An Anthem for a Bleeding Nation
“Respond. Don’t React.”
It has been four days since the election, and most of our jaws have yet to lift off the floor in what has been the most stunning election in the history of this country. Protestors have begun gathering across a nation bleeding from its heart while dragging their disgust across the blood-soaked election floor in order to sling insults, cast blame, and reopen wounds that many thought had already healed. Others are reveling in the power of the masses for which they contributed to miraculously shaking the foundation of the most powerful country in the world. “How did this happen?” and “How did we get here?” are the questions reverberating across the globe.
Perhaps, we should focus on a different question instead.
"What needs to happen in order to heal this country and its people?"
One undeniable fact we need to acknowledge before answering any of these questions is that the people of this nation are suffering and have been for a very long time. Certainly, since the foundations of this country were laid, we have been fighting for the impossible by sacrificing our bodies, exploring our minds, and opening our hearts. Our determination for great change has, for centuries, been driven by our growing civil liberties and our patriotic poise that allows us to stand firmly on the elegant message delivered through our nation’s constitution. But, truth be told, when focus is drawn to the needs of a single group, all others are seemingly forgotten. And now, in this moment in time, an unexpected result has driven us to realize that “the forgotten” will now forever be known as “the remembered”. “The remembered”, who have waited for decades to find a single person, atypical or inexperienced as that person might be, who offers willingly to observe and listen to their collective needs, who sympathetically acknowledges their suffering, and who offers support through the promise of change.
Have the protesters in the streets ceased their shouting long enough to hear these voices as well? Have they listened and understood without blame or judgement for how this formerly-forgotten group of American citizens came to their decision for which they so heavily chant against? The voices of the protesters have been heard. And now, it is time to listen to the voices of the unheard, the voices of “the remembered”. And those left shouting, will be the first ones that everyone will forget about.
The people of this nation are suffering and have been for a very long time.
Perhaps "the remembered" are asking us all to do the following:
WE THE PEOPLE must not react. We must listen, understand, and provide support to each other through compassionate comradery.
WE THE PEOPLE must NO LONGER REACT through the deliverance of actions or words driven by hatred, disgust, or a sense of utter despair.
WE THE PEOPLE must RESPOND with effective action by first curbing our upset so we can listen openly to and fully comprehend the cause of suffering brought upon the citizens who live equally together among us. We must reach across the great divide that separates “Us” from “Them”. For if we do not, then this division will only spread further like a contagious disease we thought had once been cured but had only gone into remission. We must deliver a response that shows respect for the democratic process which defines how and why these States of America remain United.
We must reach across the great divide that separates “Us” from “Them”. For if we do not, then this division will only spread further like a contagious disease we thought had once been cured but had only gone into remission.
Regardless of whether you accept the results of this election or not, we must not give in to violent tendencies; we must not desecrate the relics of our great country of which our forefathers fought so hard to create and our ancestors fought so hard to protect; and we must not gloat for the sake of our own pleasure. For when we are defeated, we must humbly retreat, but not into the shadows. We must stand together, but not with our backs turned. We must listen to one another, but not without understanding. We must combine the “Us” with “Them”.
Have you heard about the historic event that happened during the first World War called the “Christmas Truce”? It is a beautiful story about British, French, and German soldiers declaring ceasefires and emerging from their trenches on Christmas Day in the midst of a devastating war so they could sing carols together, exchange gifts with one another, and join together in friendly and unforgotten soccer matches in the center of the battlefield before returning to their trenches to resume fighting against each other.
Today, we have an opportunity to write a different ending, or coda, to this similar tune. And this coda, when sung together, should remind us that we live together on the land of the free and the home of the brave. And when sung in harmony, we can resist changing the tune of our glorious anthem to sound as though we are living on the land of despair and the home of the suffering. So, let us choose to listen to each other's voices and understand where their power comes from so that our melodies can be joined together to bind the wounds of our nation’s bleeding heart. I for one, will be singing loudly with you, with my hand over mine.
