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Reflecting on nature in martial arts, not so much a secret

Dec 22, 2019
Nature of Martial Arts, Close Quarter Dad

As a professional martial artist, I've made it a career for more than a decade to teach people from all walks of life, young and old, how to remain safe.

Discovery of self preservation and safety is not merely about learning a technique to apply against a bad guy, although most martial arts systems today are systemized like this.

This type of approach is shortsighted at best, lacking the critical principles of escalation and de-escalation, both of which rely on the practitioners deeper understanding and exposure to reality based training at many more levels than is what is popular in most academies today.

Easy to teach techniques make money, but very, very rarely equip a student to survive.

From my perspective, the study of true martial arts has nothing to do with sport.

It even has little to do with neutralizing an enemy combatant in the field of battle.

True martial arts has everything to do with developing the skills to remain in control especially under dire circumstances.

Of course the skills and proficiencies of my students mature as their time spent training stacks up, but more important is the maturity of their ability to remain in control as anxiety, fear, shock, trauma or loss of life become extremely real within moments.

Due to the constant exposure of survive at all costs simulation in the Dojo, my students can become more adapt to these circumstances and quell the physiological changed during escalation. It is about self control.

These are the things of battle and being able to demonstrate control under horrible conditions is the hallmark of a warrior.

Any brute can cut another down with a blade or bullet, but the warrior will complete the battle before it escalates into chaos.

They will survive and if they do not, the legacy they've left will certainly allow those remaining to share a higher standard of living.

This is how I've come to know the meaning of martial arts and the ultimate reason we train them in the west. In Japanese, it is known as the Bushido.

The arts that I've dedicated much of my life to understanding have remained relatively unchanged since the Warring States Period in Japanese history, yet have adapted in many interesting ways to the times and technology of the present day. We still retain the old protocol and wear the old attire.

Our Dojo smells of a myriad of incense, wood walls and sweat. In the winter the Dojo is frigidly cold and in the summer it is like working out inside an oven. Yet still, each day we are able to step our bare feet onto the tatami matted floor of the Dojo and begin to practice in formats shared by previous generations of warriors.

The simulation of death and survival occurs over and over again, day after day, year after year. We are dedicated to preserving this tradition and these ways with all that we have while applying the principles of cause and effect found into our modern day routines and relationships.

The ambition to learn timeless lessons within a laboratory such as a Dojo is coined in the Japanese term on ko chi shin, summed up to mean, study something old in order to understand what is new

But while we begin to study this old thing, we should look to discover those layers that have been cast away due to progress.

They are there, but moving from us slowly. They exist in the memories of our grandfathers as foggy discussions with their grandfathers. And as each wrinkled faces passes on, so too does our chance to claim their memories as our own.

So called progress creates obsolescence to that which is otherwise very much a human experience. The sword appears to have been replace by the rifle. Plants are replaced in most parts of the world now by profitable medications. Relationships built over a family dinner were replaced by the television and microwave oven. The spiritual tenants replaced by science.

Is there any reason why a child should know why the wind blows the leaves on a tree in a certain direction when we now have CNN?

I can go on and on, yet we all know that progress can so often get in the way of itself. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the reason I write this for you.

To deeply understand the arts of olden times, you must peel back the many layers they have.

One of the most important layers is also the one that has been mostly forgotten due to those conveniences that technology has brought into our daily lives over the last century.

The old crafts have become more and more a hobbyists routine for those willing to spend money for an hour of so each week in exchange for a half cooked training experience.

Or, in the case of martial arts it is a trendy way to stay fit.

This forgotten layer of martial arts is as important to the soldier as the sun was to a farmer.

Simply put, it is the understanding of natural law and the ability to easily coexist with nature that has been lost within the curriculum of martial arts.  

There was no air conditioning in the Dojo, no oscillating fans, oil burners or wood stoves. If you were cold, you warmed yourself. If you were warm, you cooled yourself.

There were no insurance policies, liability release forms or hospitals a few short minutes away to fix a cracked rib. If you were broken it was due to your negligence or the fault of your training partner's.

