Chief Instructor: Sifu John C. Loupos - Since 1968

Cultivating a Warrior Spirit

by Sifu John Loupos

There is a difference between being a fighter and being a warrior. Not all fighters are warriors. And, thankfully, not all warriors are fighters. At Jade Forest, whether in the Kung Fu program or the Tai Chi Chuan program, warrior spirit is an essential feature that all students are encouraged to aspire to, regardless of age, as part of their personal and martial development. Developing the ability to tap into your own personal power, both physical and mental, is paramount for any warrior. However, despite the martial connotations of Kung Fu or the "Chuan" of Tai Chi, the true warrior tries to avoid violence. The key is to "use" but not "abuse" your power in the most constructive way. Wherein, then, lies the power of our art, if not in actually using/testing what we learn against others who threaten us with harm or encroach on our space?

Certainly, students must be prepared to apply their martial art skills in the event that someone tries to physically harm them or another person whom they wish to protect. But, such a scenario aside, the greatest challenge to your health and wellbeing lies not in the danger posed to you by others, but by your own inner self. Just as there is no such thing as absolute Yin or Yang, but always a relative balance between the two, so does every person have a "shadow side", however friendly or good-natured they may be. Even people who are outwardly happy, altruistic, or seemingly well-adjusted have hidden aspects of themselves, or even just moments in their lives, that entail insecurity, fear, envy, stuckness or rigidity, cognitive or emotional laziness, ennui, or simply a complacent disinclination to challenge themselves and grow as a person. Any or all of these can interfere with your ability to function as a truly happy, well-adjusted, and creative individual. Hypothetically, you could spend a lifetime defeating enemies or challenges from outside, yet fail to find lasting peace within. How many people do you know who you can say are truly happy? Your most important order of business, therefore, is to know yourself.

In truth, warrior spirit has very little to do with war. Rather, it has to do with impeccability - impeccability of spirit. In this sense, warrior spirit implies the very opposite of those negative qualities listed above. Warrior spirit is more synonymous to that quality known in Chinese martial arts as Yi, or clear and powerful mind intent. In order to exercise your Yi you must have a clear intention, and an equally clear awareness of your self. Naturally, this ability or quality doesn't just happen on its own just because you think it sounds like a good idea. It happens when you set your heart and mind to accomplishing self-knowledge and personal improvement, and as a rule only then over and extended period of time. Even once you set your mind to the task of a new self-paradigm actually implementing it requires a certain context, one that supports your goals. This where Kung Fu and Tai Chi can be most useful in helping you to develop warrior spirit, because the context in which you practice your art encourages an awareness of "self" that you are not likely to experience while engaged at your usual every day tasks of work, school, leisure, family, etc.

Kung Fu and Tai Chi both tend to be activities that challenge your personal status quo by compelling you to become more aware of yourself, and of your self. This includes your limitations and your possibilities in new and, sometimes frustrating, sometimes challenging, and sometimes exciting ways. It is the process of practicing your art over an extended study that allows you to gradually increase your ability to be present to yourself, and to behave more deliberately as a direct result of a more focused attention and intention. These are the steps that lay a foundation for developing warrior spirit and for allowing you to come to terms with your own inner challenges. If and once you are able to attain a sense of warrior spirit you'll find yourself able to apply it in all areas of your life, even outside the training that inspired it.

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