Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Weapons are the tools of violence, All decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear; a decent man will avoid them except in the direst necessity, and, if compelled, will use them only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is the highest virtue. If the Peace has been shattered, how can he be content? His enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.
He does not wish them harm. Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men?
He enters a battle gravely, With sorrow and with great compassion, As if he were attending a funeral.
Tao te Ching Verse 31
Imagine a restful Saturday afternoon; sitting peacefully at your desk to catch up on reading after an eventful morning. Taking time to enjoy your leisure when suddenly the unmistakable sound of terrified children screaming “HELP!” hijacks your attention and catapults your body mind into action.
You might imagine that hearing screams of terror directly outside your window would evoke a distinct flavor of emotional response in your body. The vocal tone that accompanies true terror cannot be faked. Instantly you feel how real it is. There is a crisis nearby.
The screams of terrified children elicit a neurological dump of chemical compounds that alter your experience and prepare you for instantaneous action. Fear, arguably the greatest motivator for action, is abundantly present—because as the massive adrenaline dump hits your bloodstream and catalyzes you into action, it occurs to you that you have absolutely no idea why the children are screaming, no idea what you are about to step into, and no idea what may be expected of you.
Your spine straightens, pupils dilate, and blood rushes away from the appendages to the body center in preparation for action. A hyper alertness kicks in. The body mind is an altered state of one pointedness.
This is the texture of the moment that I find myself in while sitting at my desk Saturday June 9th 2018 at 2:28pm.
I notice a wiry sensation in my body and for just a split second I am confused as to what to do. Abruptly I stand up from my desk and take one hastened step toward the door—I pause—and double back to my war chest to retrieve my Kali stick – an 18 inch wooden weapon that I have been training with for about nine years.
This all takes 2 seconds.
When I open my door to investigate the commotion I see a man in a defenseless position being mauled by another man.
The victim is on his back and he is doing a very poor job of defending himself from the attacker on top of him. I gather that a homeless man in the midst of a psychological break is viciously attacking a random beach goer in the presence of his three terrified children. A crowd of helpless onlookers has begun to accumulate.
This process of gathering pertinent information takes approximately one half a second.
Shirtless, barefoot, brandishing a weapon, chest up, ears back, teeth showing, I begin screaming bloody murder from the deepest part of my belly as I run toward the fight.
BACK THE FUCK UP!!! BOTH OF YOU!!! BACK UP!!! NOW!
At no point do I make a conscious decision to do this. It just happens. I observe myself running into the middle of the skirmish screaming like a maniacal banshee.
There is not the slightest inkling of ‘request’ in my voice. I am not shaky. I am not afraid. I am not appealing to the men to separate.
I am commanding that they stop.
And they do. Instantly.
I can feel that both of the men, the children, and the onlookers are absolutely terrified of me and frozen in fear.
In retrospect, this is understandable. These people, never having seen me before, have no idea that I am a rational man with a peaceful heart. The only information they have about me is based on their direct experience in this moment; and in this moment I am embodying a savage maniac, large and hardly dressed, sporting a Viking beard, brandishing a weapon, and screaming at the top of my lungs.
This violent situation has gone from complete chaos to absolute zero in one instant. Everything just stops.
Both men are blankly staring at me.
I enter the stunned attacker’s personal space and walk him backward away from the victim. My eyes are locked into his. Holding eye contact, I contemplate if this crazed homeless man really deserves the blunt force trauma I have trained a long time to efficiently deliver.
I have no delusions about what I am capable of with my stick; I have practiced martial art for a long time and as part of that training I have learned how to effectively use this stick to strike someone hard, often, and in places that can cause serious and perhaps permanent damage.
I find myself in a momentary stalemate with a violent and unstable man contemplating if my committing violence against him is required to prevent him from doing further harm to those who are incapable of defending themselves.
Holding his gaze, I recall a teaching shared my beloved teacher, Guro Dan Inosanto, involving the sacred triangle that is created by the unification of martial knowledge, martial skill, and martial wisdom.
