The Myth and Reality of

by Stephen LaBounty (2007-09-25)
Elder Man face


I am often placed into a thoughtful state when I hear this word used about others or myself. I wonder if we have really examined the term and it's more modern usage when applied to the art of Kenpo, or any martial art. In today's society it's used as a reward to one who has survived the long years of training, risked much to propagate the system; a title taken by one's own design or given by one's sycophants looking to validate their own place in the art.

However, there are legitimate efforts by many martial artists to improve themselves externally as well as internally, continue to study not only their own weakness but also that of the system as a whole, and leave the design to history.

In my thinking, the word has several meanings. The first is "Hero" and comes from philosopher Joseph Campbell, who happens to be one of my favorite authors. In his explanation, a hero is "someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself". This is pretty dramatic. What I understand, partially anyway, is that in continuing along a path that originally might have been started out of fear, the student finds a larger meaning in his/her life that solidifies their place in the historical martial community as well as in their day-to-day living. Besides, any hero or heroic act is worth writing about since it gives us a vicarious feeling of achievement and experience.

Otto Rank said: "Everyone is a hero at birth", as we undergo a tremendous psychological and physiological transformation from being a little water creature in amniotic fluid to an air-breathing mammal which ultimately will be standing. To me this is still the way my martial journey feels. Yet, having said all of that, it reveals that there is a world of people who think their 'heroic' act in being born qualifies them for the respect of their entire community.

Secondly, I think the next meaning would be "Healer" which may be just paying attention to the resources of gratitude, acknowledgement, validation and love. There is a physical application to healer as well but it's necessary to understand that if you are not paying attention to the aforementioned you will not be open to being able to heal or guide.

Third, a term that has stuck with me since the 70's is "Visionary", coined by Dr. A. Arrien in her discourse on the connection with Nature and our place in it. Here it becomes a bit more difficult since the primary function of this archetype of Warrior is to tell the truth without blame or judgment. By being so inclined to be non-judgmental and truthful we will maintain our authenticity, and develop our intuition.

Fourth, it must be "Teacher". To pass on knowledge for use and improvement, we then are open and unattached and can recover and develop the human resources of wisdom and objectivity.

So, to summarize and bring in a future dialog to this simple missive, it is my belief that the following must be present to acquire the name of "Warrior":

You must show up and be present. No hero is such without engagement. Ask our soldiers how the "true" battle goes. It is not done in the safety of the training grounds. It is done complete with the noise, smell and horror. You must pay attention to what has meaning. Some schools are just in for the "glamour" not the reality of the training. These are persons who dole out creamy ideologies and have no stomach for the iron work that will lead them successfully to an actual situation. To them, Glamour Wins! You must tell the truth, especially to yourself. This doesn't mean that you abandon honor and respect or limits and boundaries. It means that you are in a professional and personal contract with yourself or your teacher/student. It means no treaty must be terminated without negotiation or honor. Again, this includes you as well. Children are the first to recognize this violation when they say to you "You broke your promise". You must truly instruct your self and others. This is the responsibility you have along with the discipline that makes you aware of the causes and effects of your actions taken or not taken. You must have the right use of your power without diminishing others right to empowerment, and raising your status within your own mind. Fair and just, integrity, virtue and law. Guidelines for the Teacher as well as the student.

This is but a scratch on the surface of a larger issue in the martial arts. I will leave you with a saying "Variety is the spice of life, but the death of ritual". Think about it.