The Way of the Warrior

Some people play football
Some people throw darts
As for me, I prefer martial arts.

The way of the foot and hand
Striking, kicking, until the opponent can’t stand
Training hard, more and more
My life is taekwon-do.

When I put my dobok on
Everything else goes away
I’m a champion of freedom and justice
This is my Way.

Some people play golf
Some go to a bookstore
Me, I practice aikido.

The way of inner harmony
The art of peace
Conflict-solver, character-builder
And stress release.

Any attack will be reversed
It’s like karma – the law of the Universe
White dobok, brown belt, concentration supreme
Dojo is my temple – this is how I feel.

You can’t be a Master if you can’t defeat your fear
It’s the most cunning opponent – it’ll never disappear
Martial arts are not about fighting others
Or collecting medals on the shelf
The only true victory is over yourself.

Inspiration came at Kalachi Beach, Arambol, on 01.01.2016. I am forever indebted to my trainers László Kozák and Kati Dániel, as well as other teachers, for showing me the way.



What Is The Way of The Marital Arts? (Part 3)

This is the last post of translation from Russian of part of the “Combat Machine” book by Anatoliy Taras. The previous post (part 2) can be seen here.

Of course there’s no sense in spending dozens of years just learning how to fight well. With so many weapons around that would be a waste of time and simply stupid. But the point is that serious practice of martial arts aims at physical, mental and moral perfection of a man, rather than creating a ‘killer’. A perfect man stands out among average people in everything: working capacity, mental aptitude, perseverance, various skills and experiences. His excellence is also revealed during combats with two-legged vultures. Yet this is a consequence of his perfection, not the aim. The aim lies – and let me repeat myself – in the transformation of personal spiritual and body nature.

Striving towards this goal opens a gate to a totally different life than that of a “naked monkey”. To walk the Way means to be different from others. For example, to substitute idiotic discos with contemplations of the eternal beauties of nature; enjoy the taste of good tea rather than poison yourself with alcohol; train instead of wasting time repairing your car; replace meat and sweets with sugar with food from natural products… It is necessary to learn to listen to the music that survived centuries, understand poetry and philosophy, obtain knowledge in history and psychology. And most important, to learn from your own experience that a man who dares to quit the herd is doomed for solitude, even if he is admired by others. Perhaps this is the hardest thing: learn to be alone among people, yet joyful and happy inside.   

In order not to whine with sadness, detest yourself, hate or get annoyed by the people around, there is only method true for all times: do passionately the thing you are destined for. If it turned out that martial arts became the most important thing for you – devote yourself wholeheartedly to it. You don’t have to become a professional trainer. It doesn’t matter whether you are an engineer, a worker, a farmer or an artist. Only one thing matters: your favorite occupation must be truly the dearest thing in the world. And this must be reflected in all your actions irrespective of obstacles.

Then it won’t matter how many hours you spend for work and routine chores, and how many for physical exercises and mental training. It is in the ‘herd’ where “real life” starts once a working day is over or at weekends that are so much awaited and so stupidly wasted. First, body and spirit can be annealed any time and anywhere, not only during special trainings. Second, these are not time investments but internal priorities that count. Your favorite occupation as a way to operate in the world must be number one in your consciousness. Only then does it bring the sense of meaningful life, joy and fullness of being.

Now let’s make a general conclusion. The way of the martial arts is a way of life where practice of a certain martial art and mental self-regulation plays the biggest role. After many years of solid practice a subhuman (“naked money”) gradually transforms into a perfect man, and sometimes even a superman!

What Is The Way of The Marital Arts? (Part 2)

This post is continuation of translation from Russian of part of the “Combat Machine” book by Anatoliy Taras. The previous post can be seen here.

Talking about human needs, it needs to be stressed that man is distinguished from animals not by his vital or even social needs, but ideal ones. In other words, the more our actions are guided by spiritual motives, the more human we are. In the long run (as this is not evident at first sight) men inherited the thirst for material well-being and sexual pleasures, the strive for power and glory from a primitive group of subhuman primates.

