135- In Budo, No Man Is An Island: July 2016

A senior person in the ASU, Craig Eddy recently took his own life.  I did not know him, but know a good number of people in the ASU organization.  I feel their loss and look at what we do to find life lessons, solace and inspiration.  This blog is dedicated to his memory.

No man is an island,
No man stands alone,
Each man’s joy is joy to me,
Each man’s grief is my own.
We need one another,
So I will defend,
Each man as my brother,
Each man as my friend.
I saw the people gather,
I heard the music start,
The song that they were singing,
Is ringing in my heart.
No man is an island,
Way out in the blue,
We all look to the one above,
For our strength to renew.
When I help my brother,
Then I know that I,
Plant the seed of friendship,
That will never die.

Each of us has own on reason(s) for wanting to learn martial arts.  Those of us who look specifically at training in Budo, should step back and reflect on the real meaning and intention of Budo.  There are many things that claim to be Budo and simply are not.  Many people tend to look at the modern day gladiator contests, that are referred to as Mixed Martial Arts, as Budo and that is incorrect.  Many people who look at other martial arts that center on competition as Budo; that too, is incorrect.  Other people look at flashy exhibitions, commonly called Extreme Martial Arts as budo, which too, is incorrect.  There are fighting disciplines that also look to be considered as martial arts, and they too, do not fit the bill for Budo.
Budo in it’s essence is all about not fighting.  Budo is about being able to protect the ones that we love and care about in a manner that holds victory without fighting as the highest level of achievement.  I have written in previous blogs about the false illusions and fears that are used to sell budo-wanna-be’s so that the person can individually rise above the allegedly scary and dangerous world that he live in, while standing on top of those whom he had defeated.  In psychology, there is the basis of understanding that the world that we create inside of ourselves becomes reflected in the way in which we live our lives.  If we feel an underlying sense of fear and/or anger about our world, this becomes reflected in the nature of our relationships in our lives.  If we really have the fear of the enemy, we will create the conditions where we will view the enemy and then be in that battle to defeat the enemy in order to be “safe.”  Life is both precious and unpredictably too short.  Wasting our precious moments anticipating, preparing for, looking for and finding the battles with an enemy, is not worth it.  Rarely if ever, is a person’s world that dangerous.  Our fragility and temporal nature will never change and should be respected and used so as to appreciate the moment-to-moment gift of life.
Budo should not be mistaken for training for real wars.  When Japan ceased being a nation at war with itself, there were certain aspects of the warrior training that provided valuable benefits to people.  Learning certain skill sets (both mental and physical in nature), without having to learn to entire breadth of warrior training was enough to help people develop certain desirable personal changes, while providing certain skill sets that enabled a person to be able to defend one’s self under certain specific conditions.  This unique combination is a good defining characteristic of Budo.  If we take this position as a starting point, we can begin to see how ridiculous it becomes to try and determine the value of the particular style of Budo by unrealistic measures (how will this work in a cage…. how will this work in the dark….. will it work with zombies….).  The physical methods of self-defense should work within the predefined parameters that they were designed to address.  If the physical methods cannot work within those defined parameters, then legitimate questions to need to be asked and answered.  It is also pointless to teach a set of physical skill sets that make no attempt to create certain personal changes in the person.  The person should not carelessly and recklessly look to engage in acts of violence, because of a lack of profound appreciation of the value of life.  The person should be able to remain focused and measured during times of increasing stress.  The person should be able to make accurate actions, reactions and decisions under times of stress.  The person should be able to create and sustain a community worth loving and thereby worthy of protecti0n.  If the teachings do not help to create these changes, then legitimate questions need to be asked and answered.
Budo should help us to genuinely see the beauty in our daily live and appreciate/love those who make up the community in exist within.  This awareness of ourselves and how we are in our world should help us to make better choices to help foster a stronger and loving community.  The image of a person building up impenetrable walls is a sad one.  That person locks himself out from others in an attempt to assuage a sense of vulnerability.  That sense of vulnerability is critical to our Budo development.  The fragile, temporal nature of life should be the foundation for living well in the moment, loving life and having reasons to defend that life from real threat.
We all build up walls in our futile attempts to deal with our ultimate vulnerability.  Sometimes without knowing it, we put up the walls and lock ourselves out from the very people we have spent some many years with building this caring community.  No matter how perfect we try and make ourselves and our Budo, we remain imperfect and always vulnerable.  We can isolate ourselves amidst the world that we love and live in.  This can at times lead to irrational thoughts, feelings and actions.  The worst result of this is a person killing himself during a difficult time.  The person does not believe that he can be reached or helped and there is no point in going further.  Those of us left behind after that act of suicide are left hurt and angry.  No matter how much we tried to live up to the ideals of our Budo, it was not perfect and the love and protection that we sought to provide, could not be provided to the right person and the right time.
Death makes no discrimination and is the same end point regardless of how we choose to live our lives.  This ultimate fragility mixed in with the unpredictable nature of our temporal form, is a high level of awareness that Budo should enable us to strive for.  It is important to make the most out of the time we do have.  We should try and make a world with as little to fear and be angry about as possible.  Creating that loving community of like-minded people standing arm-in-arm becomes the best self-defense possible.  This is truly the ultimate victory without fighting.  We will always not live up to the ideals and our human imperfections will come out in ways that make others hurt, angry, anxious, sad, etc..  We can only do the best that we can do in all aspects of our lives.  Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others in moving forward.  We cannot change what has already happened regardless of how much regret we, have.
I hope that we all can take some reflective time (something many famous budoka were known to do regularly) and appreciate all that makes up our lives.  Hopefully we can take these reflections and greater a deeper sense of purpose in our training.  Budo can provide us with a valuable way to learn how to live a loving, meaningful life.  Hopefully, we will have chosen wisely on our Budo paths and that is being reflected in many wonderful relationships that we can look at when we gaze out a community that is worth our love and protection.
Marc Abrams Sensei

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