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Something struck me a while back: that not all people want to 'become' 'better' people. Many martial artists strive to perfect an 'art', looking for a level of physical or aesthetic 'ideal', without realizing that a key component is working on the 'self'. 'The Seven Principles', Bushido, and other dojo kun are only more words, philosophies that have no 'meaning' until internal change occurs.




I think we all want to better ourselves, to die wiser than we were born, to feel we have made a contribution to life's rich tapestry yadda yadda yadda. I am just not convinced that MA have a huge part to play in that quest.
The thing you have to remember is that MA is a hobby, an activity; that for many becomes an obsession, or at least part of what defines them as a person. It is a purely selfish obsession- you being a shihan able to break blocks of ice with your fingertips does not make the world a richer place (unless you happen to work in a cocktail bar).

Have you ever come across the phenomenon of people attaching importance to things to justify their participation? we all do it to some degree. eg. I see my role at work as important. I am caring for ancient buildings and their contents. Not just the artifacts and rarities, but all the research within them- the knowledge. One of the hard drives I prevent being stolen may contain a cure for HIV, or brain cancer, or the secret of the universe (as a mathmatical construct) itself. Such thoughts are what give me the motivation to patrol the grounds on foot at 3am in the driving December rain.
The truth is that I may be protecting squat but conjecture and failed theories, and that if I left the job, someone would replace me with no detriment to the wellbeing of the university. Its all perception.

MAists do it too. Talk of enlightenment, of attaining clarity, of becoming a better person through training. Better how? Better than a nurse who is too busy to do karate? Better than a guy who runs the local soup kitchen for free in his time off instead of taking up kung fu?

Have you got a better handle on the world, do you do more for it than these people, by putting on your white PJ's 4 nights a week and reading the Hagakure on the bus to work?

No other selfish persuit claims these positive attributes- no athlete thinks that holding the WR in 100m sprint makes them more at one with the universe- it would cloud their goal- to be the fastest runner on earth. A personal goal that serves no one directly but themselves.

I am not saying selfish goals are bad, i like 'em, I am neither particularly wise nor charitable, but i dont kid myself that a heavy bag session changes that.

Then lets look at 'the way' itself. To quantify it as a specific ( the way) alludes to it being a specific defined path, that when followed nets a uniform destination.
There are several clearly mapped 'ways' up Mount everest. They are there for others to follow. there is no discovery in following a set way- its all been discovered before.

Same in MA. If 'the way' existed, then we would all be able to guage our 'spiritual' development by our years in training- our position on the mountain if you will; and also those who trained in arts with no codification of 'the way' would not be privy to these 'enlightenments'.

Nurses, charity workers, security guards, vacuum salesman, martial artists, sprinters, musicians, road sweepers, tomatoe pickers, everyone has an individual 'way'

The question is not 'have we lost the way, rather, are you happy with your way- are you finding out about yourself, about your world, and finding peace within it and your own skin? If MA is helping then great, but do not kid yourself that it is the only tool for the job.
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