Your fellow citizen,
The Secret to Martial Arts Mastery
Over the past almost 20 years, I have been part of the martial arts community training and teaching people from across the world. I have judged and competed in numerous tournaments where I returned home victoriously carrying the titles of U.S. Men's National Champion, U.S. Men's Internal Grand Champion, Black Belt Champion, as well as U.S.A. All-Taijiquan Grand Champion. I was even a competing team member on the U.S. Wushu Union National Team. I have taught martial arts and its philosophy at universities across the east coast, and several years ago I opened my own Acupuncture clinic, My Metro Medicine, offering Chinese Medical Therapy, Rehab, and Chinese Martial Arts instruction in order to help heal people and pass on an art form that has changed my life and which holds a strong position in modern medicine. Reflecting back, I am amazed at my accomplishments and proud to have honored my teacher and our martial arts ancestors.
My deepest learning, though, is one that will take a much longer period than a mere 20 years and is one which reminds me to not focus on the superficial level of my accomplishments I have just listed. Nor is it connected with the speed of my punches, the power of my kicks, or the number of black belt degrees I have been awarded over the years. This learning involves a study that reaches the depths of the individual which one could argue as being the soul of martial arts. A soul that only comes alive through the awakening of the martial artist. It is the study of "Wu De", or Martial Morality.
Martial Morality, or Martial Ethics, is a genuine lesson in altruism that commands a perfect blend of Daoist and Confucianist standards. The art of Martial Morality consists of two complimentary areas of practice; Morality of Deed and Morality of Mind. An understanding of the Morality of Deed is defined by one's ability to demonstrate the acts of Humility, Respect, Righteousness, Trust, and Loyalty while one's understanding of the Morality of Mind is defined by one's ability to embody and exhibit the Will, Endurance, Perseverance, Patience, and Courage necessary no matter the hardship. The virtue and honor found in a living illustration of this practice and way of being are truly a rare find.
Sadly, over the years and even now, I have witnessed countless disrespectful students, abusive teachers, and ignorant martial artists who have embellished in their own grandeur and who are only concerned with the reputation they have built and become attached to. Let it be known that reputation is nothing more than a tale of one person, within which exists the potential of transformation into an anecdote of distorted outcomes; a tale that could easily lack the essence of Martial Morality and be deemed as worthy and deserving of respect by the naive and untrained.
In martial arts, we have a saying, "Wu Lin Yi Jia"; translated literally as the "martial forest is one family". When you were a newborn baby, you were brought into the world and raised by a mother and/or father. In the martial arts world, your teacher is your father or mother who nurtures you, starting as a "newborn" martial artist, just as your own parent would, and your classmates are your older or younger brothers and sisters. This important and supportive group of people are considered to be your immediate Gong Fu (Kung Fu) Family. Even the teachers and students of other schools are considered to be a part of your (distant) Gong Fu Family. Everyone in your "martial forest" deserves to be treated with the same respect and honor of what could be called the tenets of Martial Morality.
Reputation is nothing more than a tale of one person, within which exists the potential of transformation into an anecdote of distorted outcomes.
So, if martial arts mastery has little to do with physical practice and more to do with mental and spiritual practice, then why perform the movements or exercises of martial arts at all? This is because by testing the limits of your body, you learn to control the limits of your mind. In turn, the limits of your spirit are revealed creating a three dimensional harmony of all that we are capable of as human beings.
In martial arts, one must perform the physical training to ensure the health and vitality of one's body. Also not to be forgotten is the practice and experimentation of breathing techniques as well as the training of one's ability to manifest and move the body's energy (Qi). Since the early developmental years of martial arts and Qigong, it was known that the first stage of training involved the regulation of the body followed by the breath, the emotional mind (Xin), the Qi, and ending with the spirit. If one does not complete each of these stages successfully, the skill of the person is considered "empty". Furthermore, if the practices of Martial Morality are not exhibited by the person even after mastering these five levels of regulation, this would also be considered "empty".
So, because of my accomplishments, am I a Master of Martial Arts?
I humbly announce that I am not.
In the end, this is not a question that any martial artist can answer on their own. It is determined by their own actions as well as their inactions. In my own respect, even though I have achieved much success in martial arts, I am always reminded by my martial arts family that I have only just peered through the surface into the uncharted depths of an art I hope to preserve. To close, I will leave you with one final martial arts teaching. "Shi Fu Ling Jin Men, Xiu Xing Zai Ge Ren". Translated into English, this means "the teacher opens the door, it is up to the student to walk through it."
So, the door to mastery has been opened. Now, will you cross the threshold?
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