To know others is knowledge, But to know the true self is wisdom.
To overcome others shows you are powerful.
To overcome the ego-self is powerful beyond measure.
To be content with what you have is true wealth.
Perseverance shows a strong resolve.
Those true to their self live long.
Those that find their true self live eternally.
Dao De Jing 33
What is the purpose of human endeavour?
Does the study of budo have a place at all in this modern world?
Our life’s journey -our endeavour- can become more meaningful when we master difficult things. We do this when we recognise, face, challenge and finally overcome our fears. To face and overcome any adversity elevates our spirit.
As I get older a question I get asked frequently, “Why continue practices that can cause some mental and physical discomfort? Do I need to suffer for the art? Why persevere?”
Through perseverance and training when I am tired, when I am in pain, when it is cold, when it is hot, or even when it is inconvenient I find the most self discovery occurs. Doing anything that is easy creates contentment that is short lived. Human endeavour should create a path of self discovery. That is why I continue to practice daily.
We were brought to the martial arts for various reasons, but for the most part there was an element of wanting to better ourselves in some way. Most students are not told is that the journey in budo is a long one, a life journey.
The destination not the achievement of a black belt. Rather understanding that the journey only begins at the level of black belt (the word “Shodan” in Japanese literally means “first step”).
Having your black belt may be good for pub talk, but stopping or resting at this point lacks any understanding of the point of the endeavour.
To persevere. To elevate. To discover. To fail, succeed then fail again…….to truly live.
And this brings me to my second point, the relevance to what we do in this modern age. We are at the moment at an age of entitlement. Our society has lead us through great technological advancements. All the worlds information is at our fingertips, we don’t need to hunt or grow food, walk long distances, or even have to keep appointments (keep our word). We exist more and more in a virtual world, a bubble that (falsely)offers us protection from our fears, our anxieties and our troubles.
Training in budo is designed to draw us out of this bubble, out of our comfort zone. It forces us, by its very nature, to face confrontation, disappointment and despair. Having said that, training in dead earnest also gives us the opportunity to elevate above these elements. We discover that we are not bound by the limitations our society, family, social standing or preconceived ideologies place on us. Instead we become free to discover the true self hidden behind the layers of personality (false self) that we have built to protect us from our environments.
Seeing these defensive layers as a prison rather than a refuge is the ultimate goal of training in budo. To dispel illusions.
Tanren, the tempering of the spirit, starts by just walking out the door, getting on the mat, and leaving your ego in the change room. Simple.
At the beginning I provided us with a quote from Lao Tzu. When I first read this quote I thought it was the quintessence of budo study, of life.
I cannot articulate greater what can be found through a life dedicated to bettering the self through the study of this wonderful art.
Good luck in your journey…..