In my free time, when not reading old books and pretending to be a liberal, I like to train in martial arts. As I move into my 13th year of practicing various styles, and move into teaching what I know to others, I find myself looking back on my experience and realizing just how much my persistence and devotion to various warrior arts have defined me as a person.
I’m sure at this point half of you are wondering which arts I’ve trained in. This seems a good place to start. I trained in Taekwondo for 10 years, developing my body to be flexible and agile, learning to use my legs to drop people with powerful kicks. Mentally, I developed self, control, discipline, and I learned a hell of a lot about myself as a person. To this day, one of the proudest moments of my life was enduring the gruesome test for my second-degree black belt. I stood with 9 others as the test began, facing the assembled contingent of instructors who were to put us through the most painful, grueling experience of our lives. By the end of the test several hours later, only 3 of us were still on our feet. Limping out of the testing grounds, there was no guarantee that I had passed, but I had made it, and accomplished something that only a very small percentage of men will ever achieve.
After I went off to university though, I could no longer train at my Academy (which is one of the finest in my home state). I began to search for other styles to train in. I dabbled in Krav Maga, Wing Chun, and Boxing, but I never really stuck with them. This is not to say that they didn’t each have important principles and concepts to contribute to my education, but that I never felt the strong desire to practice them that I had for Taekwondo. I essentially spent a year in a transition period looking for an art to immerse myself in. While this was going on, I took up weightlifting to give me the sort of physical exertion that I so deeply missed (which in and of itself is a highly worthwhile activity, just not one I will be discussing today).
About a year ago I discovered the Indonesian martial tradition of Silat. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, which led to a bitch of a learning curve as I had to iron out a lot of my old habits. The physicality required for the movements and strikes wasn’t even remotely close to anything my body had done before. It was a painful lesson that what is proper in the context of one art can be outright wrong in another.
I’ve trained in arts meant for sport. I’ve trained in arts meant to kill, maim, and cripple. I’ve trained in arts developed in the past century. I’ve trained in arts that have been around for more than 1000 years.
I’ve learned it is far better to rise to the occasion than to back down from a challenge. I’ve learned it is best to fight as hard as you can even if you can’t win. I’ve realized that defeat may be unpleasant, but surrendering without a fight is the worst emotion you can ever feel. I’ve learned that when you’re exhausted, covered in sweat, and barely able to stand on you feet the best solution is to fight harder. I’ve been beaten, bruised, bloodied, and battered, and I’ve given out hefty doses of the same. I learned that discipline is painful, but losing is inevitable without it. I’ve learned the meaning of self-control, and I have held a man’s life in my hand and had him hold mine in his.
So where am I going next? For one, teaching what I know. No art can survive if it is not passed on, just as a race will die out if it refuses to breed. However, I don’t intend to stop learning either. A good friend of mine knows Muay Thai, and has agreed to train me. I look forward to what should be a painful experience…
I also think it would be prudent to become well-acquainted with guns. While I’m well-trained in unarmed combat, as well as bo staff and eskrima, the last time I checked firearms were by far most effective weapons on the planet. If I’m truly going to take on the mantle of the warrior ethos, I figure it would be prudent to get with the times and leave the romantic fantasies to the local Renaissance Fair.
In more glorious times, men actually went off to battle and fought and died and were encouraged to do so. In our current age, we are forced to find meager substitutes. Many will turn to video games or actions movies as replacements, but why not strive to be better than the soulless masses? Training in a martial art (or two or three) won’t ever make you as hard or as tough as a Spartan or a Legionnaire of old, but it will speak to parts of you buried deep in your very core. It will carve you into something greater than the form you now possess. You will surpass what you thought were your limits, transcend the capabilities you now possess. You will become stronger, faster, and tougher than you ever could have imagined.
You will never be the same again.