The Martial Artist

What do you bring to the Arena?

This is a crucial question. Most noble of you to choose your everyday life as a training ground, an Arena of sorts. But that is not enough. There are three components of being a martial artist, and we will use the movie Rocky to understand and explain them. These are: Value, Purpose, and Discipline. 

VALUE

When the surfing craze first began in Southern California, there was a young man who bolted a surfboard to the top of his car so that he would always look cool.  That is a shallow value where appearance is everything. Fit only for a person who has no thought that they might ever have to stand and deliver. That would be like a Roman of long ago, wearing a sword they can’t use, claiming to be a man of the arena. Can you see how this might not work out so well? 

We are going to use the movie Rocky to illustrate being a martial artist, and to provide the emotional power you need for this position. It would be good if you would see that movie again. In it you will come to a part where Rocky doubts he can win, but hopes he can go the distance. He strives to become the man who can meet that challenge. That is a Value. He didn’t have to try for that. 

Nobody expected Rocky to put up much of a fight against Apollo Creed, the heavy weight champion of the world. He was going to be paid regardless of his performance. He could have gone into the ring, sparred for a few rounds, joked around, and then walked off with his check. Instead his Value took over and drove him. 

Let’s really work this into the ground, for it is important. The pseudo-surfer we began with, has his one type of value. Rocky, driving himself to his own personal limits, to become the type of man who can go fifteen punishing rounds with the boxing champion of the world, is another type of Value. So having said all that, we come to the big question. 

What if the fight had been called off? Is Rocky a “nothing?” For our purposes Rocky became a “winner,” when his Value drove him to become the kind of man who could go the distance. Can you see that such a Value is a type of super power? 

Once you have it set within, you can go anywhere and have no inner confusion. When you are surrounded by the chattering class who are trying to convince all, including themselves, of their mental abilities, the hero is rock-solid. But there is a difficulty in obtaining this steel core. While values are a part of being human, they can only be brought forth by adversity. The hero to be must purposely choose and experience difficulty, and overcome it, to have a value system that will guide him across any arena. You read of this in novels and see it in all the better movies.

Rocky’s training sequences are as famous and more popular than the fight that followed. Luke Skywalker had to learn the ways of the Force and train with Yoda. Neo, in The Matrix, trained with Morpheus in Kung Fu.

 

PURPOSE

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” 

-Amelia Earhart

 

Value is something like water pressure in a hose. Purpose is how and where we aim the hose. Even now, as you are, you cheer on Rocky, Luke, and Neo. And the only reason is that they express a value we all share. But our purposes will be different. Just as the three movies are different. 

There are many who have no idea what their purpose is, and have never thought to ask themselves. There are two purposes to your life. The main purpose is transformation, we capitalize that like this, Purpose. The small purpose is a goal you have fixated on that will help you realize the larger one. For me, the small “p”, is writing this book. Let’s consider our caterpillar again. His Purpose is to become a butterfly, but this is incomprehensible to him now, so his purpose, small “p”, is to crawl upwards, then to find a leaf, then to weave a cocoon, and so forth. Rocky lives in a shithole; has little or no possessions but loves Adrian. How can he provide for her the way he is?  His Purpose, to become what he really is, is fueled by the small purposes of accepting the fight, training, and fighting Creed. He sets out working through his purposes and then is beset by self-doubt. He realizes how impossible it is for him to fight the heavy weight champion of the world. But then his deep Purpose comes through, and he says to Adrian, “If I can just go the fifteen rounds.”

 

Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

– and I say those that don’t, die inside. Those who search for meaning in some arrangement of words, are like those who can’t find their glasses while wearing them. And yet this so dismays them, that despite wealth and status, some commit suicide, others just die inside.

Sylvester Stallone, the creator of Rocky, was so broke he had to sell his dog for forty dollars, sleep for three weeks in a bus terminal, and do a soft core porn movie for $200.00, and still he refused to sell the script for Rocky, unless they let him play the role. Where does that kind of guts come from? It shines from his Purpose. This is his drive that is hard to name, but it gave us the script for Rocky. Rocky was a low budget movie with unknown actors that achieved incredible success. Why is that? The Matrix and Star Wars also became movie icons and their images and words came into the day to day language. Why? It is because these movies show the hero process, and strike a deep chord. 

Purpose is your transformation into the type of person who can accomplish the purposes. You become the type of person who can go the “fifteen rounds,” even if you never enter the ring. Thus, there is no, “winning or losing.” By eliminating such thoughts you gain immediate freedom and your level of performance goes way above what your history of training would justify. An entire book can be written on this, so I have recommended several. Read them later. For now, try and remember how you have felt in the past at such moments when thoughts of winning and losing, or how you appear, interfered with your performance. 

Such moments would include, giving a presentation, a desperate tennis or golf match, when you are sparring in a martial art. I recall being in such tournaments and being so charged with adrenaline that I could easily have gone fifteen rounds, but when I began the match, my level of performance was chocked by tension down to that of a beginner. It has taken me years to get through “winning and losing,” to pure Purpose.

Don’t let a small purpose fixate you away from your main Purpose. If you do, you will be a cluster fuck. You will bobble your actions and have emotional reactions that cloud your progress. For example, we are driven by our value to become the man who can go the distance. We can use any activity to accomplish this, but suppose we are using tennis, and it is our serve, and we have one fault. Double fault and we lose the game. Most would compromise that serve and be more careful, but we give it all we have. We are playing a different “game,” then our opponent, and to compromise, to think, is to lose it. I don’t play golf, but the same mental framework applies. We play the little game, the one with a score, to train ourselves for the Arena.

