Please speak as fast as Leonardo DiCaprio from this video. Thank you! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3k60lyyLAg
The term ‘The Way Of The Warrior’ is thrown around in conversations in many martial art schools around the world. But when pressed on what that exactly means, most people have little in the way of a substantial answer.
What is the way?
Which way allows one to become a warrior instead of something else?
Just because you may understand the ‘way’ does that truly make you a warrior?
Most answers I receive to these questions revolve around what are seen as the ‘traits’ of a warrior- such as tenacity, grit, ferociousness and so on. This is the WAY of the warrior, but it can equally be the WAY of the mercenary or the criminal.
While the WAY may define some of the traits that a warrior may exhibit, it does not explain the path or journey that led to those traits been developed and ultimately being harnessed as strengths in a positive way.
It is my argument that the WAY of the warrior can be developed without a PATH, but when the appropriate path or journey is not observed the consequences may be less than desirable. Furthermore just because you may exhibit many of the traits of warrior, does not make you one.The ‘WAY Of The Warrior’ does not explain how those very same traits when expressed by a true virtues warrior is very different to that of a mercenary or criminal.
After years in the martial arts, I have come to the conclusion that any martial expression practiced in the absence of the knowledge of how that martial prowess emerges and is nurtured from a positive embodied perspective, can lead to slippery ground.
Historically a true warrior only used his martial prowess when out of necessity. Those who waged war for personal gratification, who used it as a way to remain high on the fumes of personal grandiosity, in my mind are not warriors. These are mercenaries and criminals respectively. A warrior fights only when all other means available to him has been exhausted. And even then a warrior uses only enough of his skill to win the battle. Sun Tzu accredited with writing one of histories most notable strategic books on warfare, The Art Of War, himself viewed the highest ‘art of war’ as one that is won without the recourse to arms.
Realistically what is often referred to as The ‘Way Of The Warrior’ is not the WAY at all.
The warrior, the mercenary (One who uses their martial skill for private gain), the criminal, the gang banger and even many of the modern day exponents of competitive martial arts, share many of the same ‘traits’. No wonder then their is confusion when discussing the differences from one to other. The fact that these groups share such a close relationship in ‘traits’ allow for abuse to take place, hidden behind convenient excuses of poverty, necessity, sport and others.
What Is A True Warrior?
It is clear to me that by merely engaging in the WAY Of The Warrior, will not by it’s extension lead one becoming a true, virtues warrior. A true warrior as defined by Edward Tick, Ph.D. in his book ‘War and the Soul’ is someone who is,
“assertive, active and energized. He or she is clear-minded, strategic, and alert. A warrior uses both body and mind in harmony and cooperation. A warrior is disciplined. A warrior assesses both his own skills and resources and those of his opponent. A warrior is a servant of civilization and its future – guiding, protecting, and passing on information and wisdom. A warrior is devoted to causes he judges to be more important than himself or any personal relationships or gain. Having confronted death, a warrior knows how precious life is and does not abuse or profane it.”
How does one become a warrior as defined by Tick above?
Clearly this cannot be achieved purely by the WAY of the warrior.
The WAY of the warrior can therefore be defined as the ‘traits’ expressed by warriors, but are also traits expressed by the mercenary, the criminal, the gang banger and the modern competitive martial artist. Just because you understand the WAY, does not by it’s extension, mean you are a TRUE warrior – you merely understood the martial skills and it’s attached psychological, emotional and physical expressions required to do the business of ‘fighting’ or waging war.
As Tick further points out, “the proper training of a warrior must be not just the physical and intellectual dimensions of military [martial] performance but also the values and traditions of warriorhood.”
These values and traditions are elucidated in the culmination of the PATH of The Warrior not in the Way. The Way is a bi-product of the PATH, but if the path is not understood, the way can easily be misused. Understanding the Path leads to the differentiating factor between a Warrior or a Mercenary (Criminal, gang banger etc). While both may initially follow the same path, there is one deciding factor that culminates at the end of the path that differentiates them from one another (More about this later).
The Path Has Been Almost Lost
Unfortunately the Warriors Path has been lost in the modern world of martial arts. Today the expression of martial arts as been diluted to merely a pursuit of who can beat who in a competitive setting. Where the Warriors Path has continued, it is merely a glimmer of it’s former self, now obscured either by reality based martial rhetoric that all martial arts is only useful for fighting the supposed enemy or to the other extreme the cool looking techniques used against cooperative opponents who fall beautifully as if on cue.
Personally I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I lost the path there for a while. When martial arts became all about fighting and about being the best, about dominating my environment and those in it- the true PATH was driven underground. I could do the WAY of course, no one would argue that I could not fight, and I fought well, but it took me a while to realize that functionality did not have to be at the exclusion of the Path or vice a versa.
In fact I finally realized that when it was, when functionality was focused and expressed to the exclusion of the Path, the side effects was a person who was in a constant state of anger, insecurities, and disembodiment.
