This week, I would like to begin considering our six principles, beginning with the principle "Be Patient". As Grandmaster Han has repeatedly said, these principles have their source in the Bible. So, that is where we will look:
Patience is the opposite of quick temper and contrary to pride. The patient are humble, slow to anger, long-suffering, and self-controlled. The impatient are foolish and rash, quick to pick a fight, and easily offended. Patience is characterized by gentleness, loving-kindness, forbearance, and wisdom. A patient person is greater than a warrior, for while the warrior may conquer cities, the patient person has conquered himself.
Consider the famous duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro that took place in 1612 on Funashima island in Japan:
Kojiro was a retainer to the Hosokawa clan, while Musashi was a masterless samurai. On the day of the duel, many notable men accompanied Kojiro to Funashima, while Musashi traveled alone in a boat with simply a boatman.
Kojiro was famous for his legendary speed with the sword. It is said that he was able to draw, thrust, and return his sword in the blink of an eye. His pride was just as legendary. He even named his favorite sword.
Musashi was a master of strategy and, knowing of Kojiro’s pride in his sword, he carved a wooden sword (“bokken”) from the boat’s spare oar during the trip to the island. To further unnerve his opponent Musashi arrived three hours late to the duel.
The duel didn’t last too long. Kojiro, impatient from waiting so long, unsheathed his sword and tossed his scabbard aside. Musashi faced him with his carved bokken and said “You won’t need that anymore, you have already lost.”
After a long time simply facing each other in absolute stillness, Musashi positioned himself so that the sun was at his back and in Kojiro’s eyes. Then, after a brief burst of swordplay, Kojiro cut Musashi’s headband off while Musashi struck Kojiro’s head and cracked his skull.
This famous battle illustrates the value of patience and the folly of impatience. Mas Oyama, a Korean martial arts legend, gained his inspiration from Miyamoto Musashi. Of all the lessons he gained from him, perhaps his greatest lesson was self-control. At the heart of patience is self-control. Both patience and self-control are listed as fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
We would all do well to grow in patience. I encourage all of you to meditate on the Scriptures I provided above. Pray for patience. You will not need to wait long before your patience is tested.
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This principle is so important and yet so misunderstood. Although it appears second in my review of the six principles, we often say it first in our recitation. It is closely tied to patience. If patience has most to do with our attitude and temperament, politeness has most to do with our speech and communication.
David prayed to the LORD, "Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips" (Psalm 141:3). Why would this greatest of kings pray in this way? It is because the tongue is such a powerful and potentially dangerous member of our bodies. James writes,
Today, the tongue finds expression not only in what is said but also in what is written (e.g. emails, texts, social media). Therefore, the principle of politeness must cover both spoken and written communication.
Now, politeness is not the same thing as political correctness, nor is it apathy, nor silence in the face of error or wrongdoing. Polite communication has more to do with how something is said than what is said. The word "polite" is not found in Scripture, but the principle of courtesy and well-mannered speech, as defined by the dictionary, is captured in many passages of Scripture:
Being polite means refusing to use coarse and obscene language. Polite communication avoids shouting matches, email rants, and character assaults via social media. Politeness involves listening much more and speaking much less. Being polite means seriously considering the feelings and well-being of the other person. Being polite may often mean silence and choosing words with care, so that what is communicated both honors the Lord and edifies the other person.
People sometimes misunderstand politeness for weakness because the polite show a preference for gentleness over force. But as I showed how patience is stronger than impatience, politeness is wiser than coarseness.
I remember a scene from the movie "Enter the Dragon", where Bruce Lee was harassed by one of the competitors en route to Han's (no relation) island tournament. This competitor was the epitome of impoliteness. He was willing to break tournament rules, which strictly forbade competitors from fighting outside the tournament. He was forward and pushy and unwilling to respect Lee's refusal to fight. Finally, he demanded that Lee fight with him and demonstrate what he meant by "fighting without fighting".
Bruce Lee acquiesced and suggested they fight on a near-by island. As the competitor got into a row boat to go to the island, Lee pretended to get in with him but then released the boat to drift behind the ship. As the competitor in the little row boat struggled to keep from sinking, Lee commandeered the boat by an attached rope, then gave the rope to some crewmen, whom this competitor had been harassing earlier. Bruce Lee won this fight and demonstrated his way of fighting without fighting. (See video clip here: link)
To be impolite is to be irrational and unwise. Impoliteness shows a lack of self-control. Like impatience, impoliteness arises out of pride. Impoliteness tends to cloud real issues and incite defensive reactions. Impoliteness is incongruent with gracious speech. And like impatience, impoliteness can cloud wise judgment.
