I have been working with the concept of “what is a warrior” with one of my newer book projects. I have always been interested in the warrior lifestyle. I have studied various martial arts since the early 80s, and was interested much earlier than that but did not have a school to train at. My father was career military and I served four years, including two with the 82nd Airborne Div. and then as a sniper and then sniper instructor with the 2nd Infantry Div. Later I returned to Japan and Korea to further my studies. I continue to return to Asia on a regular basis to continue my studies and I teach and write now to share what I have learned with others. So that gives a very brief description of where I am coming from when it comes to being a warrior.
I guess one of the first things that I think about when reading arguments from people discussing the definition of a warrior is similar to what I think when reading about this history and politics of Hapkido, the primary art that I study and teach. While interesting, it is not the focus I am most interested in. When I practice Hapkido, I focus on what works, what I can do, what I can teach others to do, the benefits, etc. I don’t worry about the politics and convoluted history of the art, and I am not going to spend time arguing with people on the internet regarding those topics.
When it comes to being a warrior, you have the same types of disagreements and controversies. Who really is a warrior? What is a warrior? You will find many different answers, and I happen to agree with many of them, even those that seem diabolically opposed.
So what do I look at? Personally, I study to improve myself. I look for things I can incorporate into my life to make me better so that I can do more to help those I care about and those I help through my writing, DVDs, audios, etc. Just like you have to put your oxygen mask on first in a plane before you can then help others, I study and train first to make me better so that I can then help others.
When it comes to being a warrior, or the warrior ideals and lifestyle, I study the same way. What will make me better? I not only study and practice the physical skills of combat, including weapons, but other skills that fall within the warrior lifestyle. When a sniper in the military, these skills were a bit different from what I need today, but I still practice a variety of skills. However, I do not only study the physical skills of warriors, but also read, study, and apply other teachings.
I am a professional mediator these days along with other areas of law that I practice. So studying conflict resolution and applying these skills is an important part of my training. And because of my martial and military background, martial and military conflict resolution is part of who I am and how I do things. And it is not just boot to the head negotiations, even though from experience I know that the boot to the head method does have some validity in certain circumstances. But if you remember Bruce Lee’s art of fighting without fighting from “Enter the Dragon,” you have been exposed to Sun Tsu’s lesson about winning without fighting and realize why conflict resolution skills are important to those living the warrior lifestyle. A police officer or bouncer would much rather deescalate a situation nonviolently than have to resort to his or her physical training. For one, it’s less paperwork. So what’s the point? It shows that the way people use warrior philosophies, trainings, ideas will differ from person to person. The things I do today are much different from when I was in the military, but I still do things with a warrior influence. It is still part of who I am.
Bohdi Sanders, a friend of mine and author of “Warrior Wisdom,” defines a warrior as, “the term “warrior” is someone who has the ability and will to fight to protect himself, his friends, his family, and his ideals, and at the same time, seeks the perfection of his own character through a life lived with honor, integrity, and an unflinching dedication to what is right according to his own code of honor which has been refined from intensive study and meditation.”
I like Bohdi’s definition, just as I really like his blog and his first two books. I feel fortunate to have received an advanced copy of them, and I am currently reading the second volume, and am working on a foreword for it. I find that Bohdi’s readings and studies have taken him to many of the same texts I have studied. I recognize many of the quotes he posts. I also agree with much of his commentary on the quotes and references he writes about.
I believe the warrior ideal and warrior lifestyle is a powerful way to live. I also believe in determining your own mission of life, and structuring a personal code to live by. The codes used by warriors throughout history, right up to modern codes, are great models. Yes, I am aware of history, and I know some of the negative things done by warriors. Not all samurai lived up to the code that was written about. Some of the things done by samurai would be considered despicable by many today. However, I am not trying to imitate the samurai of yesteryear, I am borrowing the best of what the samurai passed on to incorporate into my own life, my own being, my own teachings of others. And I do not only study the samurai, but warriors from all walks of life. I borrow from the hwarang of ancient Korea, I borrow from Crazy Horse and other Native American warriors, I borrow from Admiral Yi Sun-Shin of Korea, I borrow from the Knights of Europe, I borrow from the ancient texts from China, I borrow from the lessons of General Patton and other military leaders, I borrow from all of these and many, many more.
I study these to incorporate into my lifestyle to make me a better person. Warrior teachings are not the only way to improve yourself, but for some, such as me, it is the path that makes the most sense. It is the path that feels most comfortable. It is the path that has always drawn me in, even at times when I was not living up to the warrior ideals I strive for and only using the physical trainings.
Having the ideal, the definition that Bohdi provides, is a powerful way to incorporate those traits into your own life and live more productively, and more important, more honorably. If you fully embrace the teachings of the warrior and live a life of exemplary honor and integrity among the other traits, you will be a much better person, and that is the importance of having an ideal to live up to, to adhere to, to pass on to others. Living to the warrior ideas can give a person strength to get up early to exercise; Strength to stand up to injustices, no matter what; Strength to do the right thing, even when no one is looking; Strength to endure hardships and continue on; Strength to live.
In this vein, anyone can be a warrior. Anyone can live up to the ideals that will make them better people. Many others teach how to live better through other means. Not everyone connects with the warrior model. But for those that do, it is powerful. It is invigorating; it is a way of living that for some of us is unparalleled.
Therefore, rather than worry about who is really a warrior. Why not take the teachings of those that came before us to better ourselves so that we can live more productive honorable lives and help others. That my friend is the mark of a true warrior.