Why do we train with such dedication? Well, for one thing, it’s fun; got to have fun! Beyond that, for very serious To-Shin Do students and teachers this is a life style. It’s a healthy life style for mind, body and spirit. To my mind there is a component to this life style choice that informs and shapes the nature of our training and indeed who we become as a result of our training.
I believe the cultivation of compassion for all living things, including ourselves (not as easy as one might think), is an inherent part of the To-Shin Do (the way of the heart and the sword) life path. In my nearly six decades of walking around the planet I have seen more than enough senseless violence and needless bloodshed. The last thing this already-troubled world needs is more violence. This is one reason why To-Shin Do training does not include contest violence. To-Shin Do training is not about who can be temporarily designated and celebrated as the “best fighter.”
We train ultimately to improve ourselves; our minds, our bodies, our life and health management skills, and the ways in which we engage the world. In this way we can have a brighter life experience, and in so doing we improve the parts of the world we live in and interact with. There are many paths to this end. Because we have chosen the way of martial arts we train physically and psychologically to be prepared to manage successfully any event in which the universe has placed us in harms way. For example, when a confused and misguided individual is intent on doing harm to ourselves or loved ones.
In such a case I have heard proponents of peace suggest that they would turn the other cheek. This phrase, which can be traced to Jesus’s sermon on the mount, is not a mandate to passively endure physical abuse or mortal danger. The intent was more of an injunction against retaliation against affronts to the ego as opposed to protecting oneself from physical harm. In other words, when non-violence is an option it is always the best option.
My sense is that those who are too quick to invoke this “turn the other cheek” doctrine as a credo for the enlightened pacifist may be demonstrating the absence of having a choice. That is why I believe it is the wise and seasoned warrior who grasps the breadth and depth of personal empowerment in choosing peace from a position of power. When one has the power to easily vanquish an adversary yet chooses compassion, understanding, and non-violence as a course of action, this is choosing peace from a position of power. This sense of enlightened personal power is ultimately, I believe, what captures the hearts and minds of die hard practitioners of our way of the heart and sword.