The more I focused on the ‘fight’ the more I lost myself.
Just as the mythological Sirens seduced and lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island, I was seduced by the power of the WAY. High on the fumes of the fight, I lost my ability to steer my inner compass to become the true warrior I always wanted to be. Just wanting to learn how to fight, to dominate other men in sport or in the world, is seductive, it is a drug that if consumed, brings about an imbalance in mind, body and spirit, that is often hard to recover from.
Clearly the middle path was needed!
But it took me even more time to realize that the one thing required to bring a healthy philosophy and functionality back into balance was the full conscious understanding of the Warriors PATH and what the destination really was about.
So What Is The Warriors Path?
In a nutshell the warriors path represents the cycle of human growth, exploration, challenge and culmination of the development of a healthy psyche. Something that can never be accomplished purely by following the WAY. The Warriors Path can be seen as a journey comprising of five stages. Each stage of the The Warriors Path can be seen as a rite of passage that one has to undertake, go through and conquer.
Stage 1 – Conventional Slumber: Here you have to recognize and go beyond the conventional. One is required to wake up from what is seen as the traditional. Most people are seeking some kind of experience of being ‘alive’. They may feel their life is no too dissimilar to a hamster running the wheel. Their life is in other words seen as conventional and ordinary. In seeking for what is missing in their life, they need to answer a call, that will set them on an adventure.
When we talk about martial arts, you may have decided for what ever reason, that training in it, will answer or help you capture something you feel you really need in your life.
Stage 2 – Call to Adventure: Once you begin to awaken from your Conventional Slumber you now find yourself having to either choose to go towards the change you desire (Or feel forced to embrace), which will with any risk, bring about uncertainty and fear. At this point you have to decide if you will move forward or retreat to what is seen as the familiar (Go back to what is seen as Conventional Slumber).
Stage 3 – Discipline and Training: Once you are on the road of Adventure, you begin to realize that hard work lay ahead. You now have to accept teachers of various kinds. Training and lessons are hard, requiring discipline. The training, the lessons- tests you emotionally, physically, mentally, and in social settings.
At some point when you or your teacher feels your training is complete, you now want to test those skills you have learnt.
Stage 4 – Culmination of the Quest: This is where you test yourself (Or may be forced to test yourself). This is where you step up and see if you really have what it takes to do what you trained for or have been trained for. This is not necessarily the completion of the path, but it does represents a breakthrough, and will include insight and understanding about oneself.
Anyone who understands the WAY Of The Warrior would have likely progressed through Stages 1 to 4. But just because you are on the PATH of the Warrior does not guarantee that it will be one that will positively inspire your life and those around you.
No one is born a gang banger, a mercenary or a criminal. Even they have to awaken from what is seen in their environment as Conventional Slumber.
The young teenage boy who has been born into a rough, impoverished neighborhood, realizes that if he just stays where he is at he will become a target and a victim to the gangs in his area. He awakens from his Conventional Slumber to the realization that he has to make a decision, to join or to live a life of subjugation.
Joining the gang for better or for worse is the Call to Adventure. Adventures don’t have to be positive to be ‘Adventures’. Once this young man has decided to take up the Adventure, he is subjected to Training and Discipline. He is taught the way of the gang. How to be a gang member.
Finally he has to put all that he has learnt into practice. He is required to bring his Quest to Culmination, either by stealing that car or beating, killing a rival gang member. This is his initiation into becoming a fully fledged member of the gang.
In the same way someone in the modern martial art world who seeks to compete will move through a similar path. He will answer the call, go on the adventure, be taught how to fight, and ultimately culminate the quest by fighting in the cage.
The same can be said for the mercenary and the criminal.
All of these above have learnt through the Path to develop the Way. The traits necessary to use the ‘martial’ for what ever end they seek to create.
But one thing separates all of the above from a true, virtues Warrior. All true Warriors after their Quest has Culminated, will Return and Contribute. In fact it is only in Returning and Contributing that he or she becomes a Warrior.
Stage 5 – Return and Contribution: The seeker, who is now the Warrior becomes the knower. In a sense the student becomes the teacher.
A Warrior returns to community. The “I” that began the Path becomes the “we.” The return shifts the individual, the Warrior from merely taking to contributing. Proceeding from this their is a loss of egocentricity. The Warrior unlike the others, the mercenary, the gang banger, the criminal, and the competitive martial artist who fights merely for his own ego, for his own glory- the Warrior brings back what he or she had learnt on the Path to POSITIVELY uplift those in his community (Or his gym).
The realization is that the journey was never about the Warrior, it was never about ‘him’, but had always been about the “we”. It was always about connection and contribution to something greater than himself. As Tick pointed out earlier, “[The] warrior [becomes] devoted to causes he judges to be more important than himself or any personal relationships or gain.”
Rodney King – Creative Monkey