Fighting Spirit. The most important and overlooked aspect of your survival training.
I’ve often said that, for me, training in the Bujinkan Dojo is not training to win, but it is training for survival.
In the martial arts community as a whole, there is much debate about what art has the best, most realistic martial training. I think this is a bit short sighted. People are all wired differently, different arts will naturally attract different people, deal with it, you don’t have the best art for all people, if you’re smart you train in the art that is best for you. So getting to my point, I believe that the strength of your fighting spirit is vastly more important than what art you train in.
So let’s define fighting spirit: Noun: “courage and determination expressed in a willingness to fight or struggle.” is the definition found in the English Dictionary.
This, I think is a good basic definition. I would add for us as martial artists: When faced with a survival or combat situation, there is no other option in our mind but to survive, there is no giving up, no quitting, I will do whatever it takes to survive and protect those in my care. To quote a talking mouse from “Narnia – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” “While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.” This is a great example of someone (or mouse) who has a very great fighting spirit. His goal set (to reach Aslan’s Country in the far east), there is nothing that will stop him from reaching it, if all options to sail or swim are taken away from him, he will sink with his nose pointing to the east. This is the kind of fighting spirit needed to survive.
So we’ve established a satisfactory definition for Fighting Spirit. Now how do we cultivate it, and what can we do to keep it?
Cultivating a strong fighting spirit: This is pretty straight forward. How do we get better at anything? We practice. Set goals for yourself and achieve them. One really great goal for a martial artist is, just to go to training on a regular basis, it’s really strange, but i’ve noticed over the years, the best martial artists that I know are the ones who are always in the dojo (that was sarcasm for those of you who don’t get it). Learn not to be discouraged over temporary setbacks, if a goal is worth setting, then it will not be easy to attain. Survival in a real life and death situation, will not be easy. Again for the martial artist, how you train is very important. When practicing a technique, you must take it seriously, imagine situations where you might need to use this technique, visualize your survival. Cement in your mind, you WILL survive, you will do whatever is necessary to survive and protect those under your care. This is very simplistic, it’s very hard to put into words the feelings that must be internalized, to develop a strong fighting spirit. So we will move on.
Keeping a strong fighting spirit: Don’t let other people steal your fighting spirit. A negative attitude is a certain way to lose your strong fighting spirit. If you have people around you who are in a constant state of negativity, get as far away as possible. Negative people will drag you down to their level. Negativity by it’s nature will suck the strength out of you.
Worry is another big killer of fighting spirit. Worry (or anxiety) is well known as a cause of high blood pressure, depression and numerous other physical problems. Most of us spend most of our lives worrying about things that we have absolutely no control over. You really only need to worry about things that you actually have control over. Examine the things that you worry about, if you don’t have any control over them, let it go. It helps me to think that I have a circle of influence around me. Anything that touches my circle, I have a right and sometimes an obligation of “worry” about them. if it’s outside of my circle of influence, there is no point in worrying about it. Again, most of the time people spend the majority of their time worrying about the things outside of their circle of influence and not enough time worrying about the things inside their circle.
Good health and fitness are another great way to keep your fighting spirit in tact. Again depression is a destroyer of your fighting spirit. Depression can be both a cause and symptom of bad health and fitness. This is another great reason to get to the dojo on a regular basis.
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” – Heraclitus
I have known some great technicians in the martial arts that would not last a minute in a true combat situation, and I have known people who have never trained in any martial art that would probably not only survive but triumph in a true combat situation. When the two things combine in one person (true technical skill and strong fighting spirit) then, I think, you have the one true warrior referred to in the quote above by Heraclitus.
Thanks for reading. JM