The Martial Way in modern times may seem, to some, to be unnecessary. We no longer need to defend a village against aggressors and wars are no longer fought with swords, shields, spears, and the like. Regardless of what some people “selling” self defense might lead you to believe, it is pretty unlikely you are going to meet that fabled “street fighter” and engage in combat. Unless you live or work in an area that is plagued with high crime, chances are very good you will not run into a “mugger” in the near future. Also, most criminals are not going to wear a sign that says – “I am here to harm you now”. If you are unlucky enough to be targeted by a professional criminal the attack will be done and over before you even have a chance to react. The “pro” will pounce on you like a cat and then be gone. All predators, human and animal, will not put themselves at risk. They will stalk and attack when the prey is unaware; if the prey becomes aware they will give up the attack. This is the end of the self defense lesson. I will leave that discussion for another time. Here I am laying the ground work for a discussion on motivations and reasons to follow the Martial Way in modern times. I would like to leave behind discussions on “self defense”. Too often people speak of physical self defense as if it is a necessary life tool. While I am certainly an advocate of learning physical self defense, the truth is: most people get by fine without it. The Martial Way can, however, provide many benefits in modern life if applied in a meaningful manner and without the fantasies portrayed in movies and self defense ads seen in every M.A. magazine.
We have many challenges in modern life. Many people have anxiety and take a variety of prescription drugs to combat and alleviate stressful feelings. [The CDC numbers indicate 118 Million prescriptions a year are written for antidepressants, in the United States.] Anxiety disorders top the list for mental disorders in the U.S. [Also per the CDC]. For advice on treating stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues people should always seek the help of a mental health professional and/or a physician. However, the Martial Way offers another option to cope or add to an already medically suggested course of action. In fact the American Psychological Association claims relaxation and breathing techniques are often used as successful treatment for panic disorders. Many martial arts incorporate breathing and meditation as part of a training regiment. Exercise is also often suggested as away to help with everyday stress and the Martial Way includes great exercise. It is easy to see that M.A. practitioners have an extra tool available to meet modern life’s challenges.
To face life’s challenges with the outlook of predicting your success is a part of the Martial Way. A warrior would never enter into battle with defeat as their mind set. A warrior may have been ready to die in reaching success but that was not defeat. If we apply the warrior mindset to our own daily endeavors we can effectively reduce the amount of stress we have. Much of today’s stress is created by our own minds and the thoughts of failure we interject to any task or challenge. What if we loose? What will happen? Facing these questions is essential and how we answer these questions will determine our mindset when we enter into “the game”. If the end outcome is not what we desired are we prepared to just give up? If we are committed to the Martial Way we will not give up. We will learn why the outcome was different than what was expected and take that experience forward. The true practitioner in The Martial Way will incorporate the experience into the learning process and pick up “the banner” and begin again. This is honor. As long as our effort was true and we applied our best knowledge there is no failure. Enter into a challenge knowing you will put forth your best effort and know that each step is a learning step and the fear of failure lessens. As the old warrior did not fear death do not fear failure since there is no failure if your intentions are honorable and honest. If you know you took the effort to prepare for the challenge and worked with integrity and indomitable spirit to achieve your goal there is no reason to fear an unexpected outcome. Many times new opportunities and “doors” are opened when one opportunity ends and/or an unlooked for outcome occurs. Defeat is never an option when we have applied ourselves with honor. New learning experiences are the only outcome of an honorable effort.
With the fear of failure removed the feelings of anxiety in general will also be removed. Without the fear of failure anxiety has no place to “sneak” into our thoughts. This also creates a greater level of concentration, since without anxiety we can focus on the task at hand. Our minds will not be preoccupied with thoughts of “what if”. Freedom from this type of stress will help keep us healthy. The CDC tells us stress can have many ill effects on our bodies. The Martial Way in the modern world is a survival tool just as it was in ancient times. Here I have discussed only one way M.A. can help us in our everyday lives. There are countless other advantages when we make the Martial Arts a way of life. If you are already a Martial Artist take inventory of the advantages the art provides for you. If you are not involved in the Martial Arts, jump on in, the water is great!
My stories as I remember them during my journey in the Martial Arts