Martial arts schools today focus on the ancillary benefits of training rather than the true purpose of the art itself. It only takes a cursory glance at advertisements of martial arts schools to see these benefits. You can get in excellent physical condition while losing weight. You can bolster your confidence. You can improve your focus, resulting in better grades and enhanced work performance. New friends are waiting to be made.
All of this is true. I have experienced all of this during my tenure as a student of the arts. Make no mistake, I am a lifelong student of the arts. I am just like you. the only difference is that I am a little further along the path than some of you. That is the only difference between us. Whether you are a Senior Samurai or a Lil’ Dragon, there is a place for you in virtually any martial arts school in America. But there is a 900-pound gorilla in the room.
These are ancillary benefits that are results of the extraordinarily hard work and suffering that are inherent in traditional martial arts. At the end of the day, you are taking a martial art, martial being one of the key terms in the moniker. Martial implies war, combat, and confrontation. This war may take the form of battling an armed aggressor menacing you or your family. It also may take the form of conquering your fears and inner demons.
Today, throughout the world, people are living in abject fear of something that cannot be seen with the naked eye. A virus is microscopic, yet it has taken control of the emotions and psyches of millions of people. Governments are taking extraordinary measures under the guise of protecting the vulnerable and ensuring the greater good. Citizens are staying home and avoiding any and sometimes all social contact with friends, family, and neighbors.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously declared that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. While the context of what President Roosevelt was addressing was from a different era, his message still resonates today. He spoke the truth. Whether we are confronting an army of evil men or a villain that cannot be seen without the aid of a technologically advanced microscopic, what makes the situation worse is superimposed fear. Fear cripples the ability to confront the enemy and ultimately defeat it. Fear clouds our judgment. Fear is a disease that arises from the sicknesses of ego, doubt, illusion, and perplexity. Fear kills before death is warranted.
There is a truth that most humans do not contemplate that would make life so much more enjoyable. The death rate for human beings is 100%. You read that right; that is not a typing error. The death rate for the human race is 100%. Every human being that is born will eventually make the acquaintance of the grim reaper. There is no escaping death. The problem facing us today though is the obsession with death, not the acknowledgement of the reality and eventuality of death.
As I write this, many of you are already dead inside. You are terrified of something that is sweeping across the planet. It would be folly to suggest that Covid-19 is not real, or that it is a hoax. It is indeed real. Its magnitude is another matter. The response to it is a point of contention due to the discrepancies in statistical models predicting its seriousness.
I have said that it is important to protect ourselves as well as our neighbors. That means taking precautions to ensure that you do not cause undue harm to our fellow travelers. If you are sick, stay home. Wear a mask and gloves if you are in a crowded room or building. I do all of these things. The one thing that I will not do is allow the fear of disease and death to rob me of my life. I refuse to allow a virus of any name to rob me of the joy associated with time with my friends, family, and the pursuits that bring substance to my life. If that virus is named Covid-19, if it is the flu, or if one day the disease invading my body is cancer, I will not stop living, nor will I allow the thief that is fear to steal the precious moments I have left while I still tread this Earth.
Previously, I made mention of the martial aspects of training in traditional martial arts. Life is hard, but the battles associated with life make the journey so much more enjoyable. There is nothing in life that is worth anything of value that comes with no price. A Black Belt, a legitimate Black Belt, comes with the toils of pain and suffering. Any mother will attest to the fact that child birth is an experience wrought with pain and misery, but the end result as she holds her child in her arms is nothing short of miraculous. These joys come at your expense, because you have to actively work for them and fight for them.
Today, you all have a choice, no matter what pursuits in life put food on your table or bring happiness to your existence. You can choose to let outside circumstances control how you live your life, or you can stand up, fight, and take what rightfully belongs to anyone who puts in the work. It isn’t easy. It comes at a terrible price. It takes the willingness and ability to fight. It requires the fortitude to rage against all odds as the sun sets on all hope.
Raging. Going against the odds. Taking what rightfully belongs to those who are willing to work for it. These concepts are reminiscent of what Dylan Thomas said in his epic work entitled “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” His words are powerful, and should serve as a battle cry for those that choose to live every moment that is gifted to us by our Eternal Creator. As Dylan Thomas stated:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.