Courage: A Black Belt Principle
Recently one of my students reminded me of the incredible potential for courage that human beings possess. The incredible fortitude I witnessed inspired me to think deeply upon the nature of human courage and it occurred to me that while the courage we may see on the news, of someone dashing into a burning building or wading into a raging torrent to save another is certainly admirable and inspiring, that these are also situations many of us may never face.
Did this mean that courage wasn’t really quite so essential to living a “good” life as the founding principles of martial arts had always inspired in me to believe?
On a few occasions in my life so far, I have found myself in a situation where I was required to help another human being whose life was in danger. Yet in each of these occasions I can attest that there was actually very little thought, and if I am entirely honest with myself, I actually felt buoyed by the importance of the occasion and even excited. My actions in short were easy. I liked being the “hero”. So did I truly display courage I wondered?
The more I reflected upon the nature of courage in my life, the more I can only confess that it has been the mundane struggles of daily existence, such as facing my daily mistakes, personal shortcomings, meeting my responsibilities or coping with the loss of someone that I cared about, that I have found to be infinitely harder and requiring of far more considered personal courage than any of the adrenalized moments of danger that I have ever experienced.
This realisation means that everywhere I look, other human beings, seemingly just engaged in ordinary everyday acts, may however actually be using great personal courage in performing them… Going to school, going to work, making friends, losing friends, staying fit, working till your exhausted, striving to be more, failing to succeed, illness, tragedy, hope…
It is all the courage of daily living, so easily over looked, usually in search of something seemingly more exciting, worthwhile or profound.
It is with this understanding in mind that I believe the masters of my tradition have always stated that courage is a key principle for humans to live by. Not to ride into battle and destroy your enemies, but the incredible courage to be able to continually accept and surrender to what is, and then move ever onward with love and purpose.
Can such daily courage be trained? Yes. I believe to greater or lesser degrees we all are. But I have also observed that with deliberate mindful practice that everything we do becomes better. Courage and resilience are no different. In my workplace I have seen all manner of students, from six to sixty years, inspire through acts of personal courage all those around them. It is my privilege to be constantly involved in such a workplace. And it is my hope that I might see you there.
For many the courage to walk into a martial arts school and begin the journey is the hardest step. I know personally I am very grateful for the day I took that step.
This article is dedicated with love to my personal heroes. You know who you are.
Co owner – Master Instructor
Black Belt Martial Arts