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I am roused from my meditations with a burning question: what keeps the martial arts alive? Surely, the majority of society sees the logic of superior combat technology. They are also drawn to the more streamlined, immediately-effective defensive systems, such as military combative systems. We know so much about how to take apart the machine of the human body, why do we maintain these ancient ways?
Some look to the past, with a sense of nostalgia. Others look to society, seeing these no-longer-common practices as an advantage in a social structure that continually disarms its citizenry. Neither are wrong, but I think there is something deeper that will not let some of these styles and systems fade away. Something a bit more basic, but far more difficult to define in short terms. I feel that these styles that endure have, built within them, a strong sense of spirit.
The teachings of the old masters are riddled with contradictions. Miyagi Chojun said there is no attack in karate, but this man was one of the most skilled living weapons of his time. Countless teachers have echoed the words of his fictional counterpart, Mr. Miyagi: karate for defense only. These are all easy ideas to accept in this day and age, but how did they come about in a time where people had to become weapons? Why did so many Samurai retire to Zen monasteries to become monks? What brought about Warrior Monks like the Yamabushi or the Shaolin? What is it about these places, and the systems built in them, that allows their students to find peace through war?
I have mentioned twice now about becoming a living weapon. That is, in my opinion, the entire reason these arts survive today.
Please, do not misunderstand my words. I am not condoning the pointless use of violence. Fighting for the sake of fighting is never a good idea. The martial arts should never be used as a weapon of conquest. In truth, though, the techniques found in most systems are not even that unique. How many different ways are there to throw a punch, really? The human body only works so many ways, and by now, we've figured the machine out pretty well.
No, when I speak of becoming a living weapon, I speak of awakening the warrior within ourselves. No weapon exists outside of ourselves. A gun is useless without the will of a person to wield it, for good or bad. No blade cuts without a hand at its hilt. No staff or club makes an impact without a mind aiming it. We do not use weapons, we use tools of combat (ideally for defensive purposes) to make us better weapons. Every person has witnessed violence, and as such, is capable of some level thereof. We are all weapons at some point. The training of the martial arts just makes us weapons all the time. There is a saying:
"Even in times of peace, the warrior keeps sharp his sword."
This is what it means to be a living weapon. We train for a skill, and once we reach that skill, we have to maintain ourselves at a level of preparedness for the use of that skill, should the need arise. If we do not, we are nothing more than has-beens. Swords left to rust, guns have broken to pieces, pole-arms left to rot. We must live in the mindset that we might need these skills within the next minute to keep ourselves alive. We must find the dedication to hone our edge every day so that we are never caught unaware.
In this practice, those who successfully make the transition from student of the martial arts to a warrior, a living weapon, they often find themselves in a place of peace amidst the swirling winds of combat, the calm eye of the storm. The more one harnesses their aggressive energies into the act of training, the better these energies are controlled. My years of training have actually had someone I work with call me a moving statue, and my training is the reason. I have found peace through combat, as have the masters before me.
This is the truth of being a living weapon. Remember, no weapon acts on its own accord. They lay dormant, ready to strike at any moment in the act of self-defense.