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Edge of Training

There’s a Tom Cruise movie that came out in 2014 called Edge of Tomorrow. IMDb describes it as: A military officer is brought into an alien war against an extraterrestrial enemy who can reset the day and know the future. When this officer is enabled with the same power, he teams up with a Special Forces warrior to try and end the war.

I would describe it as Groundhog Day the movie with aliens. Tom Cruise is a marketing /pr specialist that angers a general and gets sent to the front to fight (which he is not good at), he kills, almost accidently, a time shifting alien, gets covered with its blood, dies, and then reawakens back at the day before over and over again until he becomes a warrior and learns how to save the world.

There’s a scene where he confronts Emily Blunt, the war heroin who is leading the battle against the aliens to find out what is happening to him.

Tom Cruise: “You do know what’s happening to me.”
Emily Blunt: “What happened to you happened to me. You hijacked their power.”
Tom Cruise: “How do I control it?”
Emily Blunt: “You have to die, everyday. Keep coming here and I’ll train you.”

When I saw that scene I had a moment of pause. It hit me that my training over nearly three decades was almost the same.

I have been privileged to be uke for some of the best martial artists in the world. Attacking for the likes of An-shu Stephen and Rumiko Hayes, my long time teacher and friend Mark Davis, and many of the instructors in Japan has caused me to virtually die tens of thousands of times.

Those deaths have taught me more than any victory I have ever had. They made my training real and separated it from the addictive allure of competitive success. Our art is not a sport or a game like much of what is being practiced today.

Don’t get me wrong; I understand the attraction of victory in a contest. I played college football at Boston University and at the same time competed in martial arts tournaments. The adrenaline, the drive, the controlled anger, and the feeling of success when victorious is almost drug like. You crave the next test of yourself, the next “battle” to feel that rush again. I get it, but it was not battle, it was a game.

I know the difference because at the same time I was competing I started working as a bouncer in some less than reputable establishments. There were fights, guns, knifes, fear, pain, injuries, bystanders, mistakes, saves, regrets and relief. When choice to enter the game is gone and you are left with the moment of danger that could include life and death it does not feel so good.

At those moments you just want to survive, you want the violence to end and that is what our art offers, a way to end violence. I’m not saying you have to go out and experience this violence like I did. I hope you never have to. What I am saying is that the lessons of our art are about life and death. They teach you how to find life and survive, not win games.

Anyone who has trained with me knows I enjoy training and we have fun when we train but beneath that I always remember that what we’re working on is for real life situations of danger. It keeps me on the edge, the edge of training.

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