Indeed, what are the dreams of “an average man” eloquently called “naked monkey” by anthropologists? To work as little as possible – both physically and mentally, and to rest and entertain himself as much as possible. Entertainment-wise, positive physiological experiences are the most important, especially sexual and food and flavoring ones. To put it briefly, a vast mass of people are eager to “get high” most of all! Drink sweet drinks, eat good food, copulate with the opposite sex, loll in warm water, slug on soft bed or hot sand…

How is this different from the animal world? How is such behavior in principle different from the behavior of a pig grunting happily in a trough with warm water after a hearty meal? Why am I talking about this? Because it’s useless to advocate austerity, self-discipline, morality to those whose ideal is to “grunt from satisfaction” as often as possible. Yet when we talk about the Way of the martial arts, we need to understand clearly – it is inaccessible for “naked monkeys”.

Of course, in order to “learn the school”, meaning to master combat techniques, all you need is health, time and diligent work. Sense of conscience and other spiritual attributes are not required to learn the ‘naked’ technical part, i.e. attack and self-defence techniques. All a student would need is his vascular and breathing capacity.

However, in order to combine all three aspects of martial arts into one whole, to go far beyond the technical minimum of a particular style, the transformation of psychics and body via austerity, moral way of life, continuous psychic and physical training is indispensable. As a result a man will remain a solid warrior until he is very old, and not just till 30-35 years of age. But what is more important, his everyday life will become an ever-lasting happiness!

One Hindu (Kalidasa) said many centuries ago: “When you were born you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone else is crying”.

Can a “naked monkey” lead such a life? That’s very doubtful.

What Is The Way of The Marital Arts? (Part 1)

This post and the ones that follow are translation from Russian of part of the “Combat Machine” book by Anatoliy Taras.

In my opinion this person, who is a former officer of the Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), a professor, a practitioner and expert in martial arts and self-defence, a journalist and an author of several insightful books, managed to express best the essence of martial arts.

The upcoming series of posts is the exact English translation of the book’s Chapter 29 – “What Is The Way of The Marital Arts?”. I will only add images now and then. I will also highlight in bold font thoughts that deserve special attention to my mind. Also, I will omit several less important passages.

I believe these excerpts from the the author’s book will be rather useful both for martial artists and non-practitioners alike.

“Combat Machine”by Anatoly Taras

In your journal you often mention “the way of the martial arts”, but in essence you don’t say a word about this way! Why is that? Because you don’t know yourself?

(From a reader’s letter to the author).

To put it briefly, the way of the martial arts is a process of turning a man into a warrior. And as Carlos Castaneda put it: “To become a warrior means to consciously develop a range of specific attributes and a behavior that corresponds to these attributes”. Mas Oyama basically said the same, but with other words: “The way of the martial arts is to capture the true meaning of life via the practice of martial arts”.

I believe first of all we need to understand why people are attracted by martial arts at all today, with so many types of firearms, chemical and electrical weapons around.

Apparently the thing is that martial arts (like some other hobbies) allow to fill profound needs that drive our actions. These human needs can be divided into three categories: vital, social, and ideal (spiritual). Filling vital needs ensures biological survival of an individual. Recognition from others is linked to social needs. As for the third group, this is where we find the reason for creativity, seeking truth, kindness, beauty, justice, and everything that altogether makes the meaning of life.

So the applied aspect of martial arts, known in Japanese Budo as jitsu (‘techniques’), corresponds to the the survival instinct embedded in human beings as a living species. Competitions and demonstrations correspond to the part of a man’s nature that wants recognition from others of his  personal achievements and attributes. Finally, the third aspect of martial arts called do (‘way’) is linked to human development, quest for the meaning of life, acquisition of spiritual values. In some schools all these aspects of martial arts are intertwined and inseparable; in others they are developed separately (only real combat techniques, only sports, only psycho-physical perfection).

To be continued.

‘Hard’ vs ‘soft’ martial arts – yin and yang

The world of martial arts is enormous. There exist different classifications of MA in order to group them according to certain key criteria. Thus, martial arts can be distinguished according to the national characteristics – Japanese karate-do, Korean taekwon-do, Chinese gun-fu, etc. Another popular way of classification is based on the technical and tactical features: martial arts based on throwing techniques (ju-jutsu, judo, sumo, aikido) and those based on striking techniques (karate-do, taekwon-do, wushu, gun-fu). This second type of classification is also known as “hard vs. soft” martial arts.

I have been lucky to practice marital disciplines from both schools (taekwon-do and aikido). Although I haven’t reached a black belt yet in either of these, I’ve made several observations on the interaction between “hard and soft” which I hope will be useful to other practitioners.

