The Warrior’s Virtue

One of my Martial Arts teachers and good friend sent me a blog post today from An-Shu Stephen K. Hayes. Hayes is regarded as the original American ninja. He is the founder of To-Shin Do Kasumi-An Ninja Martial Arts, and a Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee. There’s a lot about the man to respect. His blog post for today drives right to the heart of a topic that many close friends and I have been talking about. Although probably not a believer, there is great truth to be gleaned from his post. Here it is, just as he published it on his blog site:

“My perception is that we are in the midst of one of the lowest points we have ever experienced in the world when it comes to demonstrated noble big-vision leadership. When I say “we” I mean all of us alive now, from the newest baby to the seniormost life veteran.

Whatever happened to ethics? Whatever happened to statesmanship? Whatever happened to noble ideals?

Politically, we see time and again bitter divisiveness as the rule of the day. Despite popular talk of “bipartisanship”, stopping the other team seems to be the goal, regardless of outcome, based on evidence I see. Bolsheviks align from the left to punish productive earners through odious levels of taxation and regulation, and Fatcats out on the right lure pitiful wage slaves into helplessly providing egregious profits.
Popular gods of the times – multi-millionaire sports figures – cause us to gasp and wince at scandalous betrayals of trust. Betrayal of family (wild tigers), betrayal of sportsmanship ideals (shrieking profanity at officials), betrayal of humane living (dogfight investors), and betrayal of healthy living (ballplayer dopers) cannot fail to sadden any idealist.

How ‘bout those bankers and money movers? CEO paid 385 million dollars for the few years it took to destroy Lehman Brothers, devastating the financial security of countless hard-working Americans but providing for a full lifetime of over-the-top luxury for one heartless former CEO now sipping drinks with fellow killers at private beachfront palaces. And that’s only one; there are plenty more like him in the private and government sectors.
Anyway, you get my point. I do not see much heroic behavior these days. I see a lot of selfish taking with little regard for the grander welfare of all.
So what would it take for things to change?

Most will not like this because it is so undramatic and so middle of the path, but…  We need balance, heroic big visioned big brained big hearted big shovel and big stick balance.  Where does balance start?

We have an ideal – warrior protector virtue, in the real original meaning of the word virtue as “manly valor perfected through taking care of all”.
We have a vision of what blocks such an ideal from blossoming – imitation of warrior strength, in the sense of confusing manliness with “mean little boy” taking whatever desired by beating anyone who might get in the way.

We cultivate that balance by becoming as strong as possible through training and becoming as ethical as possible through study.
I have been saying it since the 1980s. The ethical warrior winner gets everything he or she needs, and the world is a better place as a result of it.
Want to see what that kind of training looks like?

Join me and my friend Jack Hoban for a full day of ethical warrior preparation March 13 in Newark, NJ. Enroll at RGI and become part of our revitalization of the responsible warrior leader taking ground in a long overdue battle.”

What An-Shu Hayes calls “ethical warrior preparation” is what I’ve been thinking and writing about of late.  Although I don’t think he means Christian Warrior Prep., thats where I would take it.  True ethics begin in Christ, and so must each warrior.

A Broken Little Heart

I have had a pretty crummy day. Nothing really bad happened. But I had to tell my little warrior that he didn’t achieve his Black Belt today. It has weighed heavily on me all day, kinda overshadowing what was otherwise a pretty decent day. As the day winds to an end, I know that I will always remember walking into the room where Jeremiah was getting his gear together and breaking it to him that he didn’t make it. It was SO STINKING HARD to look him in the eye and tell him the news.

However, in a society where kids are told they never fail, where child athletes are told “everyone wins,” a valuable lesson was learned today; for Jeremiah and myself.

First, Jeremiah told me through the tears that he knew he hadn’t performed at an expert level. He knew he hadn’t done well, but he had hoped it was enough. We were able to have a REALLY good talk about what it means to be a Black Belt, and how it’s so much more than just knowing the material. There is a proficiency level that accompanies the knowledge. The Black Belt test isn’t like other belt tests. Other belt tests tend to be more “pass/fail” tests. But the Black Belt test is more of an assessment of the students abilities to determine if they are an expert in their art. For instance, a student seeking to advance from orange belt to yellow belt needs to show a proficiency commensurate with that belt, seeking to show their progression. The Black Belt, however, must demonstrate that he/she has mastered all of the materials for all of the belts and is able to teach, model, and instruct. Where as the potential orange belt may progress with a score of 70%, the student seeking his/her Black Belt must perform around 90%. In our conversations today, Jeremiah conveyed he felt like he’d failed. As we talked it through, however, he discovered that he passed the test, just not at the level he needed to. While heart broken about it, it served to remind him of his responsibility to the Belt and to motivate him to be that much better when he tests again in a month.

Second, I learned that sometimes heartbreak moves us to excellence. As much as I hated to tell him that he hadn’t gotten his Belt, and as deeply hurt as he was, I was able to walk through it with him and share a life moment with my son. Life is going to be full of these moments. As a dad, I HATE when my kids are hurting, and do everything I can to protect them from hurt. But not only is that impossible, but it’s not healthy for my children. Hard times will come. There will be greater disappointments in life than not receiving his Black Belt. The greater lesson is learning how to handle set backs. How I coach him through disappointment will be a lesson he will carry into life. If I divert the disappointment, what does he gain? At best, he gains a belt he didn’t earn. At worst, he learns that he doesn’t have to face failure. The reality check for me today was to hurt with him, hurt for him, and understand that this makes him not just a better Martial Artist, but a better person.

Third, and you knew it was coming if you know me, there is a spiritual application. “The Lord is near the broken-hearted.” Psalm 34:18 Perhaps we spend too much time trying to be comfortable and successful and miss a major way that God makes His presence known to us. As a parent, do I rob my children of an opportunity to deepen their faith by shielding them too much? Even as I write this, the Daddy in me is screaming, “How could I ever let my kids suffer? There’s no such thing as protecting them too much! They are MY kids!” But I don’t think that’s it. I think that the place I landed today is that failure is a part of life and failure is a means of deepening our faith. Today I was able to hold my little boy, encourage and connect with him in a meaningful way, and point him to never giving up. And maybe, just maybe, he will find the same comfort and counsel in God’s arms when the failure is much greater.

Just in case you read this, Buddy, I love you and am proud of you. I know that you will take today and build from it. Keep your chin up, your eyes bright, and get done what needs to get done. And, most of all, remember that God is nearer to you than you can know.

And I also need to say “Thank You” to Master Jason for shooting straight with Jeremiah. It would have been easy to say, “Close Enough.” But that wouldn’t have been right nor what’s best for Jeremiah. I know it was tough, but you did the right thing, and I appreciate that. I whole heartedly believe that Jeremiah will more deeply appreciate his ability when he reaches his next goal because of today.