Ossus Library Index Non-Fiction Index

LIVING THE MARTIAL WAY

By by Forrest E. Morgan (1992, Barricade Books)

A guide to living life in harmony with a warrior nature.

 

 

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Read April 27th to May 8th, 2009  
    The author states that when trying out a new martial art, we should take what we need or want from it, and discard the rest. That is also true of this book. Although describes the process through which any person could become a true warrior, I think there are things he is missing.

From the examples the author gives, which is all I have to go on, I would say he is humorless, taking himself and everything around him way too seriously. Even warriors should get to have fun. I understand that the examples might even be exaggerated, casting him into a more serious light than he might have wanted, but he comes across as a spoilsport.

There is a message here, though, as to attain the heights the author describes is to know yourself the utmost possible, and that takes dedication. This is the kind of dedication that most people don't have, which is why he states that true warriors are few and far between. Still, most of what he says is common sense with a little extra packed in, and it gets you thinking that what he describes can certainly be done. I don't know if I would want to spend an entire day working nonstop with full focus, to the point of physical exhaustion, but I can see the rewards it entails.

The first part of the book describes how to be a good karateka, and how to develop martial arts to the fullest, something most people, myself included, never do. This assumes a person will thoroughly research the martial arts they want to perform, and fully explore what they wish to gain from it, their objectives. I think most people want to learn a bit of self-defense, get into shape, mentally and physically. Young people get thrown into it for the same reason, but chosen by their parents. This is how it happened to me. The author would argue that now, being a lot older than when I started karate, I should explore different arts. I would agree, except that it takes more courage and time than I have right now, to give it the effort it would require.

Still, I can do the exercise in reverse, looking at the doctrine and strategies that my dojo uses, to determine if and how it applies to me. To no great surprise, as this dojo helped shape me, it all fits perfectly. And the fact that my sensei loaned me this book shows that he is open to the ways described within. In fact, reading about the methods this author would ideally employ to get into shape and to become adept in the martial arts, I can see how some of it has worked itself into our dojo, and I found myself being inspired, too. That, I think, is the power of this book. How to inspire myself and others. His description of practice and practice, kata and sparring, and other techniques, highlights the well-balanced approach.

The second part of the book talks about honor. There are a lot of good concepts and stories given in this section, highlighting what the author believes to be honor. I never thought of honor and loyalty as belonging to my country, but I suppose it makes sense, especially coming from a military man. I am not exposed much to events outside my country, but a military man would be, especially an American one, and Americans are much more patriotic.

His sense of justice is also very American, meaning an eye for an eye, which is another way of saying revenge. While advocating this philosophy (witness his confrontation with the people throwing rocks at his brother-in-law), he does stress that all civil ways of resolving problems should be pursued first. But essentially, defending honor would be about justice, honesty and obligation. This is as opposed to saving face, which I would call pride, which is how they describe honor in most movies. Mr. Miyagi of Karate Kid II took the other extreme, in leaving Okinawa completely to avoid fighting. But sometimes it is required, as also shown in that movie.

In the third part of the book, he deals with various issues people might have coming from a society like ours, and trying to fit in with the Martial Way. I liked the way he described the Oriental Religions; in fact, it might have been my favorite part of the book. Using a religion as a philosophy, rather than for worshiping fits in with my views perfectly. A guide to life. The three eastern religions given here have a history that was completely unknown to me, and I was very happy to learn about them. It never even occurred to me that a Christian might have trouble with karate because of all the bowing, but now that the author has spelled it out, I can see how fundamentalists might view bowing as an act of worship. Does realizing that bowing is a form of respect, not worship, help?

The author's views on nutrition and exercise show that he is probably not as rigid in personality as he makes himself out to be. What he says is common sense. The last two chapters, however, give me pause. Saying that the warrior always holds himself distant from the general population implies that the warrior has to make happiness a sacrifice in his life, and I disagree. I doubt the author does this as much as he describes, but it can be a useful guide, in reminding us how some sorts of behavior can be bad for us in the long run. His definition of mastery also brings up some interesting points. I don't have a problem with the tradesman view of mastery, and wonder why it should be a problem applying it to martial arts, as well. Very few people are actual masters of anything these days. As was intended by the tone of the story, however, I did find the debate on lowering the title of master to fourth Dan to be rather stupid.

The writing style was generally very good. I found some of it too casual, like when he uses "well, ..." so often to start a sentence, as if he were dictating, rather than writing. But at other times, the style is a lot more formal. Except for the aforementioned wells, none of this bothered me, but it was noticable.

Overall, I think this book did an excellent job in describing what it set out to describe. In the first part, I was inspired into thinking a little deeper into my own martial arts. In the second part, it made me think about honor, and whether or not I agreed with the author. In general, I do, especially about fighting for pride versus actual honor. Justice and honesty are what separate the great people from the others. The conflict of obligation, such as to dishonorable people, shows how difficult this concept can be. Finally, the lifestyle choices showcased by the author to demonstrate an honorable life also made me think, and analyze what kind of life I actually live. Living each day as if it was my last, however, would mean never making any plans, which is what life is about. But as the author says, take what you need or want, and leave the rest.

That is good advice for this book. Fortunately, there is very little I would leave. Inspirational, is what I would call this book.

 
   

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