What does it mean to be a true warrior?
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…” At first, this statement seems strange and contrary to what most people think, when they hear the term “warrior.” How is it that the warrior is not someone who fights? Could it be that Sitting Bull didn’t really know what he was talking about? Was he really “qualified” to explain what being a real warrior means? Oh, wait, wasn’t he one of the warriors who defeated General Custer in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, known to the Sioux people as the Fight at Greasy Grass Creek?
Sitting Bull was one of the great warriors in one of the most well known battles fought on American soil; he must know something about warriorship. He was definitely not opposed to fighting for what he believed to be right, especially when left with no honorable alternatives. He was obviously a brave man who had the courage to meet his enemy face to face on the battlefield, as opposed to being a man who claimed that there is “never any reason for violence,” or that “violence never solved anything.” So what did this great warrior mean when he stated that, “Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights…?”
Basically, what Sitting Bull is saying is that fighting is not the only component or even the most important part of being a warrior. 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.
The warrior lifestyle involves much more than the ability to fight and defend yourself and those you love. It involves developing your character, living a life of honor and integrity, defending those who can’t defend themselves, taking care of the elderly and your family; in short, it involves service to others along with perfecting your character. Many people seem to get hung up on the literal definition of the term “warrior.” The literal definition, which can be found in most dictionaries, defines the term “warrior” as someone who is trained or experienced in warfare.
As far as the warrior lifestyle is concerned, this definition falls far short of being complete. Throughout history, when the term “warrior” has been used, it has carried with it a deeper meaning than simply “someone experienced in warfare.” Warriors have been revered for their character as much as their martial arts skills. The warrior was seen as a man of character, integrity and honor, not simply someone who knew how to fight, or who was experienced in fighting. It is true that the warrior should be skilled in the art of war or in the martial arts, but this is only a small part of being a true warrior.
Gichin Funakoshi stated that the ultimate goal of karate is the perfection of human character, not the perfection of one’s martial arts skills; this is basically the same thing that Sitting Bull was trying to teach us. Being a true warrior involves balance. The warrior strives for excellence in every part of his life, not only in developing his martial arts skills, but also in his everyday life. The warrior has to endeavor to perfect himself spiritually and mentally, as well as physically. While it is true that the martial arts play an important part in the life of the true warrior, the martial arts are only a part of the warrior’s life.
There are many other parts of the warrior’s life which must also be addressed if he is serious about living the warrior lifestyle. Character training is definitely an important part of being a warrior. Without character training, so-called “warriors” are nothing more than thugs, trained to fight, but with no knowledge of what is worth fighting for. To educate someone in the martial arts without regard to their character, is simply training a menace to society. The ancient martial arts masters knew this and refused to train those who they felt lacked the character and integrity needed to be given these dangerous skills.
Character was important to the masters of old and was taken into account before someone was trained. Today, the martial arts have become big business and anyone with enough money can obtain as much training as they want, no matter how poor their character may be. Are these people warriors simply because they have purchased years of training and know how to fight? Are gang members who know how to fight warriors? Well, if you go by the literal definition, your answer would have to be yes, but if you go by the definition that I use for the true warrior, the answer is definitely no.
My definition of a true warrior is someone who has the ability and will to fight to protect himself, his friends, his family, and his ideals, and at the same time, seeks the perfection of his own character through a life lived with honor, integrity, and an unflinching dedication to what is right according to his own code of ethics. The ability to fight is only a small part of this definition. The true warrior has to develop more than his martial arts skills. The qualities of the true warrior go much deeper than that.
Warriors should exhibit the best qualities among men. The true warrior makes a firm decision to try to perfect his character and to live by a strict code of ethics. His word is his honor. His duty stays fresh on his mind. He lives life a little more seriously than most, but at the same time lives life to its fullest. He sees through the veil of appearances covering most parts of this world, but does so without looking down on those who are less perceptive.
Family and friends are important to him, and they know that they can always count on him for protection and help in their times of need. He bases his decisions on his code of ethics, and he instinctively knows right from wrong, and chooses right. He knows that at times there is a difference between what is right and what is legal, and what is wrong and what is illegal. As Lao Tzu taught, “Highly evolved people have their own conscience as pure law.”
The true warrior is able to hold his head high with honor because he knows that he lives his life to the best of his ability, with honor and integrity. His code is ingrained in his spirit and is a part of his being. Warriors walk alone much of the time, as they prefer solitude to the company of lesser men. The warrior is a man who shoots for excellence in everything he does. These are the things which make someone a true warrior and the development of these traits leads to the warrior lifestyle. Bohdi Sanders ~ excerpt from WARRIOR: The Way of Warriorhood
You can find WARRIOR: The Way of Warriorhood and all my other books and teachings at The Wisdom Warrior Bookstore or on Amazon.com.
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