I have always loved being part of the haidong gumdo martial arts community. One of the things that fascinates me is the dual nature of martial arts.
The outer nature shows up in our relationship with our martial arts community. There are, of course, a relative handful of people who have the natural talent and drive to train to great levels on their own with little or no formal instruction, but for most of us the really successful path to our best as martial artists is one that we walk together. We have instructors who not only show us the information but demonstrate the do, the proper way of practice and lifestyle, for us to follow. We have three flavors of fellow students: those senior to us who offer us encouragement and guidance that they gained as they walked the steps we currently struggle with, our fellows in skill and training who spur us on through fellowship and friendly competition that shows us we are not alone in our training seasons, and our juniors who provide us a chance to serve by example and encouragement because we have been exactly where they are.
The inner journey takes us to places where no teacher, mentor, partner, or student can assist us. The path is invisible, although others can and do see the fruits of this path. This is the path of mudo, warrior spirit, and self-discipline. No one else can keep us frozen in place during drills as we wait as ready as we can be to instantly respond to the next command. If we attend classes by the greatest of teachers, but we lack the focus to hear their words, see their actions, and ponder what they entrust to us then all of that time and money will be for nothing. Even the physical aspects of real training can belong to this inner journey: frequently no one is there to see or care about hundreds or thousands of repetitions of a technique or a form done away from the dojang’s friendly audience. Just like the mental aspects of the inner journey, no one can do the repetition, the memorization, or the refinement for us. We can only do them ourselves, and ultimately we can only succeed in them because we have the mudo to prepare for the more public times.
As a martial artist, and lately an instructor, I find myself watching for the times when the inner and outer journey come together. It is easy to see when they are apart, when a willing student struggles with instruction or community or when a willing community just can’t seem to motivate a practitioner no matter what their potential. For most of the time the successes, when community, instruction, motivation, and discipline resonate together are harder to see. They are quieter, but when they happen it is a golden and wonderful thing for both aspects of the journey. The community can be there to celebrate the student’s (and we are all students) achievement, and the student can feel the rewards of advancement in skill or even just self-respect that discipline has earned.
There were many such golden moments in our recent regional gathering. That is one of the reasons why we get together and test in the first place. I was privileged to see the golden moments when instruction, community, and dedication come together this past month. Knowing the Midwest Haidong Gumdo community, I am excited and confident that I will be around to see many, many more.