I had previously posted about Cameron Conaway (author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage Fighting Poet), a mixed martial artist and award winning poet. Mr. Conaway was kind enough to write this guest post for Cook Ding's Kitchen.
When I read this, the idea that resonated with me was that through a very different path, he's coming around to some of the ideas which animate the practice and ideals of Budo, not unlike Nick Evangelista's The Inner Game of Fencing. I also thought it was a timely post during the Lenten Challenge.
Mr. Conaway's website is right here. Please pay him a visit.
Fighting as Religion
Frank Shamrock and I discussed the issue of spirituality in the context of the martial arts.
“If I had to be categorized I’d be a secular humanist,” I said.
“Fighting is my religion,” he said.
His tone was measured. This was clearly a concept he had spent much time thinking about.
“Wherever I train is the temple – on the mats, in the bathroom brushing my teeth, it’s all keeping the body in check and this is all part of training.”
For the next few weeks this idea of fighting as religion swirled in my mind. Frank’s definition of training didn’t just include mat time or time at the gym. Even acts like brushing his teeth took on new dimensions. He wasn’t just brushing because we are supposed to, he was brushing because the health of the mouth is often a good indicator of the health of the body, because keeping the teeth in good shape will increase longevity and free up more time for training (no root canals, for example).
In this sense, fighting as religion would stick with us everywhere and be a constant source of good. Those nights where we just want to crawl in bed and sleep we wouldn’t – we’d have an extra incentive to brush our teeth first. It would make walking past a Dunkin’ Donuts stand that much easier. What once were minor daily habits would intensify and take on an importance similar to getting to the gym (something many of us martial artists value quite heavily). We’d strive to learn new languages or engage in deep conversations with friends, in part, because this would increase the health of our brain and fighting is a brainy activity. While the Gracie family have written detailed accounts of how fighting was/is their life, this concept of fighting as religion seemed at once different and more noble. Essentially, it wasn’t only about the fight competition or the sparring at the gym. Everything in life became a minor battle easily won. These easy victories and the overall tangible quality to each would make this religion of sustainability and rationality. Something that could be a positive force that changes our entire lives by not just changing the way we think about things, but making us think about things we normally wouldn’t have.
I am sure this is nothing new. In fact, I had this mindset when I was training for my own fights and I’m sure, for example, that judokas currently training for the 2012 Olympics in London have a similar mindset as well. However, now that I am retired from the fight game I’m interested in finding ways to still incorporate this mindset so that it is as feverishly sticky as it was when I had a huge fight coming up. In the end, I suppose it’s a matter of asking a question. What’s your fight?