To give a quick intro, taekwon-do literally means “the way of the foot and the fist”. This is a typical striking martial art using both kicks and punches while focusing on the elaborate kicks.

Aikido literally means the way of the harmony (peace) and focuses on using the opponent’s energy in the forms of throws, joint locks, grabs, etc. without using any offensive techniques such as strikes.

Mt first observation is that the ‘hard vs. soft’ distinction is quite relative. It is true that a taekwon-do yop chagi (side kick) or dwit chagi (back kick) can be devastating and even deadly. Yet there are also dozens of blocks that serve as defensive techniques without any harmful intent.

Similarly, irimi nage or kaiten nage in aikido may appear as soft harmless throws at first glance. Yet any of aikido throws can be done with sufficient energy to knock down the opponent completely. Not to mention various painful holds that are not ‘soft’ at all :). 

So both marital arts are not absolutely fixed in their boundaries – hard can become soft, and soft can become hard. My understanding is that how well one can feel this transition point is defined by how good a master he or she is.

The second observation follows from the first one. Soft does not mean weaker than hard. As already mentioned, aikido throws can be extremely powerful and even devastating if performed with that intention. “Soft and hard” refer to different types of working with energy. In taekwon-do or any other ‘hard’ martial art you give your energy (strike) in order to win over an opponent. In contrast, in aikido or any other ‘soft’ martial art you receive the energy from your opponent and turn it against himself. So in practice you don’t have to be as physically strong in aikido than in taekwon-do, for example, as you don’t need force do deliver a punch or a kick. In aikido you rather blend with the opponent using his own energy to defeat him.   

Last but not least, practicing MA of different types is potentially very beneficial as it allows you to make a synthesis of soft and hard, thus making you a more effective fighter. In this regard, I liked how one aikidoka whom I met (who also practices karate by the way) referred to the two disciplines as yin and yang, male and female (male obviously for ‘hard’ karate and female for ‘softer’ aikido’).

This makes all the more sense considering that we are entering a new epoch where synthesis becomes a key feature of the brave new world.

To make conclusion, practicing both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ MA opens up horizons, brings new technical and tactical insights, and gives much more joy and pleasure in the learning curve.

Happy trainings everyone!

A Martial Artist’s Dilemma

There is a common conception in the martial arts world. It goes something like this.

“Never misuse your knowledge. Always avoid a confrontation when possible. The best fight is the one that never happened”.

Back in the 5th century BC Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general and strategist, summarized this in his classical work “The Art of War” as follows: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

I totally agree that a strong and confident person will never show off his skills. Moreover, strong people are kind people (but not the other way around). But here is a puzzle I am facing after having practiced martial arts for five years now.

If I assume MA make a student stronger, faster, more technical and agile, and so on, isn’t a fight the best prove of this? In other words, is a fight situation not best for testing your knowledge?

Many will respond this is what competitions are for – testing you fight skills and spirit with an unknown opponent. This is true to a certain degree. However, all competitions are very far from real street conflicts.

First, the competition rooms normally have enough space, light, good surface, protection gear and cheer up teams.

What would you do though in a one-to-one confrontation in a dark small street? Would you perform worse, better, or the same? With no one around, shoes and clothes making it more difficult to move, possibility of a weapon coming up, and adrenaline boiling in your veins?

Second, even though competitions have an element of surprise (you don’t know your opponent), this is a way far from a real life-threatening encounter outside the training room.

Last but not least, some martial arts, like aikido for instance, do not have have competitions at all.

Does this all mean a martial arts student try to turn any potential conflict situation into a fight?

Certainly not, Besides, the more your train, the lest conflict situations you encounter, either in personal or professional life.

I have had to use my taekwon-do knowledge only once, defending against an adult drunkard on an evening tram in Budapest. That experience brought me lots of inspiration and confidence. At the same time, I think, that’s when the seeds of the Dilemma started to grow in my mind.

At the moment I don’t know how to resolve this puzzle. I only hope that with further training I will have a better vision how to match the desire to have a life physical encounter experience and the need to control yourself and stay out of trouble.

I guess my position at this stage is this. Try to avoid any potential fight as hard as possible. Don’t take unsafe routes. Try to talk it down if a conflict starts heating up. Give away your money if your are threatened with a gun. Yet when the need comes, when your life is under thereat and may finish off stupidly, when there a family behind your back, or your girlfriend, or anyone you love and care about, you must not hesitate and give a decent answer to an aggressor.

Stay safe!