If Warriors Complained…

What if warriors complained?

Samurai:  “Shogun, why must I ride on horseback? My butt hurts! And it’s cold out here! Why can’t we wear a scarf like the Ninja? This armor is heavy!”

Shaolin: “Abbot, why should we hold horse stance so long? My legs hurt! Here is an advertisement for the new Billy Blanks/Insane workout, it says we can get crazy strong in just 11 minutes a day! And can I grow my hair out? The guys keep slapping my bald head!”

Special Forces Soliders:  “Sarge, do we have to run again today? I have athlete’s foot. And should we just focus on negotiating skills instead of all this fighting and stuff? Peace, man! This is the age of reaching across aisles and the Tea Party Movement! Why all this division?”

Sorta makes these guys sound like you can take em, huh?

Yeah, and we teachers hear this all the time. Horse stance just seems so outdated. I have blisters from last night’s Eskrima class. We need to talk to Leo because he hits too hard. Sparring again? It’s a wonder these folks ever achieve anything with all the reasons why they can’t accomplish their goals.

I had a few students who doubted that I could crank out 100 pushups, and asked to see me do it. Sure, and then when I get done, you guys will have to do 150. My girl’s class asked me to do the splits (yes, I still can!). The school’s too hot. Why do we have concrete floors. Our swords are too heavy. Don’t we have softer punching bags. The GSKA judges don’t like us. I’m teaching too slow. Round kicks for the whole hour seems excessive. And the list goes on.

As martial arts students, you must accept training and do so quietly. Don’t be the type that always wants comfort and peace. You’re warriors, for pete’s sake. If you can’t take a little discomfort, what do you think a streetfight is like?

Martial artists want things to come easy. Why don’t I open a satellite class in North Sacramento because the drive is killing them, yet last night, I had a young lady drive 45 miles to class, and then we had a game of “Pia in the middle”. She got to spar everyone for the duration of class. And she will do it for 3 more classes, and then it will be someone else’s turn…

And this is why I don’t do “free classes to see if I like it”–because if this art is taught correctly, you won’t like it. You’re not supposed to. I have taken a lot of pride in turning out some really dominant fighters and if you’d like to be one of them, the least you can do is not nag me like you were one of my ex-wives. Really, just makes it easier for everyone.

The martial artist is never too tired to train. He works around injuries–after all, we do have 8 limbs… He does not worry about the elements–it will always be too cold or too hot for some people. He fights by whatever rules the event puts out, because this is what we do:  fight. He ignores those little annoying splinters and accidental hits and heavy-handed classmates. He is stoic, and just came to train, so shut up and put the gloves on. If you want to bitch and moan about how hot it was in the dojo, wait till you get home and do it on Facebook LOL.

Bottom line, be the kind of fighters who just love the art and will do whatever it takes to get better and improve and test yourself. No one cares if you find something unpleasant; because back in the day–in some generation before you–practitioners had it 10 times worse than you have it today. And that’s probably why, 50, 100 years later, we see movies made about those guys, and no one will know your name. Suffering quietly in the art breeds excellence and character. This is why the list of champions hides the stories of hundreds of injuries, hardships and sweat and tears. You see, when you endure whatever is required of you, it shows that you appreciate what you you have. Complain and you are showing how ungrateful you are. It is the reason why Heaven (for you believers, regardless of religion you follow) will be full of poor and the meek–not being satisfied is a horrible trait. Complainers and those who use excuses rarely accomplish or achieve anything; they just aren’t made of winner material.

Thanks for visiting my blog… And don’t forget to check out my book! I will keep the price low until September!

The Price We Pay to Be a Martial Artist (For Ryan Ostlund)

One of our readers posted the following comment:

If you do knuckle pushups you will have arthritis later in life, and possibly get arthritis from shooting your hands in and out of a bucket of pebbles. Doctors have proven this, so this is not a good way to train.

I would like to address this. It reminded me of something my teachers all have said about the decision to live the life of a martial artist: We leave who we were behind, and become a fighting man. But there is a price.