You were accountable for your wounds and fix yourself or in some cases possibly your Sensei would send you off to a colleague who could do so.

Regardless, it was not easy. Shame was something that was just not acceptable in the life of a bushi (warrior), and accountability for every action was an absolute priority.

But there is another side to all of this, a side very connected to the natural world that we humans live in. Soldiers of olden times did not have radar or satellites, yet the necessity for understanding weather patterns was paramount.

They did not have medivac or triage centers, yet understanding the healing qualities of fauna was essential. Soldiering involved tracking the enemy, moving at night, operation of efficient and protected supply lines and taking advantage of immediate natural resources.

The solitary soldier, whether in the action of enemy escape or recognizance, had to be extremely proficient with adapting to their surrounding and literally becoming the wild. Without an absolute comfort in nature, none of these tactics would be possible, critical information would not be delivered, capture would be imminent, victory not possible.

The speed soldiers moved on foot through the wild was unimaginable by today's standard. Most skilled combatants of olden times could vanish and reappear in a way that by today's standards would seem nothing more than magical. To them, it was naturally a part of who they were. These are the skills that are so quickly being lost in the Dojo of today. 

This is nothing solely Japanese either! In fact, cultures around the globe share identical characteristics in their warrior history. Often times we hear about the warrior retiring to be a farmer, or the humble farmer rising up to become one of the greatest military heroes.

There is a very real reason for this relationship between warrior and farmer as both professions depended heavily on their ability to capitalize on natural patterns and function at an extremely minimalist level when needed. It's my discovery that one can read Nitobe's tenants (Bushido: The Sould of Japan) in the same manner as a manuscript for the care taking of the earth.

Bushido is most certainly the way of the warrior, yet it's mirror image is a model for following natural law. 

The woods were once a child's playground. A place where little ones would wander safely in.

Their wonderful minds would create a majestic world somewhere in the pines or oaks that surrounded their homes or neighborhood. Here they would play, make believe and learn.

Today, we fear this! Parents build fences to keep their from wandering. Kids no longer rider their bikes to school let alone discover the wonders that lie under a rotting log or at the end of the prints they find in the mud of a the forest floor.

As a martial artist of the old ways and as a Daddy to four little ones myself, this is unacceptable.

So I write this book for you. Children want their parents to be their teachers and heroes. I want you to be that for your child, taking them into the woods and teaching them step by step what they would need to do if ever lost, so that they may be found quickly.

As parents, we cringe at the thought of our little one alone and cold, confused and scared in a place where they they could quickly parish.

But equipping ourselves with simple knowledge can protect us and them from ever facing this dark reality. And this book will be your field guide to this. Should your child ever become lost in the woods, you will be comforted in knowing that their survival window is greatly in their favor because of the lessons you've taught them.

But there is a deeper goal for me as I write this book for you.

As I've written about the priority of coexistence a warrior must have with nature, I failed to provide a reason for delving into the warrior lifestyle to begin with. Why would I bring this up in a book about wilderness survival?

In the eyes of your children, you are the strongest person in the world. No spartan or gladiator could ever strike you down, you are a warrior. So be that role for them while you can! Yes, we all have our weaknesses, we all have our shortcomings.

But life passes too quickly and you are only provided with a flash in the moment of time to create memories for your children that will resonate for generations. Be the elder that is spoken of by your great grandchildren, the one who gave a model for survival and simplicity.

Create a legacy.

As you read this, I am certain that some may think they're not strong enough to be that person. Whether a single mom or overworked father, I charge to you that none of your inadequacies mean anything in my message to you.

To your children, you could be no greater than how you are right now. It is all about your children and how they see you, not how you see you!

You don't need to learn the skills of war to be a warrior for your children, just show them how to how to have what it takes when it counts.

My lessons following in this book will give you one small model to begin that journey with them, to spend such valuable time in their lives. Please don't wait any longer, time doesn't stand still. 

So get started. Be the hero you once pretended you were. Now is your chance. Teach them to love not fear. Teach them to build, create, play, pretend, protect and love a place that is most real for the warrior in them, nature.