The martial arts are about training. Going to the dojo and working your butt off. Practicing technique and feeling. Working on the physical and the mental.
Above all, the martial arts are about training your spirit. A spirit, not to over-power an opponent, but to make them a friend. Not to seek revenge, but to express forgiveness. To live fully with the purest form of the human spirit.
I just finished reading a book called "tuesdays with Morrie". It details a series of discussions the author had with his old college professor who was suffering the final stages of ALS. The book talks about life, love, and how your perspective changes when death is near.
This story spoke to me as I realized how close the concepts are to the goals of martial arts training. While we train to forge our spirit, we chip away at the deficiencies in ourselves. The selfishness that keeps us from being truly Compassionate, Kind, and Loving for all life, not just our own.
I'm ashamed to say these concepts were quite foreign to me even just a few years ago. I was confident in my own path and others were either stepping stones or barriers. Why should I care about those I didn't know?
Then I met my future wife and a whole new perspective was opened to me. She exuded compassion and kindness to everyone. I didn't understand it. She often felt worse for people who were picked on or left out; more than the individuals themselves felt it. Why was she torturing herself that way? I hated seeing her like that, it made me feel sick.
Wait, what? When did I start changing?
I guess I forgot to mention the flipside. I've not known the immense feelings of joy like that of my wife's happiness. When she's overcome with laughter (often the case when she's playing "hanafuda" with her mother and sisters), I would listen in the other room and feel fantastic. When she tells me how loved she feels when her friends wish her happy birthday, I feel happier than when I receive birthday wishes.
The last couple of years, she's taught me many things. Her disappointment with my actions or in other cases, lack of action, has helped me realize how everything I do can affect other people. Self-awareness gained through my Iaido and Kyudo training have allowed me to realize situations where I can change my natural responses.
Since last spring, I've put more effort into the community. Helping create better communication. Better support. But, still, the training continues...
It's late now and I'm tired. Hanna's asleep in the bedroom, but I really wanted to get this written down. I have more to say, but that'll wait for another post. Our lives are so hectic these days that we forget to appreciate the quiet times we can have in the company of close friends and family. Books like "tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Last Lecture" teach us to cherish each moment as if it were our last. The same goes with martial arts training. The hard part is putting it into practice. One can train a lifetime and not realize this ultimate goal.
And if this night were to be my last, I think I'd want as much time next to my wife as possible. Goodnight.