First, the above statement is probably true. But the life of a career martial artist is littered with less-than-desirable outcomes:

  • financial problem
  • marital issues
  • no retirement
  • wear and tear on the body

No one promised that we would enjoy the life of a modern warrior. We are no longer respected as a vocation–until someone needs us to save their lives. Just as the soldier who lives the life of a warrior may disappoint parents by not going to college or getting into law school, they will always be appreciated during war time. But this is a path that actually does command respect, and has many benefits. Unfortunately, many of the benefits we enjoy are not valued by the masses; that is, as I stated earlier–until they need us. So just as the professional footballer understands that he will likely end up with knee and other joint problems, boxers may have brain damage, and brick masonry men may end up with bad backs–it is the side effect of the life we choose. And a side effect we must suffer to live the life we love.

But how does a boxer avoid the inevitable? And the bricklayer? And the martial artist?

Well, Roy Jones Junior found out. He avoided health problems by fighting tomato cans and avoiding real competition. Drawback:  no respect in retirement. In the generation of warriors like Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao, who will never turn down a good fight, Roy Jones is a pansy. (Sorry, Jones fans!) On occasion, one of us will get through this career and do all the work required of us as traditional, hardcore fighters, and make it to old age without the bad joints and facial scars (and I havem!) and remain pretty (but I am still pretty). Unfortunately, the sad reality of what we do is that if you do it right, you will have problems in your older age.

For Ryan’s comment, which he left on the article about fist training, there is a way, I believe. The answer is that my grandfather pushed my brother and I into hand conditioning, his way, much too fast. My Kung Fu teacher preached Iron Palm training was to precede fist training. While I was learning iron palm at the Jow Ga Kwoon, I was practicing fist training at home. By the time I was in my mid-20s, I was capable of breaking stone, but also arthritic. My students today use a combination of muscle-building in the hand and light hand conditioning, and as far as I know no one has arthritis. I don’t know if they will develop it later in life, but the Filipino idea of beating up the body is the same as the Thai idea:

We sacrifice our older years in order to reach our maximum as young men. If we attempt to preserve our later years, we must take away from our potential when we are young.

Thai fighters beat the body up in the effort to produce the most powerful, most destructive skills possible. It is a given that we may hurt joints in the process, but it is the price you pay to reach your maximum, as we don’t need this fighting skill when we are old.

The only way to avoid it is to never develop our fists, to never push our bodies past the fathomable limits of most men. And in doing so, we prevent ourselves from realizing the potential achievements at our disposal.

The martial artist cannot reach his potential by worrying about his future. His whole existence is defined by sacrifice. A warrior sacrifices his life for the safety of others:  his family, his comrades, his country, his religion. He shuns the endeavors others pursue, in order to achieve his dreams. Show me a martial artist who has sought other fields of expertise, and I will show you a mediocre martial artist. The greatest martial artists, fighters, forms practitioners–are all people who passed up something else for love of this art. We are the kind of men who fast for the month of Ramadan, yet still work out (I ran 4 miles today, and will run 4 more tomorrow…). We ignore doctor’s orders not to train or fight (I fractured my skull twice in my early 20s, but still fought–even full contact–until I was 32). We commit to our martial arts schools, even when our schools are not profitable–resulting in poor credit scores and failed marriages (look around you. many of us are divorcees). Among the martial artists I know, many have left careers in law, education, the military, etc., for pursuit of the martial arts. I have seen men in the Philippines PCS stateside, get out of the military, and then return a year later to study Eskrima and Karate. I have had students live with me since the early 90s, and I even have one living with me right now. We martial artists are a curious bunch, and many of the things that spell trouble to others do not scar–us, like bad credit and knee problems–if means we will have a few decades of fighting superiority.

I was once told that when I accept students into my school, I should treat it like accepting a son-in-law or daughter-in-law:  They leave their former lives and their new identity is to be one of my students. This is not a hobby or a career, it is a calling, and we give up everything in order to pursue it. Many won’t understand, but those of you who want it will when you make that decision.

Thanks for visiting my blog. By the way, go to the Offerings page and check out my new book on Philosophy of the Martial Arts!