Monday, January 7, 2013

The strength not to use strength

We live in a culture of strength. Everywhere you look strength is lauded. Its in our societal thought space  "Only the strong survive"  is an unspoken accepted "truth." In this month of resolutions most of the ads are geared towards get fit, get healthy. Underlying that is... be strong.  I am reminded of the ads in the comic books when I was younger. Where Charles Atlas would help the 98lb weakling become a paragon of strength. No I'm not really that old but I used to collect very old comics.

We have a tendency to shun weakness, real or perceived.
 So the real question is- What is strength? Webster states that strength is:the quality or state of being strong, capacity for exertion or endurance, the power to resist force, power of resisting attack. Is this really strength? 

In the dojo there are several manifestations of strength. The strength to crank out numerous push ups is one. The strength to hit the makiwara over and over never wavering is another. How about the strength to come to class when every cell in your body is telling you to stay home? The strength to face that senior who is going to hit you. The strength to face that junior you have to hit? The strength to drill kata over and over until it is hardwired into your body and you are physically and mentally exhausted. These may not be the socially accepted definitions of strength but they are examples of it nonetheless.

You see its not all about physical strength. What happens when you become older and physical strength is no longer a factor? Or when you are the senior (in age and rank) facing that 18-20 yr old at the height of his physical prowess? It is as these times that we must have the strength not to use strength.  For while being physically strong is certainly an asset, In training it is not the goal but rather a side effect.

The strength that is required in the dojo is more holistic. You need to be strong in every aspect of your being not just physically. I have faced behemoths that towered over me and handled them with relative ease because of their dependency on physical strength. Likewise I have faced my Shihan who weighs in at about 128 lbs and stands an entire five feet two inches and have been dismantled by him on a regular basis. So its not the physicality of strength. Mental fortitude is as important as physical strength. Precise techniques give that physical strength a vehicle for expression. Spiritual strength underlies it all.

So the next time you view someone as weak, take a moment to truly evaluate if that person is weak. If it is in the dojo it may be that they are so strong that they appear to be weak, for only the truly strong can be gentle.  
Outside the dojo the same applies. Those who are truly strong may not appear to be so at first glance- look again.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

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