The Warrior Within
The term warrior is really overrated in today's society. In fact, it is really out of place. As Yoda said in the movie Star Wars, "Wars make not one great." In fact, people confuse warrior to mean the same as a skilled fighter, an assassin, or some hot-tempered individual. The true meaning of warrior encompasses a great deal of knowledge, temperament, and other facets which take years to learn and must encompass a lot of discipline.
While it is true the warrior may have an ill temper with certain circumstances or situations, the warrior also knows at what point to breakaway from an actual fight. In The Art of War, there is a great deal of knowledge about the meaning of a true warrior. The Art of War is really a rare book and indeed very difficult to understand. Many individuals have actually misinterpreted and misused this great book for business purposes and practices. In fact, if you study the book and its origins, you will find that the book was designed after reading many other spiritually led writings such as the Tao, Zen, Buddhism, and other such books.
Renaissance Martial Arts: Rochester, New York
The best martial art school that I have ever attended, besides the very first one I attended, was in New York. Now, why is it that when I say New York, most people think New York City, and give me a sour face? New York is actually a very good place!
I am referencing Rochester New York, home of Renaissance Martial Arts. I must say, and without exaggeration, that Sifu Mark Cardona truly enjoyed what he taught, and he taught well. He had a quirky sense of humor which made everyone laugh and feel loved. But most of all, he is highly respected.
And then there's...me.
For one thing, I have not been known to respect very many people in such manner. As a matter of fact, in many ways, I think people are just people. However, Sifu Mark Cardona is a breed of another kind. It has been several years since I've been able to meet with and speak with him, and even now some of his internal training has surfaced and become a major part of my life.
In short, martial arts, or any type of fighting where we have to throw kicks and punches, is seen as just fighting. However, there is an internal discipline that comes with becoming this type of person.
I feel fortunate to have been there in Sifu Mark Cardona's early days as he has now become very successful in his knowledge and training of martial arts. You'd be doing me a favor by visiting his website and saying hello. (You can tell him The Novie sent you.) http://www.renmartialarts.com.
However, before great schools such as Renaissance Martial Arts, there were not so many well-practiced instructors able for training and teaching the correctness of the art. However, I must have gotten lucky.
At an early age, I was taken in by a master martial artist. As the story goes, I was about 13 when I was invited into what appeared to be a master of martial arts teaching from his basement. I and five others were requested to appear to the master within separate instances. Some people tell me this kind of thing can only happen in the movies, but I see it as an opportunity that was well worth taking seriously.
The first day I presented myself, there were only three people present. Those people were the master, the person that invited me, and myself. Let us be clear on this. There was no one else there but us three individuals. Looking back on it, this is a detail that meant something that few people catch. So, allow me to point out the mystery and decipher this code, as they say. If you were to run a business of teaching martial arts, you would most likely run it in the presence of other students so that you can observe the class of the teacher and the training techniques. You would also go during normal business hours. I went to these first classes expecting more students, during the business hours I was told, and there I was, only me and two other people. So you can see this was no average meeting. However, I was eager to learn.
I remember being there and standing underneath what seemed to be a speed bag. I noticed that there were some chips or indentations around the speed bag. At the time I didn't know what that meant. To my right stood the master instructor, and he was even shorter than I was. To my left was the person who invited me to attend. I looked around the basement and thought it to be rather shabby. A thin carpet that was pretty beaten up lay on the floor.
As I stood there to my right side, there was a wall of cement that someone had also put large planks of wood up. So it looked like a cement wall with a wooden wall standing right next to it. As my eyes looked towards the left-hand side, I felt a breeze come over my head suddenly. Almost instantaneously, the speed bag started making a great deal of noise. Startled, I quickly looked up, watching the speed bag strike against the sides of the wooden board holding it. What I found mostly strange was that the instructor who had been talking to me for quite a while was still talking and still standing in the same place. But I knew internally that he had kicked it just then, that quickly and that precisely. However, I could not verify it visually or audibly. I knew then that was the right place at the right time to learn martial arts, and that the person who kicked the speedbag was a great instructor.
I was then instructed to purchase a special padded uniform that would cover my face and hands. At first, I found this kind of uniform bothersome. After all, the traditional karate uniform didn't resemble any of this type of secrecy. Moreover, it was only me and four other students who wore this kind of uniform, while the rest of the class wore traditional karate uniforms. However, I assumed that the master instructor, the same man who hit the speed bag so many times right over my head, would reveal the reason. As it turned out, the master instructor gave classes on Sundays to what you would call the average people. During these times, me and the other four students would wear these cloaked uniforms. That is to say that during the times he was making a profit teaching traditional kung fu or karate, five of us would be helping the younger students, as well as the older students, learn the techniques.
I guess this seemed strange, but the master figured if we had the extra responsibility to teach others and learn what he taught us, this would speed up our learning. And it did...!
In fact, I remember one time I had not set one of the student's foot placement correctly. It needed to be at a 45° angle, and for some reason, I missed it that time. The master instructor walked over, corrected the foot of the student, then quickly spun around and kicked directly on my sternum. I remember my legs lifting off the ground and falling back about 6 feet. Falling on a cement floor does not feel good, even with that shabby thin carpet on it. He was definitely strict as he needed to be.
Part of the training was not to show too much expression of defeat or failure when being corrected. Understanding this, I dusted myself off, grabbed as much air as I could into my lungs, and returned where the student was without so much as a sound or making a gesture. I think I must've passed the test because he didn't hit me again. This may seem odd, but it did show me a great deal of discipline.
It was there that I was first introduced to meditation in a way that was very unique.
When the class was gone he began to teach the five of us different techniques in different styles. He would first fight us all to understand the disciplines and behaviors in our natural body mechanics. From there he created an entirely new program to build on so we could build on our strengths and enhance our weaknesses. This teaching technique would come in very handy in the future. However, much to my later surprise, I found that most people cannot learn unless they have a structure that they can follow from a logical pattern.
The meditation techniques my master taught us involved a great deal of concentrating thought. Looking back, it may have been possible that he understood who we really were.
None of us five students paid a single penny for our classes. However, a great promise was set that day. The master instructor requested only one thing. He requested of us - "Never fight out of anger. Always defend the weaker. Be a good person. That will be my payment."
I took these words very seriously and continued my training.
I distinctly remember that before these classes there was a friend of mine who was taking a Japanese hard soft style called Gojo Ryu. His name was Jay. I remember distinctly that he used to walk on fences with great stealth. One of the first times I saw him walking on the fence, he somersaulted from that fence, kicked me in the temple, rolled on the ground, and then stood up without even breaking a sweat. I must have had that headache for a week after that.
But that was before I was introduced to the master martial artist. Only six months later the instructor invited Jay, my temple kicking friend, to have a match with me. Now, normally matches go on for about three points. However, my instructor decided to allow us to spar for 13 points.
After only six months, it was amazing that I actually made Jay sweat.
I remember that the competition was on a Friday, and the following Sunday we all decided to go to a place called Indian Wells to go freshwater swimming. I saw Jay taking off his shirt and I noticed a lot of scratches on his white skin. At first, I thought for sure he had a fight with a cat or something. So I asked him if he had a fight with his cat. He looked at me, smirked, and simply said, "Stop kidding around! These marks are from the imprint of the soles of your shoes when you kicked me so many times."
Personally, I was impressed.