Warrior and Religion, pt II (Service)

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

I would like you to ponder over the following quotation, by “Iron Mike Tyson”:

“The Strong will always dominate the Weak, and the Smart will always dominate the Strong.”

For sure, this is a profound statement from a man that is not known for being intelligent. But he most certainly is a warrior, and he is giving you the reality that someone who was once the strongest, most dangerous man on the planet had come to realize. Because Iron Mike has repeated this saying several times on different occasions, it must be a reality that he lives by. For every man has a master–whether he realizes it or not–and every man is vulnerable to another. Even the mighty warrior, who is powerful and capable of taking another’s life in the blink of an eye, has to answer to someone. Is it not logical that even the strongest, most dangerous of men find a Higher Power to submit to? I am sure that some warriors, capable of snapping the neck of his President, King, Emperor, General, knows that in one brave move he could move mountains in his country–perhaps the world–but some higher purpose or cause prevents him from doing it?

Who could be the master of one so powerful but the Creator of the Heavens and Earth? What is to stop this mighty warrior from killing his leaders and taking political power from all who challenge him?

It happens. And when the warrior takes leadership, rule is out of balance, and we end up with tyrannies. This is why Military Dictatorships and leaders who are all too powerful do not make good leaders. Fighters are not necessarily leaders, although the masses sometimes will follow them to the ends of the Earth because they romanticize the Hero. While men who lead must have the qualities found in soldiers and warriors–like tenacity, courage, servitude–fighting and leading are completely different skills. Many warriors understand this, as they are good for wielding swords and directing battles. Leaders must be good orators (not necessarily charismatic orators), they must be managers (of people, finances and resources), they must not be in love with wealth and lust, they must be honest, and they must be willing to die for the good of the people–and willing to lose power if it is important for the country. It is why I have always believed that a leader with no military experience can lead a city, but never a nation. Because a nation is more than a business that needs money and management; a nation needs law and order, and she and her people must be protected.

The warrior, on the other hand, has many of these qualities, but his role is different. The leader serves his people, but he is the head that pushes his people in the direction that is best for them. The warrior is at the leader’s beck and call, and often must move ahead of the leader to make sure the coast is clear. So in that role, the warrior must be powerful only in the face of the enemy–but he must be obedient to his leaders. It is like the guard dog who fears no one, and strikes fear in everyone’s hearts but his master. He must have the dual role of not fearing his leader, but also not being feared by his master. If this balance is allowed to tilt either way, we cannot have a harmonious situation.

The warrior, then, cannot have too much power. As I stated, too much power tilts the scales, and it must be controlled by something very powerful. Power, like money to the leader, intoxicates. It is a liar and the tool of the evil to get otherwise good men to do wrong. It is the reason a crooked cop or crooked soldier seems so devious. Someone has trusted you with this power, and apparently, the checks and balances required to protect abuse has failed. When building warriors, those arming warriors must ensure that their weapons and skills will not be abused, misused or falls into the wrong hands. The warrior-in-training must be conditioned and taught that he is a servant, or he will end up as any form of a bully.

This is the reason I am against FMA being taught on video. I am against true martial arts being mass-marketed. And it is the reason I feel the last three decades have failed the growth of the martial arts to a degree. Martial arts has become a commodity; a product to be bought and sold. Many masters I have discussed this with have told me themselves, “I am only paid to teach martial arts, I keep people alive.”  Thanks to the intoxicating lure of the dollar or fame, these men have either watered down their art for mass consumption, or taught the most dangerous version of our arts to feed the thirst of men too immature to realize that they are trying to live out a boyhood fantasy of being a cold blooded killer/ninja-type. I have no respect for this, and there is no secret that I have a disdain for it.

That said, we must return back to the days when the warrior was just a servant. A protector. An enforcer. A teacher. And to some degree, a leader. The martial artist as a snake oil/snake charmer, entertaining crowds of seminars, a comedian who makes his rounds every few months from city to city giving awesome demonstrations–a peddler hawking videos and certificates to nonwarriors and children alike–has bastardized the arts I love. To counter this, my friends, has been my mission ever since you first heard of thekuntawman.

At the same time, the warrior must feel some sense of servitude to his people and neighbors. Even in my religion of Islam, men are encouraged to protect the homeland where he is living (it is not true that Muslims can only protect Muslim lands). The warrior must do more than just work, make money and practice his art. If someone is hurt in the warrior’s presence, he has failed his training. If a warrior fails to protect and arm his family and friends, he has failed. If a warrior fails to even speak against an injustice–he has failed in his role as warrior. For a warrior to do no more than treat his art as a pastime or a vocation–he is betraying the very reason these arts exist. You are no different than a man who allows his wealth to rot under a rock than to spend a portion of it feeding the hungry in his presence. One has squandered a gift that he was blessed to have. The arts were not passed down through the generations so that you could brag on websites or make a few bucks.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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.