The way of the Martial Arts can be a tremendous vehicle for the realization of our human potential, but only if it is recognized as a practice, and not merely something to practice. More than merely a sport, the practice of Martial Arts is a discipline, which means it’s about the walking of the Path, that is to say it is about effort, but not necessarily the kind of gritting your teeth effort most assume.

The effort a Martial Artist applies must be focused first and foremost on creating the conditions that will end conflict and allow positive outcomes and states to arise. Being strong and healthy in mind, body and spirit, supports the daily effort of being mindful, useful, and ultimately successful, but what about when you’re not currently strong and healthy, like when you haven’t started training, or when you have had to stop for an injury or illness?

Anyone who claims to walk the path knows that it is always under construction. Challenges along the path, rather than being things to avoid, can actually be seen as tests or lessons that allow you to ‘level up’. In a world fixated on immediate gratification, being able to generate or maintain your effort before the positive outcomes or states arise may seem like a monumental task, but it’s one that is critical to take on if those states are ever to appear.

At times the challenges of life make it seem as if you are sliding inexorably towards a difficult state. In such situations a Martial Artist must learn to act in ways to avoid that difficult state from arising. As an example, winter, by it’s nature, often presents challenges to maintaining good physical, mental and spiritual health, but by proactively engaging in a new routine like going to the gym a few times a week, you can diffuse the problem before it even arrives.

However, there are times where, in spite of our best efforts, we end up in a difficult state. To get out, your effort must be focused detaching and taking stock. This will effectively allow you to let go of what is holding you back so that you can take more positive actions that will lead you towards the more positive outcomes you desire.

A Martial Artist is always trying to end the conflict in life. Whether that conflict is inter-personal, intra-personal, or merely situational, the effort required to resolve the conflict often merely involves being aware of the conditions that are creating it. Rather than pushing away or succumbing to these conditions, this awareness can help us to take the steps that will lead toward better states.

Sensei Richard Verlaan