Our martial artists must always be polite, by which I mean considerate of others, gracious in communication, and careful to edify others and honor God with their words. Saying "yes sir" and "yes ma'am" is but the tip of the iceberg in regard to politeness. Being polite touches all aspect of our communication, and as words have the power to destroy, they also have the power to do great good. Being polite means that we wisely wield this weapon of words.
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This week, we consider the principle: "Be Alert". In Martial Arts parlance this principle seems most self-evident. In a fight, if you are not alert, you can receive a sudden and damaging hit. If you are not alert, you can miss an opportunity to deliver such a hit to your opponent. But this principle goes beyond blocking and striking in combat.
Consider the following Scriptures:
Being clear-headed is a prerequisite to being alert. If your mind is filled with anxiety, anger, fatigue, drunkenness, strong emotion, or addiction, you cannot be as alert as you ought to be. Just as a drunk or sleepy watchman cannot be effective, one cannot be alert without sobriety. Proper diet and proper rest are essential for the body to be alert. Prayer and meditation on God's Word is essential for the spirit, mind and heart to be alert.
Being alert means understanding the difference between what is important and what is insignificant. When a speeding train is about to run you over, you don't worry about the bothersome fly that has just landed on your nose. Thus, being alert means being focused. An alert listener can filter out excess noise to hear what is important. An alert businessman can see through marketing facade to grasp the true value of a business opportunity. An alert martial artist will not try to block everything the opponent throws but just enough to gain the advantage.
Notice that being alert is not without preparation. Being alert does not come automatically. In fact, just the opposite is true. We are prone to follow any and every distraction. Our media-rich culture precludes concentration, focus, and depth of understanding. Oftentimes, to learn to be alert, we have to turn off our media, get away from distractions, and even close our eyes.
To train this principle, I encourage you to simplify. What is most important? What is next important? And so on. Take time to find a quiet place, free from distractions, to meditate on these things. Remove any insignificant distraction. Focus. Don't try to do too many things at once. Give ample time to train your spirit and mind to focus on what's important. It may take days, months, or even years. Oftentimes, alertness in whatever discipline, including the martial arts, does not come without an ample investment of time and effort.
When I think about this principle, I am reminded of a classic Kung Fu movie from 1979 called "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin." In one of the final chambers, the Shaolin student learns to train his eyes to focus. He finds himself in a pitch black room. Two smoldering wicks appear just inches from his face. He has to follow a giant metronome with only his eyes. If he moves his face, he gets burned. I thought this clip might provide a nice visual to encourage you to train to be alert: link to video clip.
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considered now three principles: Be patient, be polite, and be alert.
Each of these are uniquely challenging because they go against the grain
of our human nature. Like a lump of clay before a potter, like a slab
of stone before a sculptor, our natural state has no beauty or worth.
Born with a sinful nature, we are naturally impatient and reactive,
naturally proud and crude, naturally distracted and unfocused. Likewise,
at the beginning of our martial arts training, we are uncoordinated,
unfocused, and unskilled in our techniques. But with disciplined concentration,
practice, and time, our coordination, focus and skill improve. The slab
becomes a masterpiece. The clay becomes a useful vessel. The integrity
of our character becomes sound as we grow more patient, polite and alert.
is not the absence of fear. It is the willingness to press on in spite
of fear. Likewise, the opposite of bravery is not fear but surrender.
When a person surrenders, or "gives up", that is the end of
their progress, whether progress in the principles or progress in training.
Insecurity is the enemy of bravery, because the insecure person will
not try what is uncomfortable, difficult or challenging, even when these
very things are most needful to grow.
Like David's bravery against Goliath, like Jesus’ unflinching obedience in the face of crucifixion, like Paul’s unswerving mission-mindedness before a murderous Jewish mob, when we have God as our strong foundation and source of strength, we can truly be brave in any and every circumstance. So, dear friends, be brave. Embrace great challenges and pursue lofty goals, all the while training hard and trusting the One in whom we depend and for whom we strive.
