The Illusion of the Old Warrior Past His Prime
I’ve said it many times on this blog–that my favorite boxer is “The Executioner” Bernard Hopkins. I see in him many of the qualities of a true martial arts fighter-teacher, and I consider him a Master Boxer. If you are around when my new book is released and you get a copy–I’ll explain in depth why.
I have had in my lifetime the pleasure of actually sparring several Masters past their prime. Many have studied with the Masters, but unlike most, in my youth I was naiive and asked those masters to spar. There is a connection you have with a teacher when you fight him that most of your fellow students will never share. Perhaps out of “respect”, fear, or simply being bashful, many students never actually fight with their teachers. The result is an edification of those masters and their prowess that is (excuse the expression if it offends) unearned. How often have you heard a teacher claim that his master or grandmaster was so strong or such a great fighter–but you know that testimony was exaggerated or just made up out of respect? It’s okay… you can agree with me; I won’t tell. 😉
I’ve discovered that there is a clear difference between old man who was a vicious fighter in his youth versus an old man who didn’t fight very much or wasn’t very good at it when he was young. We often pay homage to older masters and swear by their skill and knowledge when the quality of those men’s skill and knowledge was mediocre at best. Yet they are old; and no one would ever say that an old man’s art is average. It’s just not politically correct to do so.
(actually, I would)
The truth is that mediocre young martial artists often become mediocre old masters. No disrespect intended, we are just calling a spade a spade.
Quite often, we are impressed with an old master’s youthfulness. The fact that this man is advanced in age, but isn’t confined to a walker or wheelchair, still remembers his techniques, can still move around and more, is itself impressive. But as I said in this article, there is a difference between an old master and an old warrior. Both are old. Both look good for their age. But while the old master’s “self-preservation” is an adjective–the old warrior’s “self-preservation” is a verb, and action word. There is a difference. One man kept himself healthy. He exercised, ate well, trained in his martial art, kept it going into his later years. But the old fighter did the same, and then some. He trained aggressively, not just to be good at his art–but to be the best. He wanted more than simply longevity in the art, he wanted to retain his dominance and prowess well past the age that he is supposed to have it. Like B-Hop, he wanted to still have the ability to destroy men half his age, and keep this ability for as long as the Creator wills it. Few old masters have this. Many of the old masters can still do splits, have good joints, and look as young as they were in their prime. But the old warrior has arthritis. His hand swells in the cold because he’d broken it on someone’s head in his youth. He may be missing a few teeth. His body isn’t as youthful as the master’s, but unlike the old master, the old warrior is dangerous. He knows much more about fighting, and can recreate himself through his students because he knows what it takes to develop a dominant fighter. In other words: My old warrior can beat the breaks off your old master, not that he’d ever do it. No offense.
Old Masters tend to be kind, while old warriors are mean and nasty. Old masters very likely had lots of students telling how great he was in his youth; old warriors only have ghosts and stories in his past. The old warrior quite often were not great businessmen, entertaining teachers, or well known. Often, the old warrior was disliked in his youth, and avoided by the old masters when they were young. So today, we know very few names of men who actually served as kings of the martial arts jungle–but we certainly know the names of the non-fighters who got articles written in magazines, were well-liked, and certified thousands of non-fighting, future “Masters” (even a few “certified Master” titles along way). And the old warrior? He didn’t do much besides train, fight, and teach the few students he had.
So now that I’ve defined the Old Warrior, let me tell you about him.
But next time. Thank you for visiting my blog.