Martial Way

Though I've studied many styles, originating from many countries and each having its own particular moves, style, weapons and strategy, they all, for the most part, share a basic underlying philosophy: self-mastery.

I think that is the draw I find most appealing in martial arts. Some may say I like fighting, or that I do it for self-defense purposes, or whatever, and certainly there is an element of truth in that, especially when I first started out, but as I've moved away from more "sport" and "external" styles, I've found much more challenge and satisfaction in the idea of applying my training towards mastering self. I think thats one of the biggest things I've been missing the last couple years.

We have discussed numerous life philosophies, whether religious based or secular in nature, various ideas on what is wrong or right, how to make the world a better place, what morality is the best to follow and so forth.... and in doing so, I've found myself questioning my own morality. What IS right and wrong? How do I love my neighbor? Is it realistic to expect me to put others first, just for the sake of it? What is the underlying discipline that guides my actions? What is my conscience built from and what honor code do I want to follow?

It's easy to let oneself go in life. I think especially so in Japan. Without Judeo-Chrisitan morality as a cultural standard and lacking an upbringing in the group-oriented discipline of Japan, it's pretty easy to do whatever you want and not worry too much about the consequences (at least externally). The problem though, is that eventually something in the back of your mind starts saying "Hey numbnuts, you're fucking up man" Now that may not happen to everyone, or even most people, but it is something I've found myself dealing with on occassion. There's a sort of detachment from this place. It's by nature a temporary situation, and while it is most certainly best to make the most of it, sometimes it's easy to just say "ahh.....fuck it" and maybe do something we normally wouldn't even try to get away with back home.

For me, that has been basically ongoing encounters with Yakuza. Now sure, I've had a few gangsta friends in my day, but I wouldn't just go up to some guys and start chatting away with em back home if they looked like they were obviously not law-abiding boy scouts, and yet somehow, I feel no apprehenshion whatsoever walking up to guys in jumpsuits over here and starting up a conversation. Now, I think about that the next day, and I ask my self "Dude, what the f$#% are you doing?!?!?" because in reality, they could definitely cause me a problem if they wanted to..... I'm usually alone, and they are usually in a big group, on their turf and I'm just a drunk gaijin, not a very smart idea.

An example: Osaka recontracting conference.

After a long night of dancing and drinking at "Troop" where EVERYBODY went, a couple of the saga boys and myself decided to head out and try to find a bar. Now I had gotten a little hungry before we left, so I stopped by the restaurant next to Troop for some yakiniku. In a certainly "happy" mood, I started chatting up with the girl behind the counter and asking if she knew any open bars in the area. Well as luck would have it, not only did she know a place but her friend was the bartender and she said to mention her by name.... Excellent! That couldn't have gone any better and she drew me a map to boot.

So finally the other two guys, who might have been Cormac and Ollie, come out of the club and I suggest we head over to the next bar. Agreed that the night must go on, we head out. Only problem: the map is written in nasty kanji that none of us have any hope of reading. Solution? Ask for directions!

So who are the only people out and about at 4am? You guessed, dressed all in shiny white jump suits and sunglasses and tattooed head to toe were 4 yakuza right in front of me. Pardon me gentlemen might you know the way to this establishment? (NO this is not the tone i used) I should also mention the 4th member of their group was actually laying on the ground passed out. It appears their "leader" fellow thought that the only one who knew directions was the guy passed out on the ground, and he thought the best way to ask his friend would be to repeatedly kick him in the head until he woke up. Now at this point one would normally think, "um...yeah, maybe we should just ask somebody else", but perhaps sensing this, the leader asked to see the map again and asked me to follow him.

The other two guys stayed back to assist the poor fella on the ground to a cab, and I suddenly found myself walking down the street with this guy. Well, best to make friends quickly, so I did the ol' "arm over the shoulder let's get drunk" move but this seemed to irritate him. So I slapped him on the back and offered my shoulder: "Hit me" I said. "No,no,no" "Cmon man, f&#%n hit me" "no, no its ok" "man just hit me" ... "No"... alright don't hit me and that was the end of his hard looks and away we went arms over the shoulder..hahahaha Now this guy starts talkin to me, so I ask "where are you from?"
"nagoya" comes the reply "I am with the Snake Group" ,he says. "ooohhh.. excellent," I tell him, " i'm dragon" (WTF??)and we both laughed.

Now here's where it gets messy. As we walk along the street this guy starts asking people for directions. If they don't answer real fast and correctly he starts slappin em upside the head. These are just random people on the street mind you. Now its getting "real" and the spider sense is goin off just a little bit stronger. Finally he goes up to a cab driver, and this poor old guy, probably in his early 60's is shaking with fear. Man, I'm thinking, this needs to stop, please know where this place is old man, please, I'm sayin to myself. Luckily the old man pulled through and we found the bar a few yards away.

Okay, finally at the bar, no problem. So we sit down at the bar, a bar this guy has never been to, and the guy just starts pullin bottles off the bar and pouring me drinks!! I'm thinking hmmm, this is pretty fucked, but hey free drinks are cool, and yet my next thought was, free black russians are even better, which I tell my new friend is my preferred drink. So he orders the barteneder to make a few up and STARTS SLAMMING THEM DOWN LIKE SHOTS. People, friends, dear readers, when I tell you I can drink, I tell you this knowing that 99/100 times I will beat most anyone anywhere in a contest like that, but I have never seen anything like that in my life, EVER. Needless to say, a few minutes later, he was wasted wasted wasted. Making comments about needing to go get laid or whatever, he decided to head out. I called him a pussy for not stayin to drink and he gave me his card and told me to call if I ever need anything...right.

So my plan was to wait him out anyway and then pay for the drinks we had so as not to rip off the bartender, cuz thats not really my style. After a couple more hours and few more black russians I decided to head home and to my amazement the bartender WOULD NOT TAKE MY MONEY!!! and I mean I TRIED to pay this guy and we wouldn't let me...that's crazy.

Now this is only one of several similar stories, but I can't help but think looking back how lucky and stupid I was to be messing with those guys. It's like I forgot all my discipline, my code of honor, everything I learned from martial training and just let my self go for awhile. That's why I'm so glad to be back training again, not so I can beat the shit out of people, but so I can live the life I was trained to live, with the personal integrity and honor that I had begun to forget, so that when I get older and look back on my life I can say without hesitation, that I did in fact: Live the Martial Way.