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Martial Arts as a Journey

The idea of a journey is often used as a metaphor for the process of progress in the martial arts. In fact, the Chinese character, “dao” (道), meaning “way”, is part of the name of many martial arts.

Sustained training in the martial arts is a journey, but not the type you take on a tour bus. When you begin training Jiu jitsu, you rarely get on the bus with other travelers. If you do, you’ll see that most people get off the bus at the first sign of inconvenience.

Eventually, if you stay on the bus, you may realize it’s no longer going in the direction you want to travel. People grow and their interests change. The traveler may seek deeper understanding or a more vivid experience. The basic set-up of a technique may lead the grappler to more intricate or subtle variations. The first triangle set-up I learned is not the one I hit most in sparring, but it does inform every triangle variation I do now.

A good guide or a good coach is invaluable. They can point you in the right direction and give you insights that you could not afford on your own. Perhaps you realize the driver doesn’t really know the route, or perhaps he drives recklessly, so you transfer to another bus. Anything can get stretched out too far, even a good metaphor, so let’s leave the bus all together, at least until the next (full) stop.

After all, there are all kinds of different vehicles to take. Cars, trucks, airplanes, elephants, jackasses and bicycles are all vehicles. Jiu jitsu is also a vehicle, one that drives us to self-improvement.

The traveler may realize this as he progresses on the way. He may become experienced enough to navigate for himself. He may even become a tour guide. He may decide that he is the best navigator for his journey and decides on plotting his own course. So he starts walking. Or cycling. Or driving a fast car. Or he may decide that he has had enough of he taps out.