One could be said to have martial knowledge if they observe a high expression of a martial art or a martial technique. They now have the knowledge of what is possible, though they will not transform their martial knowledge into martial skill until they put their knowledge into practice thousands and thousands of times, so that the movement becomes familiar and easily repeatable for their nervous system even in highly stressful situations.
Finally, to complete the triangle, one must submit their martial skill to the dictates of martial wisdom. Martial wisdom determines when the application of force through the use of martial skill is legitimate. In my experience, martial wisdom very rarely dictates that the use of martial skill is called for. And, paradoxically, the greater one’s martial skill becomes, the more restraint martial wisdom demands one employ.
So, martial wisdom determined that I need not actually strike this man. My intention here was to prevent this individual from further harming his victim, and to spare the children the sight of their father being beaten by another man. Posturing and the threat of violence on my part was enough to achieve that end. Martial wisdom dictated that I did not actually have to physically harm anyone.
This internal conversation about the legitimacy of the use of force takes approximately one and a half seconds.
While it was true that I had made the decision that it was not actually necessary to engage this man violently – I felt it best not to communicate my decision with him: My posture, my eyes, and my breath indicated that I was beyond any shadow of a doubt ready, willing, and able, to incapacitate him.
The body, the eyes, the breath, and the posture speak a universal language.
I have to imagine that this man spoke this universal language fluently because after only a few moments of eye contact with no spoken words whatsoever he ran away at a full sprint.
The children are still crying, but they begin to calm down as they realize the man is gone and their father is OK. They thank me. The man, quite shaken up, tells me I’ve saved his life. He was very grateful. A woman who helplessly watched the event unfold says, “You are a true hero.”
At some point in the melee, the deranged man had thrown a beer bottle at his victim. Noticing the shattered glass all over the sidewalk, I go inside to get my broom. As I sweep the glass, I notice the remnants of aggression and preparedness for action clearing through my nervous system and dripping away from my body. I allow the pleasant repetitive movement of sweeping to diffuse the accumulated muscular tension. I feel my state shifting back to a calm demeanor, more appropriate for the leisurely Saturday afternoon I had intended.
There is no longer any need to hold the intensity that the previous moment demanded. There is no longer any need to hold the hyper alert state that the likelihood of physical violence requires.
There is no further need to embody savagery. The moment has changed. That can all be released.
Just a few minutes ago, I found myself in a moment that demanded I express savagery for the safety and wellbeing of others. But, in this moment, there is no danger. Savagery is not called for.
Right now, this present moment, demands only that I sweep up broken glass. And to sweep well it’s best that I allow my body mind to relax. So, I relax.
Pristine sensitivity to the demands of the moment and your ability to meet those demands with honesty in your expression are paramount.
This afternoon my embodiment of savagery, birthed by my dedicated and conscious practice of efficiency in violence, saved a man from violent attack, saved his children from the trauma of witnessing their helpless father being assaulted, saved an unfortunate homeless man in the midst of an existential crisis from finding himself on the wrong end of my stick, and gave a crowd of strangers hope that there are good men in the world who are savage enough to stop injustice and kind enough not to be excessive in combat.
The world does not need any more weak men whose complete lack of efficiency in violence compels them to fearfully cling to the ideology of pacifism as if it’s a choice they’ve freely made.
The world does not need any more confused hypervigilant men who, using the façade of machismo to cloak their own fearful insecurities, are all too ready to unconsciously resort to violence and harm others.
The world needs more men who are leavening the practice of savagery with the practice of opening the heart; men who’s pristine sensitivity to the demands of the moment leaves them capable of protecting those in need while simultaneously remaining committed to the recognition of peace as the highest virtue; dangerous men who are willing to allow the guiding force of love to navigate their course of action in the world.
Savagery, consistently practiced and consciously embodied, saves lives and opens hearts.
Despite the prevailing norms of the modern era, this integral part of a man’s spirit is not to be shamed, eradicated, or abandoned. Very much to the contrary, the inborn savagery of the masculine spirit is to be honored, liberated, and offered as a gift from his deepest heart for the liberation of all beings.
Invite your savage from its repressed shadows. It has gifts to share.
Every part of you is required on this path.
This is the Path of the Warrior.