What Makes A True Warrior?

What Makes A True Warrior?


Warriors are not what you think of as warriors.
The warrior is not someone who fights.
Chief Sitting Bull


There are a group of so-called “experts” (self-proclaimed experts I might add) in the world of martial arts/self-defense who constantly opine that being a warrior is nothing more than being paid to engage in war. This is such an ignorant point of view that one would think no one would take them seriously, but in fact, they have quite a large following. These “experts” publish books which proclaim their “expertise” in everything to do with violence and “real” self-defense. They slam traditional martial arts as outdated and useless on the streets. They mock the fact that honor, character and integrity play a major part in being a true warrior, and instead, insist that being a warrior is nothing more than taking orders on the battlefield.

While everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, no matter how asinine it may be, when someone has young, impressionable people reading and hanging on every word that he writes or speaks, he has a responsibility to the truth. The truth of the matter is that this definition of a warrior is shallow, opinionated, narrow, and, well, simply untrue. I know that this may offend many people, but the unvarnished truth usually does.

A master warrior is a man of character, a man of wisdom and insight.
Forrest E. Morgan

The truth is that what these people declare to be a warrior is one of three things: a soldier, a mercenary, or just plain a thug. A soldier takes orders and does exactly what he is told. That is his job. This does not make him or her a warrior. Don’t get me wrong, there are many true warriors who are soldiers. The military is packed full of true warriors, but this doesn’t mean that everyone in the military or who has been to war is a true warrior. I can show you of many examples of soldiers, who have gone to war and who are not true warriors.

Mercenaries are involved in war, killing, and battles of many kinds, but that doesn’t make them true warriors. In fact, I would argue that most mercenaries are far from being true warriors. They value money over life, and most will do whatever they are paid to do, as long as the money is right.

Is this the attitude of a true warrior? Not in my book, and not according to many people throughout history who were both involved in war and were also true warriors. Killing someone does not make you a warrior, it simply makes you someone who has killed another human being – period. These people have little if any honor or principles, both which are required to be a true warrior.

The man of principle never forgets what he is, because of what others are.
Baltasar Gracian

There are also many trained thugs out there. Some are on the battlefield, some are in the police departments, some are on the streets robbing people, and some are found in martial arts dojos. Just because someone is trained to fight, to use firearms, or to go to war, doesn’t make them a true warrior.

The people who write and teach the philosophy that a warrior is merely someone who engages in war, merely teach this train of thought because they can’t measure up to the real requirements which make someone a true warrior. Their character falls short, so they downplay the importance of such traits as honor and integrity.

Keep your distance from unvirtuous people.
Takuan Soho

If you study what true warriors have said on this issue throughout history, you will find that the men and women that commanded men and women on battlefields agree, being a true warrior requires much more than simply being involved in war. In fact, the vast majority of them will state that war has nothing to do with being a true warrior.

So what does make someone a true warrior? The answer lies much deeper than any battlefield. At the core of every true warrior you will find the traits of honor, integrity and justice. Yes, I know that the people that I described above will laugh and state that “being a warrior has nothing to do with character or honor.” They will shout that these traits have nothing to do with war or with the warrior, and will do so with the same enthusiasm that you hear in their voices when they pat themselves on the back for being so tough. But, they are wrong – period.

While it is true that the word did originate from the term “war,” and can mean someone who takes part or is experienced in warfare. This definition is not the one that should be used to define the true warrior, and is not an accurate definition for the warrior lifestyle. A better definition for a warrior is, “Somebody who takes part in a struggle or conflict.” No, this is not my definition; it actually comes from Webster’s dictionary.

The true warrior is engaged in a struggle and it is a daily fight. His battle is not necessarily on the battlefield, but rather a personal battle to perfect his character and to become a man of excellence in every area of his life. And, according to those who have “been there and done that,” being on the battlefield doesn’t make one a warrior. For someone to be a true warrior, he has to have honor and character. Without those traits, as well as others, he is simply a trained thug.

The true warrior is not a programmed killing machine, although he has the ability and the knowledge to render lethal applications of his skills if his duty requires such extreme actions. Though he is capable of rendering devastating injury to others, he never desires to do so. He is a man of peace and benevolence.

His training in the martial arts is strictly for defense. The warrior pursues knowledge in the art of self-defense and martial arts in order to keep himself and those around him safe, not for personal egotistical reasons.

Honor is central to warriorship.
Forrest E. Morgan

The great Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, once stated that, “Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights…” He goes on to explain himself saying, “The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity.”

This is what he was doing at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, fighting for those who needed his protection, and this is also a very good description of the true warrior and the warrior lifestyle. This takes much more than martial arts or military training. This takes character and honor, the exact things which some well-known authors proclaim have nothing to do with warriorship.

Character and honor are only two of the traits which are essential to the true warrior; there are many more. I will not list them all in this short article for the sake of space. The point is, being a true warrior is much more involved than these self-proclaimed experts would have people think.

Don’t believe the macho, “I’m tougher than you” BS that these authors, “experts” and lecturers assault people’s intelligence with on a regular basis. It is not true. Being a true warrior is a lifestyle choice, not a profession.

Hear all sides and you will be enlightened.
Hear one side, and you will be in the dark.
Wei Zheng

Bohdi Sanders
author of: The Warrior Wisdom Series and Modern Bushido

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