Your “play” should be such so that there is no difference between your practice, and your arena performance. I have screwed this up so many times in karate. My practice sparring reaches a certain level, but when I was younger, and went to a tournament, the adrenaline would fill me and I would blast on in to a solid “loss.”  Not only did I lose the match, but the larger game as well. Now, older, I resolve before each match not to attempt any points, but my body takes over and performs flawlessly. Such a wonderful feeling. 

For Rocky becoming the type of man who could enter the arena [there’s that word again] and go the fifteen rounds was his success, that was his Purpose, with a capitol “P”, the fight was his purpose with a small “p”. What kind of dismal life would it have been for Rocky, to never have become what he really was? Do you not often see this about you? People who never trained, who never gave anything their all, and instead slouch into a life so boring they eventually die from it. 

When you see Rocky again, recall what we have just discussed. Feel Rocky’s Purpose, and his purpose. Then feel your own.

Do not fear for lack of energy. Just as the caterpillar and Rocky are driven from within, so too will you be. The feeling of getting better, of expressing your own Purpose, will dominate your life. 

 

This is the pursuit of excellence, superiority, of igniting and fueling something inside you that has been held down for so long you came to believe it was the wrong part of you. Once Rocky gets his purpose he starts to run through the streets, punch beef carcasses, and do extreme training. Luke in Star Wars does the same with Yoda, and Neo with Morpheus in The Matrix

 Once you begin using the mnemonic, your progress feels so good, it feeds upon itself. Improving is fun. If you don’t exercise on a regular basis, you may wonder at those who do. It’s not work. It’s transformation. For the caterpillar to become a butterfly requires a soul deep effort, but I assure you they love what they are doing.

 

DISCIPLINE

“I could only achieve success in my life through self-discipline, and I applied it until my wish and my will became one.” Nikola Tesla

“Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward.” Napoleon Hill

The movie Rocky demonstrates discipline. We see him before and after his commitment to fight Apollo Creed. So far in Rocky we have seen how he is clumsy with Adrian, he’s been kicked out of his gym locker, he has nothing, he feels like nothing, and then he accepts the job of fighting the world champion.  Before, he went to the gym, boxed, but after he accept the challenge, he gets very serious. He gets up early, mixes up the raw eggs, and then goes running in the streets.  Rocky knows what kind of a beating he is signing up for. Agreeing to fight the heavy weight champion of the world is the kind of decision that will shrink your asshole and cause the fear rat to eat at your gut. If you have ever trained for any athletic contest, you can identify somewhat, but signing up to have yourself pounded by hard, fast punches adds to it. You know you are signing up for a world of hurt.

Why not think, “Hey, I might get a lucky punch in.” or imagine, “Yo! I’m just gonna go the distance.” Thinking that he can do it on will power alone. Or he might just plan to go into the ring for the money, back off and be defensive as much as possible, go into a clinch every chance he gets, and just wait for a chance to take a fall and stay down. Instead he decides to give it his best shot. As we have said, his Value and Purpose force this upon him. He knows that if he stepped into the ring at that moment with Creed, he would be obliterated. He knows he must become the man to face the challenge. What does he need?

He needs the training that only discipline can provide. There is something in Rocky, that deep quality, that values what he is, over what he has, so he doesn’t just fake the fight and collect the money. And this value gives rise to purpose. The deep purpose is of course transformation, the goal that helps toward it is fighting Apollo Creed. The vital third ingredient is Discipline.

And this Rocky displays. He controls his diet, trains every day, pushes himself into pain. And you see and hear this in the movie. This effort is discipline defined for you. When you think on it, you can hear the Rocky training music; see him running through the streets, and expressing his triumph when he gets to the top of those stairs. This training and discipline are so much a part of the movie, that it would fail without that segment.  Just imagine that the training segment of Rocky were removed or reduced ninety percent. See that in your mind’s eye. He agrees to fight, a few training scenes , and then it cuts to the ring with Rocky and Creed facing off. That would be a nothing movie, and without discipline you will have a nothing life.

How do you get it? And have you had difficulty with it so far? Perhaps that might be because you are pursuing a false purpose [small p], rather than you major Purpose. Or your Value might be hidden from you by a fog of words and the meaningless opinions of “intellectuals.” Again, I have to repeat that Value, Purpose, and Discipline are not just words, but deep parts of your being. And this is why you like those movies we discussed. They are not words, but part of the process of being human, which is why the myths and legends of all peoples refer to them. That is why those myths ring true with you. Look inside, find these characteristics, and develop them. We are going to develop Discipline as part of our program. It will take only will and intent. You will not be fighting or engaging in combat. But if you do, what you learn here will serve you well. 

 

 

 

What if there were a single sentence, just nine words, that said, believed, and acted upon, would change your life for the better? I will tell them shortly, and I want you write them down in your Journal, and then think about them.  Because they will produce a big change in your life. If I had to summarize this entire book into nine words, these would do fine. 

They would be the metaphorical equivalent of the Red Pill in The Matrix, just not as fast acting, but just as powerful. If you recall Neo in The Matrix is having something of a comprehendible life, he meets Morpheus, takes the Red Pill, and then is vomited from the “normal” worldview into one that is completely different. Without all the cinematic drama, this will do the same for you. As you make this sentence your own, it will shift your worldview, and alter your paradigms. 

Here it is: 

             “IT’S WHAT YOU ARE, NOT WHAT YOU HAVE.”

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Miyamoto Musashi "There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself."