Martial Arts are a way of Life, no matter their origins, their focus, their techniques. At their core, they are – heroically and with grace – brimming with precious words of wisdom. . .ones which transcend all temporal confines.
That everything begins, and ends, with respect is not relegated to the Arts, but to Life, our relationships, our interactions, and ourselves.
To maintain respect in the face of adversity and calm alike is at the heart of being a warrior. . .and a solid human being. Like integrity and honesty it is a key pillar of a fulfilled, happy, and healthy Life.
The 7-5-3 code is essentially an amalgamation of ancient principles, heavily influenced (and beginning with) the heroic, notoriously stringent way of life – or Bushido – of the Samurai. The moral codes and principles by which these fierce warriors lived continues to guide many modern-day Martial Artists, whether taken as the 7-5-3, or in segments. The values within, however, can apply to all people in all walks of life – they are scarcely relegated to the Arts and I daresay the world would be a better place would that we all followed suit. . .
The 7-5-3 Code as a sum total purportedly originates with the Valente Brothers, three generations (same family) of Jiu-Jitsu practitioners who have learned from Grand Master Helio Gracie directly. Though I am a practitioner of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu myself, I confess that I’d not heard much about the family prior. That said, each of these points are ones which have been at the core of the five Martial Arts I have practiced (Hapkido, Taekwondo, Ninpo, Japanese Ju-Jutsu, Brazilian JiuJitsu (some Kumdo in addition)) in one way or another – they provide the framework and foundation not only for us as Martial Artists, but again as human beings.
7 Virtues Of a Warrior
- Politeness / Propriety
- Honesty / Sincerity
These seven virtues relate to the way in which we interact with one another, on the mats, or off, whether with training partners, strangers, coworkers, husbands, wives… For the Samurai, there was an intense focus on how one conducts oneself, the values to which one would ferociously adhere, and the overarching respect and appreciate of life in all circumstances, with all people. The maintenance of moral integrity was at the heart of the code, strengthened further by honest, and loyal conduct. The Samurai were infamous for their fearlessness, and though known for their strength in battle, they asserted a level of compassion and kindness towards fellow man.
5 Keys To Health
- Rational Nutrition
- Sensible Exercise
- Efficient Rest
- Proper Hygiene
- Positive Attitude
The five keys to health are incredibly important for everyone, particularly the modern-day Martial Arts practitioner or athlete. Without the proper fuel, our bodies will not function at their best. Without rest, and a positive attitude irregardless of the circumstances, we cannot meet the challenges with our full capabilities. Hygiene is an incredibly important point not only for our own health, but out of respect for our fellow training partners. And sensible exercise requires that we push ourselves in a healthy way, knowing our limits, respecting our bodies, and backing off when necessary (often much harder said than achieved when dealing with athletic minds!)
3 States Of Mind
- Zanshin – Awareness, Alertness, Preparedness
- Mushin – No or Clear Mind
- Fudoshin – Emotional Balance
The three states of mind are the principles by which to guide our personal, inner relationship. These states not only preside over our physical bodies, but are at the core of the Arts which we practice – in some cases they feel like elusive, impossible concepts, but they are the endpoints to which we strive. In fact one of them was at the heart of Hatsumi Sensei’s Ninpo theme this year!
Zanshin requires that we are always alert enough to accurately assess our surroundings, relying heavily on our muscle memories – this is where the hard training, and meticulous repetition comes into play. Mushin, a key theme among the Ninja for 2017, is, in essence, the ability to clear the mind of all techniques, to flow with the opponent’s movement, and to create. Fudoshin is the emotional balance which we all endeavor to reach – with the turbulence of life, this balance fluctuates, tipping the scales to one end of the spectrum, and perhaps back to the other. It takes hard work and self-reflection to achieve this balance, but the goal is ever-present.
Taking It Together
These 15 principles are – for all intents and purpose – ancient ones. They are neither novel, nor particularly difficult to understand. But to achieve these 15 singularly, or particularly in harmony, is a skill in and of itself – the pursuit of these virtues is a noble one, and gives a structure to Martial Arts practices, but also to life. These are the foundations on which we can build our relationships with ourselves and others, on which we can build our strength of body and mind, and the principles that govern our mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being.
Every aspect of life is a journey and I suppose that’s the fun of it – nothing remains static and we always have the opportunity to grown and learn. As we get older we are often bombarded with the idea that we have to be young, have to portray that image, or that it is simply too late. None of that is true – there is so much beauty in getting older, and it is absolutely never – ever – too late to try, learn, do something new…especially when that “something” makes your soul glow or your heart beat.
