Sunday, May 09, 2010

For Life

When I asked my jujutsu sensei, Dave Sumner about spiritual traditions associated with Sosuishitsu-ryu he told me not to read too much into practice. 'Dead people can't go to church.'

It was profound, and pointed out a deep difference in how different people see their practice. At the time, I studied MA because I wanted to be a "complete human being" without even realizing that we are, all of us, already complete. It was just words and an ideal. Nothing, really.

Everything has primary and secondary gains. The same thing can have different primary and secondary gains. And we can lie to ourselves about which we value.

Some people want a black belt. Some want to be champions. Some want to be 'masters'. None of those words mean anything. The blackbelt is a symbol. The primary gain behind the desire can be to amass skills or to gain prestige, to get entry into a world of competition or to understand yourself...and some of those, particularly understanding yourself, are nebulous ideas and maybe traps, but that's a thought for another time.

So someone can believe they want to be a champion, and the real primary gain is to win matches... but they can convince themselves this is the same thing as dropping an opponent. If that were true, ambushes in the locker room or parking lot would be an acceptable part of the entire tournament process. Getting the skill to drop people, or to escape are different gains.

So some martial artists proudly do their thing as a 'way of life'. It is part of their identity. It is who they are. It is a primary gain to be a martial artist.

My point of view is radically different. Unarmed arts are part of a subset of skills that may be necessary so that I can get back to my family and friends, so that I can look at sunrises and have a good burger. That is life. Anything I do in training is to serve that. Martial arts or combatives or whatever can never be a way of life for me, only a tool to ensure that I have a life to enjoy my way in.

It changes many thing. My primary gain in an altercation is to get out of the altercation with minimum problems later. My primary gain is going home. There is no internal desire to be a monk or a master or a samurai or a knight or any of the icons that people strive to emulate. The longer I can keep breathing, the longer I can be Rory, (which has rocked so far.)

The training still shapes me (or you, if you envision it like this). It has become a basic part of my movement. It colors how I see the world and how I plan. It has taught me that many things are not problems that may seem troubling at first.

But one of the big differences is that when we look at what works, I have to be more specific about what it works for. If you train martial arts as a way of life, as long as you are engaged and alive in training it is working and your primary gains are satisfied. Whether it works for anything else or in any other context is, at most, a secondary gain.

When you train for life, whether it works and what it works for are primary. Training spent for the sake of training alone is time spent away from that life.

9 comments:

Patrick Parker said...

Very interesting Rory-san. Similar in some ways to this cool interview I found some time back...

http://www.mokurendojo.com/2007/03/reinhold-messner.html

Alsharad said...

Not certain I agree with everything. There is a lot to digest, there. However, it seems to reflect my opinion on MA. I do it because I love it. Like reading a good book, studying philosophy, and spending time with family, studying MA is something that adds to my own life. It is also a means to an end, a tool, if you will. I don't find my identity in being a martial artist, but through MA, my identity is refined and expressed. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

Scott said...

thanks, that was interesting.

Terry said...

Agree wholeheartedly Rory!
I train to have brunch on Sunday with Jae, everything else is everything else.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a Stephen K. Hayes quote, something about how he can't envision learning the warrior arts that he has without also balancing that with the associated spiritual practices.

Different strokes for different folks I guess.

Scott said...

Great into but I disagree with your conclusion.
OK, you posit "for Life," vs. "a Way of life."
I think that split is false.
In either case our training METHODS must have some fruition, and that fruition (whatever it is, dropping someone, or getting the girls, or having a beer with Rory) must serve some larger "View."
That "view" is made up of values and ideals and perhaps identities.
My practice, and my teaching, attempt to to have a perfect line up from "View, to method, to Fruition." This requires regular re-assessment and it includes a few "spiritual" view/methods combos like "practice emptiness."

In short: you are doing your current "ideal" of Rory, as a Way of life. (i think?)

Scott said...

I meant to say "intro" in the first line not "into"..sorry

Jake said...

Huh. Very interesting. Gives me a lot to think about in relation to some decisions I'm trying to make.

Cool stuff.

Rory said...

aagh. My reply didn't post.
Patrick- Nice to know you are still reading.

Alsharad- that's cool. If we agreed on everything, one of us would be unnecessary. I think I'm describing two specific extremes and you are talking about the healthier middle ground.

Terry- I knew you'd get it, bro.

Anon- same-same. I do think that there needs to be a balance. For me, practicing breaking heads doesn't work as a spiritual balm for actually breaking heads.

Scott- We definitely should have had a beer in SF. Hope you're feeling better.
I like to think I'm past the idea of having an image of self in my head, a role that I'm playing. I like to think I'm just experiencing things as they are now. That doesn't invalidate any of your points. Intention, training and result all have to be in alignment, absolutely.

A very small part of what you said, translated into my personal thought process:
Do you teach students what they need, what they think they need or what they want? That's a false sort. the first step s to get those three things in alignment. Once that is done, intention is clean and training and results can follow and be evaluated.

Nice. Thanks.