What is a warrior as it applies to martial arts? I’ve pondered this question in various ways for the last 35 years of my martial training. I would like to share my concept of what that is, based on my life experience.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “warrior” (derived from the French were: “to war”) as one of two possibilities: “1. A fighter. Someone who takes part in or is experienced in war. 2. Somebody who takes part in a struggle or conflict.”
Having studied with a Shaolin master for 10 years, I felt he helped me understand the first definition: he wanted warriors able to handle conflict, and yet at the same time I felt he was trying to teach us a deeper definition. My study with a Taoist teacher really clarified for me what that is. And for me — yes, a warrior is somebody who takes part in war or conflict — but for myself and the vast majority of Kung Fu students, our lives are that war or conflict. There is no more difficult opponent than ourselves and our lives as we see them.
So to be a warrior is to engage in the struggle of life, whatever that battle may be. To be a warrior is to search, grow and learn techniques to resolve the conflict inherent in living. I am reminded at this point of the words of the old Hsing I master, Wang Ji Wu, who said, “All of the struggles in my life are to teach me the Kung Fu of living.”
I have come to realize that all the things I have learned in Kung Fu (whether they be physical, mental or spiritual) are ways to have the warrior attitude of meeting and resolving conflict in as beneficial a way as possible. Now I understand the reason for all the repetitions, struggle, pain, joy, decades of stance training, developing a personal philosophy, positive attitude, etc. These things leave behind indications of what we have become just like a warrior bears his physical scars. These intangible things create (among others) personal power, strength of character, spiritual and energetic presence.
Warriorship to me has nothing to do with what style you study or how good you are physically, but how well you can resolve those conflicts in as beneficial a way as possible, and acquire the Kung Fu of living.