I spent a long time in industries that I was, perhaps, “meant”…but not “destined”…for. While life ebbs and flows, and is indeed rife with ah-ha moments along the way, I’ve realized that I just had a monumental epiphany. And that’s not only okay, but amazing…
I didn’t question my work in fashion – I’d loved so many aspects of the industry from early childhood that it made sense that I was heading that direction. No matter we all thought I was primarily left-brained, I was incredibly drawn to the arts, performing sports, to fashion, to photography, makeup artistry – they were worlds so colorful and captivating that I sort of just “knew” that’s the broad arena in which I’d eventually land. That said, my pedigree was – finally – to the contrary. I did a double major in International Business and Marketing, not exactly the design and creative background required for a position in Product Development. But, what I lacked in typical education, I made up for with enthusiasm and a no-bullshit work ethic.
I suppose throughout it all, I always had a feeling that something was missing – I didn’t have a name for the sensation, nor did I know exactly what, specifically, was absent. I’ve always wanted to do more, be more, achieve more, so I believe I attributed the growing hollowness to that.
But, it wasn’t.
The truth is, life for me is vastly more magical than it isn’t – I will always strive to be better each day, in every aspect of my life, and I will always have goals and aspirations. So that sense of still seeking fulfillment might be there…but after having had more recent revelations, I’m willing to bet it will die down a bit.
I began working with children on a whim many years ago as an instructor in Karate – I wanted to get out of my home town (not to escape an increasingly prosaic routine, but to evade one person, of all things) and this amazing gift, so aptly timed, just fell into my lap. I initially contacted the Sensei in effort to learn new Arts – my background was in the Korean Arts of Hapkido and Taekwondo. Despite my lack of knowledge (or experience) in his Japanese styles, he welcomed me warmly, and with sincere enthusiasm. In seeing my passion for Martial Arts in general, and, I imagine, my personality, he encouraged me to stick around and teach. Game changer.
I realized at that moment both the responsibility I was given, and that I was in the unbelievably fortunate position to offer inspiration to these children. You never know when such moments of motivation and revelation may occur. Knowing that I could provide a strong role model, not only by means of a physically active body, but emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, was a gift to be valued.
I was, and still am, more of the disciplinarian – it is incredibly important to me that the children enjoy their time at the Dojo (why bother otherwise?!) But it is also a place in which we discuss and learn core values – how to treat one another, the meaning of respect, responsibility, healthy living, honesty, courage, integrity… It isn’t just about how we control our own bodies and space, but how we affect others around us in a physical way, and beyond. Our attitude matters. In some cases, we are reinforcing what is taught at home. In others, however, we are providing a framework and structure that they child is not exposed to elsewhere – a framework that hopefully will help them blossom and embrace life fully, challenges notwithstanding.
I’ve continued working with children in Martial Arts simply because I love to do it – I appreciate the opportunity to instill positive values, to encourage and nudge potential, to lead by example, and to help the children develop important life skills. Along the way, however – and frankly I don’t even recall the impetus – I began to look into working with Special Needs children. The opportunities for children with disabilities is far less, and as a huge proponent of physical fitness, I realized I needed to be out there helping kids who are often denied the chance.
By some great fortune there is a volunteer organization in my state that offers the kinds of hands-on activities I was looking for – they serve children with varying disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome, ADHD, apraxia, and others. None is so severe on the spectrum that they must reside in full-time facilities, but depending on the child, there might be some aggression, or major athleticism (as in, the “runners” who are hard to keep at one’s side!) For me, though, that’s the fun of it – each child is different, and with my background in Martial Arts training and instructing, I feel very comfortable taking on the toughies.
My time with these children has been relegated to my 39th year of life (and some of my 38th) – my path managed to diverge rather drastically in some way, but I feel suddenly so much more aligned. While it is not currently my profession to work with children with disabilities, I have made it my mission to find ways to help. I have purchased several books to begin self-educating myself, and have reached out to others in the field whom I know are both honest and passionate. It is in so many ways the beginning of a new journey for me, but life has a way of doing that…
Life presents us with opportunities along the way if only we remain open to them. When we listen to what our hearts are truly saying in between the beats, we allow a magic we may not have known existed the opportunity to unfold. The gifts you will receive will be priceless…
Little things make me so happy…like the victory my school won in getting a sweatshirt with their name on it. The overarching brand generally doesn’t allow it, but I think we – the students – asked enough collectively that our instructor was finally heard by the powers that be.
We all have a sense of pride surrounding the quality of training, instruction, and of students who attend, so in a way this is like a show of support to sport the hoodie. For a Martial Arts school, you always hope that’s the case – the friendships forged there are meaningful because you are in the thick of it together. Even if you don’t hang out with everyone all the time, you know you can count on mutual respect and feedback when in the dojo. Since it isn’t ALWAYS the case, it’s a special thing to find that kind of environment. And as a result…wearing our name out an about puts a huge smile on my face. 🙂
More Martial Arts fun!