I saw this creep across my facebook feed yesterday.
I was sitting in a coffee shop. I turned down the volume all the way, and watched it.
I shared it almost immediately. My comment, “Awesome.”
It wasn’t until I got home that I heard the music. My wife had seen it on my feed. We wathed it together in the kitchen. Still awesome.
If you know me, you know that I am into the martial arts. I’m not a martial artist. They follow a more direct route. They either pick the art, or the art picks them. Then they practice. Attend class. Be humble. Practice more.
Endure bruises. Stick with it through those embarassing moments in the beginning where everything feels awkward. Stick with it, even after you feel like you get it. Because you probably don’t. And then one day, you get it.
That is the ideal path. It wasn’t my path, though.
Here are the footnotes.
I had a karate childhood, an Aikido college life, a modern wushu young adulthood. Again with the karate dabbling. Again with the aikido attempts – different style this time. Then judo. (yuck).
After that? Southern Praying Mantis, where I let my roots grow for about three years, before real life got in the way.
Then yang tai chi at an expensive place in Center City. Then another yang tai chi class, this time in Roxborough.
A smattering of Atienza kali followed by a short, sharp dose of Genbukan Budo Taijutsu… Capoeira… I think that’s it. Now I’m practicing Hsing Yi, which I like and will stick with for as long as I can. But like I said before, sometimes life gets in the way.
I like the martial arts. I think I will always practice the martial arts. But I’m not a martial artist. I’m something different.
I’ve often wondered what I was looking for. Between those styles I practiced Bikram yoga for some time. Then life got in the way. I also practiced the congas… which isn’t martial at all, but still seemed to get a lot of the same synapses firing… then, you know, life got in the way.
What was I looking for? Fighting ability? Hmmm. I’m 42. I haven’t gotten into a fight since high school. Providing our world doesn’t turn into an apolyptic distopia tomorrow, I think I’m okay. And if I did, I’d lament all of that time and money spent in various training studios and dojos, which could have been spent on bullets, guns and target practice. Give me that 40 year old Remington Wingmaster 12 gauge, a handful of shells and 40 hours of range time and I’ll take down any black belt; especially the zombie ones.
I wasn’t in search of tactical superiority. I was looking for the ritual. Something deep down in my DNA thirsted for the rites of passage of my ancestors. If I couldn’t kill a lion like the massai, maybe I could earn a black belt.
I wanted to be that kid, practicing the rain dance on a sandy circle in my backyard. So I practiced anything and everything that I could get my hands on. And I’m not the only one. How many kids joined gangs because they wanted to belong to something; anything? How many compromised themselves. Put themselves at risk, even if it was just for a moment, or a night? When they were really looking for something much deeper.
Ritual is revolution, if you do it right. If you lose yourself in it, and allow it to take you beyond where anyone else can touch you, you’ve exercised a power that makes nations tremble. Seriously. You might not be able to summon wolves or spirit totems, but if you can find peace during those moments when the world is trying its best to shake you to your foundation, then you’re pretty formidable. Even if you don’t know it.