Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Forging a Warrior's Heart

In Japan, a warrior’s blade, the katana, is created through an elaborate and tedious process.  From the start, with just the right combination of ore, the ingredients are fused, heated and folded over and over until a blade, honed to take a life, if necessary, is created.  The end result is truly a thing of beauty in its strength and resistance to any obstacle it faces in its life.  Such is the journey of the warrior’s heart and the development of strength of mind, body, and spirit.   
Watching a sword master forge a blade can give the appearance of a truly violent act.  He works in a fiery place, enduring hours of physical discomfort, while singularly focused on his vision.  Within his mind, his heart and his spirit is the here and now.  Each strike, each temperance, each inspection is but a moment in time.  Everything he had done has prepared the blade for this moment.  Everything he is doing sets the path ahead.  So it is true with life.  This moment, this very moment, is the direct result of what has happened.  This moment, this very moment, sets the path ahead.  When life challenges you, when it appears that all hope has disappeared, this is the moment to strike the blade and continue on, forging the end product.  These are the moments where strength of mind, body and spirit are created, forged in the flame and heat of the present.  These are the moments where a warrior’s heart is created.
Within the beating chest are compassion, empathy and kindness.  It also is a place to keep the strength of a demon, waiting to be unleashed in the midst of a firestorm, to destroy obstacles and challenges, to resolve conflict and fear within the mind, body and spirit.  It gives us the strength to face those paths that reside outside the here and now.  The crossroads are in front of you this very moment.  One way is the fear of uncertainty, the other the excitement of new adventures.  Both lead to the same destination, because this is the path of life.  Live with the excitement of new adventures.  Live with a warrior’s heart.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Perseverance Time

I am absolutely blessed to have my wife walking beside me in the martial path.  Although she is a beginner, as we all are, she is a lifetime warrior, having battled dark forces that are way too intense for a blog.  Last night we had an interesting discussion as we were walking back from class. 
The dojo we attend is small.  Without going into details, it allows for personal attention from our sensei some nights when attendance is low.  I relish these nights.  A subtle word such as “knee”  “foot”  “good”  “lower” triggers an inner fire that satisfies my warrior heart.  Last night was no different as my wife and I were the only ones in attendance.  We staggered back down the stairs to start our mile long trek back to the house in the cold, Baltimore night; oblivious to the temperature as we basked in the warmth of the 90-minute class.
Because my wife is new to the arts, our teacher can really focus on her while I continue honing the basics-plus a few feet away.  Last night, as I was coming out of a roll, I noticed my wife cutting her eyes over my direction before going back to “drop head, replace with hand, tuck, and knees over shoulder.”  On the way home, this became the topic of conversation.
“Boy, you really give it your all while we are in class,” she stated.  “Perseverance,” I replied without thinking, which got me to thinking. We had a short conversation on the rest of our walk about the word.  I love our conversations as it makes the leg pain go away as we walk back up the hill to the house.
Perseverance.  What does it mean to you?  One of the characters that symbolize our art is the word nin or “” which can be translated as perseverance.  I associate with this definition more than any other translation.  We talk about surviving as the ultimate art in combat.  This is perseverance.  But, there is a hidden meaning.  It about reaching down inside, to find an inner fire to light the path ahead.  Martial training takes dedication and perseverance, something I had forgotten over the years.  One of the things I absolutely respect is how when you think you have a basic movement down, it can be tweaked slightly to add another dimension.  And so it is with life.  You have to have the perseverance, the endurance, to recognize that you will get through this moment, right here, right now. And when the next moment arrives, it too, will become this moment.  I have mastered the perseverance to handle this moment.  I am not going to worry about the next moment until it is here.  Sensei mentioned her thoughts about our training as she leaves in the upcoming month for a few weeks in Japan, honing her skills, increasing her perseverance under the watchful eye of the founder.  Her hopes are we will continue to increase our skill, to continue pushing ourselves to our limits, and then “just a little lower, please.  Okay, now five on each side.”   This is the quest.  This is the journey.  The lessons learned on the mat apply to the broad spectrum of life. 
“Okay, so this time – pause in the squat position when you come out of that back roll, before continuing into a second back roll into Seigan.”  Perseverance, the art of endurance.  It’s not just for training on the mat, but for training in the art of life.  Perseverance time.