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The principle most often repeated and embraced by just about every discipline, whether Christian or otherwise, is this one: Do your best. Most people understand this to mean "try your hardest". On the most basic level this would be fine as simply a measure of general effort. Yet, for the Olympic runner, who wants to add 1/10th of a second to his time, doing his best means more than simply trying harder. It may involve unlearning years of practice doing something one way in order to find a better way. For the Olympian, then, doing his best is not only trying harder but also training smarter.
Doing our best means being our best. Our best involves focused concentration (mind), physical strain (body) and persevering faith (spirit). In the Bible, this is what the Lord required of His servants:
Doing one's best for God involved one's whole being. When our whole spirit, mind and body moves toward a singular purpose, we are doing our best.
Moreover, just as being brave for bravery sake is foolish, so indiscriminately doing one's best in everything can be dangerous and vain. One man excels in theft, another in promiscuity, and yet another at killing other men. There must be a moral dimension to doing one’s best. What worth is the best idler in the world? Wrongful effort can multiply evil, entrench bad habits and hamper true progress. So right motivation, proper instruction and meaningful goals are necessary. Consequently, the power to truly do our best (Acts 17:28; Philippians 4:13) and to attain the best possible outcome comes from the Lord (Psalm 1:2-3; Romans 8:28).
So, how can we encourage and practice this principle?
Best is not static. When you do your best, your best will improve, so that you become better. When you do a speed punch, and you try to punch faster than your fastest punch, in time your fastest punch becomes even faster. Doing your best means constantly improving. It often means doing more, and it always means doing better. If you are in the habit of doing 50 push-ups, attempt 55, if 55 then 60. Change your position to make it harder: army dips, diamond push-ups, handstand push-ups, etc.
Doing your best is mostly an attitude. It requires you to possess a teachable spirit, a determined will, and a meaningful cause. When I think about this principle, the song "Burning Heart" from the movie "Rocky IV" comes to mind:
I love the footage of Rocky Balboa training for his match against the Russian champ, Ivan Drago, who had killed Apollo Creed, his coach and best friend, in the ring. The primitive setting, the sweat, the strain, the music - it makes you want to train and to train your hardest. I love the lyrics to the accompanying track:
"Respect yourself and others" caps off our list of six principles. This principle reminds us to look both inward and outward when applying the principles. The Bible teaches,
Notice that while Scripture teaches respect for everyone, the expression of that respect will be different for different groups of people. The apostle Peter identifies three groups: the family of believers, God, and the emperor. Toward fellow believers, we respect one another by showing love, even the love of Christ toward one another (John 13:34-35). Toward God, we respect Him through reverent obedience (Philippians 2:12; Ecclesiastes 12:13). Toward authorities, we respect leaders by honoring them for the position and responsibilities they hold (Romans 13:1).
Peter does not give an exhaustive list. Other passages speak of the respect husbands and wives should have toward one another (Ephesians 5:21-33) or the kind of respect children and parents should have for each other (Ephesians 6:1-4). Other passages address the respect owed to elders in the church (1 Timothy 5:17). Throughout Scripture, even when the word "respect" is not specifically used, the principle is found relating to every person, relationship, and even demons (cf. Jude 8-10).
Respect is a universal principle. Biblical respect is not "earned," but commanded by God. Therefore, we ought not to withhold respect from anyone because we do not think they "deserve it" or because they have not, in our minds, "earned it". We ought to always respect everyone: presidents we don't like, leaders that rub us the wrong way, and parents that misunderstand us. We do it because we honor God's command.
So we ought to always refrain from "name-calling", cursing, or other types of character assassinations, because these do not reflect the kind of respect we are commanded to show one another. We can dislike in our hearts, disagree in our minds, refute with our tongues, but we ought always to show respect. In showing this kind of respect to others, especially when it seems to some as undeserved, we demonstrate our self-respect as servants of the Most High God.
Finally, respecting ourselves and others means that we pursue all things for the ultimate good of all. The principle of respecting ourselves and others simply restates the "Golden Rule":
Let us not wait to receive respect to give respect. With our self-respect from God intact, let us initiate and demonstrate respect for all. When we do this, we demonstrate maturity in all the principles. One of my favorite Martial Arts movies is "Best of the Best".
Tommy Lee respected Dae Han. Dae Han respected Tommy Lee. Enemies became friends, even brothers. This is how powerful this principle can be.