Do not believe a thing because many repeat it.
Do not accept a thing on the authority of one
or another of the sages of old,
nor on the ground that a statement is found in the books.
Believe nothing merely on the authority of
your teachers or of the priests.
After examination, believe that which
you have tested for yourselves
and found reasonable, which is in conformity
with your well-being
and that of others.
We all have our personal reasons to pursue these arts we practice. I will not bore you with conjecture over your reasons; suffice to say, mine is not the same as it used to be. Regardless of the original intent, a change comes over a majority of us. In light of the variety of individuals, that change is justifiably diverse.
While it is perfectly acceptable to not want to look further and only focus on the outer aspects of a given Way, there is undeniably more for the seeker. Occasionally things just fall in your lap! Our views are inherently subjective, however if we leave ourselves open to the possibility of new thoughts or principles, we enrich our lives.
It is the same with these arts. Each offers a dictate, which, if applied in general, can guide us through this ride of life. On the surface it can appear as all we do is combat orientated: a means to an end. It is instead more akin to finding ourselves by any means.
Often, because of the eccentricities of what we do, we are asked, “What do you train in,” or “What is your style?” The best answer I have ever heard to this was, “Whatcha got?” In other words, it is an experience to be had and shared, not a description to be heard.
In our society, we categorize or name things to better understand the conceptual. By applying “this” or “that” to something we seek comprehension, and sometimes the endless divisions of criteria can bog us down. Names can be a guide or a guise. They can open a door just as easily as clearing the path to leave you wondering which is the way.
The key is application of a principle espoused by several cultures and styles of martial arts the world over: water. Yes, it has become cliché in some circles, but its truth is not diminished. The clearest water flows, and to be like water you seek out new experiences, as well as continue to practice your interpretation of your art.
Taoists describe this idea beautifully. With the phrase mo chih ch’ü, which means going right along without hesitation. Here, the idea of water is expressed to its fullest. In more recent times, this is usually stated as, “going with the flow.”
Things should be made as simple as possible,
but not any simpler.
While on our journey to the next step, a lot of breath is used on a word: simplicity. It is a lofty goal we move toward. Approaching this ideal is similar to my telling a new student, “I want you to forget what I show you.” That initially receives a quizzical look. In essence, move or evolve toward simplicity. When you learn something that seems complex at first, does it not, with practice, become easier? Integrating the art into everyday living is what happens and thus our own evolution reflects this change. Even as we learn seemingly more and more from different schools of thought, when we see the underlying principles used, what was once foreign becomes familiar. It’s that simple!
Your truth is not my truth.
There are plenty of people and schools who profess some sort of truth. The problem I witness with them is that their idea is just that: “their truth.” Therefore, be wary of those who offer subjective truths (and the price they may be asking), and search out those who are still seeking.
Truth lies in experience, and can be analogous to enlightenment, satori, or shouting “Eureka!” It is as elusive as the Holy Grail, and most only hint at its destination. A word of caution, though, do not get so full of what is right that you cannot see what is good. Or to put it another way: do not cling so tightly that you blind yourself to the possibility that what is true today, may be false tomorrow. In the end, the truth you seek, and the truth you discover, is yours.
First, learn your instrument.
Then forget all about that-
and just play.
Do not concern yourself with “this” art or “that” way; be committed to who you are. In this age of instant gratification, the study of discovering who you are can take a lifetime, and odds are it will. You will invest a significant amount of time, for nothing worth so much will take anything less. Come to understand that you are now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. NOW. The moment it happens, you will understand. It is beyond you, beyond me, beyond martial ways. It is indescribable.
All steps are revealed at the correct time, and it is your choice to take them. I welcome you on our journey, one that needs no destination. Bring something of yourself along and discover something more. You will walk and cross many, many paths. Then one day you will look back, see them disappear, and be on your own.
Admit it and change everything!
Ultimately, the most advanced aspect of the martial ways is development and definition of character. As I stated, a change comes over most practitioners. These arts tend to bring out the best in the individual. By dedicating yourself to advancement in whatever art, style, system, or Way that is chosen, you can then contribute more to your community. This could be by volunteering in some way or by just being a law-abiding citizen.
By breaking down physical and mental barriers, we can reach deeper into ourselves to find an understanding. Look and you will find the link. The marriage of the physical and mental drives us toward the mystical. I am not saying that you are forced into anything against your will, here. It merely becomes an internal, or spiritual, quest to better you.
When you reach the point where your body cries out to stop, but all that you are pushes you on, then you will understand what drives us. It is the point that you do not “feel” like working out, but your body demands it. Rites of passage are few and far between in this “modern” society. However, through hard work and commitment, a sense of accomplishment is achieved.
Having this sense, you come to see all of life’s boundaries erode to reveal the true nature of those around you. Also, you begin to see what they can show you, so that you can further improve upon yourself.
In most cases, this will take the admission that the poet Rumi was inferring. In order to change, you must accept what is before you, now. Come to know you are not in the moment -- you are the moment.