-religious tradition. The religion connection gives the warrior a code to live by, and governs his decision-making and behavior. It gives him an ultimate reward for dying for a cause, and motivates him to press on when most men would give up. Men will watch an extremely painful act and think to themselves, “I don’t know how he could do it” or “Man, that’s crazy” or “I don’t understand why someone would do that”… Of course not. Because as human beings, we are naturally predisposed to avoiding pain, danger, and have the inclination towards self-preservation. The average man will run from danger, rather than avoid it. I was at a shopping center when some fired a gun a few years back. I quickly grabbed my children and threw myself on top of them. When I looked up, I saw a little girl standing in the parking lot by herself. Her father had run for cover. It was one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen. Yet we have to understand, that when someone lacks combat training or religious training, they know nothing of sacrifice and putting yourself after someone else. And sadly, even when that someone else is your own child.

I have some students who have been training with me for more than 6 years. These brothers can jump down and crank out 100 pushups like it’s nothing. When we train, they have sparred for two hours straight with few breaks. They are very powerful, and many of you reading this blog have probably never encountered martial artists at this level. They stand over most martial artists in terms of skill, and when compared to the non-martial artist it would be like squishing a bug. Three of them are even bouncers in a night club. And out of all of them, only two have been in altercations that I can remember that became physical. In one, a student encountered the ex-boyfriend of his wife in his home. When the guy jumped on him, he stopped just short of throwing the guy off a second floor balcony. He caught himself and put the guy down, who then punched him in the eye and ran off–and my student did not chase him, realizing that he allowed himself to get angry enough to kill the man. In the other incident, my student was called the “N” word by another martial artist and then attacked. Within a few seconds, the attacker was injured enough to need an ambulance, and my students who witnessed it said that the young guy never had a chance. My student confided in me that he stopped himself when he realized that the guy he was fighting was no match and he actually felt bad beating him–despite the fact that he had used racist language with him and attacked him. Both students are Muslim, and I doubt that had they not been religious men–I would have trained two murderers.

The warrior who trains as an occupation is far superior physically to any average man. He has the kind of physical strength and power most people have never experienced and possibly could not imagine. They see attacks in slow motion, and can fight even armed men as easily as you would play with your child. When one is this skilled, even the most aggressive attackers on the street pose no more a threat than a child. This is what you could call “lethal skill”–a man who fights as naturally as one can read a book. When you engage nonwarriors in combat, if you are not careful, you could accidentally kill him. It is important to have something ingrained into your conscience and heart that is far more powerful than your physical skills–even more powerful than your emotions. A power than guides your heart is the only thing that can control this, as extreme emotions, like terror, fury, love, jealousy, rage, fear, and others can make you lose your common sense. Religious strength can keep a man on the brink of death fighting for his life when others would cower. Religious strength controls a man when his emotions betray him and his logic. When a man is developing the ability to take another’s life with the push of a button, he must have some internal GPS to control it and it must be incorporated and intertwined with his training. It needs not necessarily be a religion, but it must at least be religion-like.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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2 Responses to “The Marriage of the Warrior and Religion”

  1. […] This installment is not going to deal with religion very much, but it is a continuation of this post. […]

  2. I am an atheist, but have studied theology extensively both scholastically at George Mason University, but also on my own while in high school. I am lucky to live in D.C., because there is virtually a place for every religion. Even Baha’i.

    My reasoning for this is that whether I believe in God or not, the question itself it moot. Whether or not he exist, or which is religion is right, each person will still believe what they choose to, and more importantly, this will affect how they interact with ME. That being said, it would be conducive toward coexisting for me to understand their beliefs, their ethics system, as it will also help me to understand them.

    My name is Alexander, and I am proud of it, though far too many wear it in ignorance of its meaning. Our name is who we are, though of course it can always change. Mine means protector of men, and I hold that dearly in my heart as an ideal I hold to become, and how to act.

    As someone compassionate and intelligent, people often come to me with problems which honestly are staggering. But ultimately the advice I give is folly if I base it only off my world view, and what I believe.

    The solution for a christian isnt the same as for an atheist… when it comes to spiritual matters. And regardless of what people believe… they all suffer, exist, and are like me in the sense that they matter. So ultimately, if I am to help them, to protect and guide if asked to, I must understand them.

    I do not say it arrogantly to Christians, or Muslims, that I have read their holy book more than they have. It often evokes anger, because they see me as attacking their faith when its the opposite; I did that so I could support it.

    Because in the end, we ALL believe really stupid stuff, as human beings. And it doesn’t really matter what we believe in, so long as it actually gives value to our existence in the tapestry of humanity.

    Martial arts is my religion; but it is in a spiritual sense purely, not a practicing. My dojang is not a church.


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