Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Budo Should Enhance Your Life, Not Replace It

Patrick Parker is the proprietor of the Mokuren Dojo in Magnolia, Mississippi as well as the Mokuren Dojo Blog, one of the most widely read martial arts related blogs on the internet. Mr Parker studies, teaches and practices his budo in a quiet corner of the state and has built up something I think is quite noteworthy. He is also rumored to be the nephew of Mary Parker.

Some years back, Rick-san asked me to write a guest article about how our martial arts practice changes with the seasons here in southwest Mississippi.  I ended up talking about that and a bunch more.  Now Rick-san has flattered me again by sending me a note saying that he thought I’d totally nailed the art of NOT letting my martial arts dominate my life in an unhealthy way.

I thought that was funny, because for the first 20 or so years of my martial arts career I was a total fanatic dojo nerd!  I lived and breathed karate and aikido and judo and I only hung around with people who were likewise fanatical.

But over time I saw some of my instructors make puzzling decisions about their martial arts careers.  
My first karate teacher got married and stopped karate cold turkey.  It was like one day she flipped a switch and she no longer did karate (I think she thought she intimidated her husband).  I thought that was odd for a couple of reasons and I pondered that deep in my heart.

Then a few years later, one of my aikido teachers told me, “I have a religion and aikido ain’t it.” Soon after that, she retired and turned the dojo over to some of her students.  It was not too much longer until another of my aikido instructors got busy with his job and his participation dwindled down to nothing.  I was still in my fanatic stage and I couldn’t comprehend how someone could do aikido for years, then decide not to.

Then recently, just before he died, Karl Geis told me that something he liked about me was that he knew I would be able to, “do it (martial arts) while it’s fun and when it was not fun anymore, stop.”  I didn’t know what he was talking about because obviously I was in it for the duration.  Crazy old man!

But here was a long progression of great teachers all showing and telling me the same thing.  And it was the same thing that sensei have been telling their students since the days of Ueshiba and Kano and Funakoshi (probably even farther back) It was this -

Martial arts should enhance your life and help you to make a better society. Martial arts should not rule your life. Martial arts should be therapeutic, not harmful, to the practitioner and to society.

Bruce Lee, in Tao of Jeet Kune Do, said that the goal of all martial arts is for their practitioner to master the art of living fully (thriving instead of surviving).  I bet if I did some searching I could find a great master in whatever lineage you prefer that has said the same thing.

Fast forward to now, and Rick-san sends me a note about how great I am at not being a dojo nerd.  I still find it funny because a lot of times I feel like a dojo failure because of my inability to put more time and energy into my arts.

I understand what’s happening psychologically.  It is a fanatic perfectionism that is spoiling my enjoyment of my art.  I still haven’t beaten this creeping perfectionism though.  I still want the be the great master with the perfect students and the beautiful dojo on the top of the mountain.

With all that said I love my full, active, and satisfying life outside the dojo.  Scouts, church, dancing, soccer, camping, hiking, and fishing are a few of the many activities that define the Parkers.  Which brings me to The New Thing!

For more than a decade I have had one of the most popular martial arts blogs on the planet - Mokuren Dojo, but for quite a while I’ve been wanting to write to a wider audience about a wider set of topics.  So my family is doing a new thing (in addition to - not instead of Mokuren Dojo and martial arts).

My wife and I have started a new blog called Roaming Parkers – so that we could make even more new friends and talk about things like hiking and conservation and travel and ecology and camping and sustainability and adventure – as well as martial arts!

Please join us over there at whenever you’re not reading Rick’s magnificent Cook Ding’s Kitchen blog!

(and BTW, isn't much easier to understand and remember than ?!?!?! ;-)

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