I had another epiphany this afternoon.
Years ago I was eyeball-deep in weapons, martial arts, and every other ego-driven practice a person could really be involved in. My friends and I would suit up with our best weapons and our nylon sheathes and holsters and we’d head into the biggest, baddest parts of town and go looking for trouble with the biggest, baddest thugs we could find. I was a 17 year old kid with a chip on my shoulder and excellent knife skills. I thought I was hot shit. I was also impressively unwell.
I’ll skip the heart-warming coming-to-my-senses bit and point out that I ended up putting down the weapons and putting my energy into self-betterment. I didn’t like who I was. I loved the power-rush, but I hated the egoism. I’ve barely touched a weapon in almost three years.
I’m on the verge of getting back into martial arts full-time and maybe picking up a few odds and ends. This time it isn’t for my ego. This time it’s because the complete self-control that it takes to really respect your weapon is something I’d like to give back to myself. Training in hand-to-hand and/or with a high-quality weapon takes time, devotion, and care. You have to treat it like a part of who you are. You have to know that weapon inside and out, and you have to connect with it as naturally as you’re connected to your own flesh.
Weapons ground me. It’s that simple. As do martial arts and my other less-friendly skills. They help me live up to my own expectations of discipline and honor. Two very buddhist beliefs.
So where does the potential for violence fit into Buddhism? Maybe it doesn’t. I’ve wrestled with that question for months. I’ve realistically wrestled with that question for years, although I didn’t have the word ‘Buddhism’ to use as my leverage. I only knew that violence and peace were two seemingly oppositional concepts.
I’m coming to terms with two things. 1) There are times when peace can only be upheld by unrest; and 2) if the potential for violence keeps me peaceful, then the good outweighs the bad.
Violence is a problem when it’s used for egoism and powerplays. But there’s a form of violence which is calm, controlled, and kind. When you’re stopping something horrible from happening by doing something unpleasant. In an extreme case, maybe you’re saving multiple lives by taking one.
I’m coming to terms with being a martial artist and wanting to reclaim my skills. Now that my intentions have changed, the acts themselves should change, too. It’ll no longer be something of anger and fear. Now it’ll be about peace and contentment. Training to give, not training to take.
That makes me feel whole. And I didn’t know how not-whole I’d been feeling until just now. There was that one tiny grain of sand not quite fitting into place.
Now it fits.