The Battlefield

by Stephen LaBounty (2007-10-26)

Most of us were raised to believe that fighting should be the exception in our lives, a rare occurrence. It's not really true you know. From the first day of our lives, to the last we are in a battle. From morning to night, year to year we are faced with some sort of battle. You might be fighting something right now and you may not be as prepared as you think.

There are two types of opponents that we face daily. Our inner opponents and our outer opponents. Be it business, school, personal, family, they are there at the ready to do battle, and for us to be successful, we must eliminate or at least control them if we are to reach our goals. Lets examine some of these opponents . Anything "out there" standing between you and your peace, prosperity, and well-being is an outer opponent. People (whom the Martial Artist is mostly concerned with) and problems, tough situations, setbacks, crises, and difficult tasks are types of outer opponents. Powerful people, whether their power is justified or if we engender them with it, are part of this threat to our peace. But these outer adversaries can be ran from, temporarily anyway. It's the next opponent that is the most terrifying and the most dangerous. The Dragon.

I heard many years ago from one of my students who was describing one of his class mates, a senior to him, and the attitude this senior student was exhibiting towards the lower ranks. He explained it thusly: "he is fighting his inner dragons publicly, and wishes us to perish with him." I approached this senior student and asked him the problem, and surely he was fighting his whole self worth, his art, and his inability to pass the simplest of tests to be elevated in rank. Actually, he seemingly wanted to fail to reinforce his thoughts of worthlessness, because success meant that he was "given" the advancement and had not earned it. What a way to live, I thought, not recognizing my own battles of much the same thing. The dragons are powerful and unrelenting and often times, very hideous.

I read, some years later, some quotes from some masters of the sword. One, Tesshu a nineteenth century swordsman who said: "The real way of the sword is to be fearless when confronting our inner and outer enemies." How true this is, and it brought to mind SGM Parker's lesson of the "what ifs". What if I don't do well in the test? What if I get into a street fight and nothing works? What if I get seriously hurt doing the martial arts? And so on, and so on..

The basis of success in the martial arts is, and has always been relatively simple. When in battle making a decision and taking decisive action is paramount to winning and surviving. If you can't decide what to do, haven't practiced hard enough or long enough and are not taking action because of this, you're up against a powerful dragon. Negativism, laziness, self-doubt and procrastination are the biggest dragons in my opinion. Surely there are many more, but these must be worked on constantly to be overcome and once the doubts begin to creep into the psyche and are identified, the inner dragons must be attacked then, not later.

Make your own list of "Inner" and "Outer" dragons. Actually write them down. Begin overcoming them with strong and honest commitment to your desire to excel. Do not do "it" for anyone but you. Remove the ego from the mix and approach each workout and each battle with the same vigor that you would have if the result were victory in each and every battle, be it a simple thing like calling the phone company again for overcharging you, to survival of your persona, your esteem and your confidence.

The battlefield is a busy place and it can be tiresome. But being prepared for any battle brings a peace that is lasting and most importantly exudes longevity of peace.