When I first conceived what it was to be a Jedi, I included a martial element to what I thought the path should entail. Some of this was part of my background before setting forth to become a Jedi. I was a black belt martial artist and instructor. Before that, I was heavily into the warrior archetype in Celtic spirituality. I worked very hard at my martial prowess and put in a lot of thought as to what being a warrior meant.
During these explorations of warriorship, the most important lesson I probably learned is that warrior is not trained to crush and destroy, but rather to be a protector. Nearly all martial traditions were created with the protection of life in mind, though ironically this often meant completely destroying those that would do harm. As my training developed, I learned of the concept of compassionate wrath. Where one can exercise wrath without attachment to violence or distorted by strong emotion, to prevent a greater harm that would result from inaction. Compassion at times drives us to do things which are protective in nature, although it may result in the harm of another sentient being. But like I said this happens when the inevitable potential for greater harm is there unless it is stopped – and sometimes stopped forcibly.
I will admit in my more reckless adventure-seeking early days, I trained in the hope that I could maybe someday use my martial prowess to do some heroic shit. It was an appealing fantasy to be a warrior for a just cause laying low those that would do harm and evil. Perhaps thankfully that day never came. I only once have had to use my training in an actual self-defense situation (never mind the occasion ever arising to defend others) and that training diffused the fight instead of me exercising some amazing martial technique, I used the teachings of Aikido to prevent a cocked fist from ever unloading on me. I think this may be a common fantasy to use martial technique in a righteous cause especially for those of us who like to style ourselves “warriors”. The Force had a different plan for this warrior, however.
As little as 2 or 3 years ago I was still training in martial traditions, and I loved sword fighting. There was a time when I would practice and spar with padded swords every weekend much further in the past than that, but every once and a while, I would grab my cache of padded sparring weapons and teach and train in local (and not so local) parks. With my past in Celtic spirituality warriorship, and within the Jedi community the ability to fight with a sword and swords, in general, hold a special place in our path. I was enthusiastic about sword fighting and sword technique. I saw sword fighting as a craft that can connect us to our ancestors and the martial traditions of our world’s pasts. While the practicality of sword fighting is not something that will be put to use in our culture, working with swords can teach you a great many things that have applications in the so-called “real world”. I only go into so much detail so that you, dear reader understands what comes next.
Very recently I have developed a very serious and chronic illness, where my immune system has attacked my body and it has resulted in things such as weakness in my muscles and lung disease decreasing the function of my lungs and making strenuous activity dangerous if not impossible. I had so much pride in my martial skill, and now it is a challenge to have a daily walk as a means of tending to my physical wellness training. I have struggled for more than a year now coming to terms that my career as a martial artist, that my career as a swordfighter is at an end. Put it has been made clear to me that there are more ways to be a warrior than playing with swords.
Sometimes it takes a long time for lessons to sink in. I knew that the role of a warrior was that of protection decades ago. But it took getting sick to realize we can still do the work of a warrior in ways that people do not associate with the archetype, or in ways that one is actually called a warrior but derisively. If you have the eyes to see, there are multitudes of people that need protecting and a multitude of ways to protect them. Martial prowess is a very narrow avenue for protection, and in decades of being a martial artist, I have never so much had an opportunity to use martial prowess to make this world a better place. If you think a warrior’s main tool is a sword or even fists, I fear you have missed the point. It is our mind, our spirit, our heart, and our will that will be employed in the protection of those that need protecting. The members of our society who are most vulnerable need your help. I am not saying there is no place for martial prowess in their protection, but there are many avenues that we can do right here, right now that does not involve smashing faces and cracking skulls. We still must train to be warriors not of arms but of action. We need to do the hard work of self-transformation to become a compassionate protector so that we may transform the world.