Self-Defense and Personal Growth

At my martial arts school and in my own training, my top goals and priorities are:

1. Health and Fitness

2. Self-Defense

3. Personal Growth and Discovery

The only reason I list self-defense above personal growth is that I think that the confidence and self-possession that comes from knowing how to defend your life and the life of loved ones  is in some ways a prerequisite for personal growth.   Insecurity and fear can keep us from pushing ourselves into unfamiliar emotional and intellectual territory (and perhaps even at times, geographic or social territory) that we need to visit in our quests of self-discovery.

Another path to personal spiritual growth is to overcome fear by  renouncing attachment to life and its treasures, to the body, and to all transient earthly pleasures.  If you no longer care, you will not suffer when it is lost.

I choose the first path.  I enjoy life.  I enjoy being passionate about things, experiencing powerful emotions, and I accept suffering as an important part of learning and maturing and an acceptable price to pay for the joy and wonder of life.

I do not scorn my body as being filthy, base or shameful. I embrace my animality and am grateful to be a part of the cycles of nature, of birth, growth, decline, death, and renewal.  I do not wish to try to place myself above nature.  I think that that attitude of superiority, often rooted in lofty (perhaps too lofty) goals of moral or ethical rectitude, can lead to alienation, pain, frustration and bitter destructiveness.

One very mundane aspect of training in self-defense for personal growth is that spiritual insight usually involves many years of work on oneself.  If you happen to be living in a particularly violent time and place in history, without self-defense training you might not live long enough to make significant gains along your spiritual path.

The same principle applies to exercise and nutrition for good health: most people really begin to make spiritual breakthroughs in their old age when they have earned the wisdom and wealth sufficient to support their metaphysical work.  You want to have as much time as possible to work on the great mysteries of the universe unencumbered by the distractions of disease and debility.

I welcome reader’s comments and questions to help me clarify and expand on these ideas.  I’ve no doubt that I’ve left plenty of room for misunderstanding of these thoughts, and I’ve no intention of insulting anyone’s cherished principles.

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~ by nolashaolin on December 15, 2008.

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