To Express Oneself Honestly
Why I Train and Follow a Path that I Love
“To express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself- that, my friend, is very hard to do.” -Bruce Lee-
I’m posting these thoughts on August 24, 2017 the day I compete in the Master Senior Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada. I’ve had so many people question why I train. Comments from some spiritual friends who ask me how I can follow a path of love and peace and yet train in martial arts. They are perplexed by this concept. I have tried to explain in vain that I practice the gentle art, arte suave, the martial art where you can defend and control your opponent without having to strike endlessly to the face or body. I tried to explain that the root of modern day martial arts can be traced back to the Shaolin Temple in China where monks practiced to keep their body in tune with their spirit and enhance their chi energy as well as protect themselves against continuous attacks on the temple. True martial artists would be the last people that would fight, only doing so to protect themselves and those around them from harm but never to inflict unnecessary damage to an individual. The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba talked of the Japanese term for Budo which in it’s original Asian concept means to stop or prohibit violence or war. Ueshiba talked of Bu meaning to halt the thrusting blade, and used the term Budo then as a form of love. I was so taken by this thought that I once named my dog Bu, everyone thought he was a ghost but he was love to me. Yet, I am questioned consistently about this apparent dichotomy in following a path of peace and practicing how to defend myself. I also get comments from family members and some friends that question why at my age I still train in such a physical activity. Comments such as “you are too old, and you are going to get hurt.” Last, I get comments asking why I compete as in the mind of the person questioning they wonder how I can practice a path that looks within and works to remove the ego yet competes to beat the opponent and win. Here are 5 reasons why I train and follow a path that I love.
1. Follow a Path that you LOVE
One of the greatest principles you can learn in life is to follow a path that makes your heart sing, one that you jump out of bed in the morning. Human beings are too inclined to follow the herd, the path of an ordinary existence. It takes courage to muffle the voices of judgment and pessimism. We are only free when we are authentic to ourselves. I train because I love Jiu Jitsu. It moves me. One of my training partners, Chris always has a smile on his face and when I ask him why he simply just says “I am training in Jiu Jitsu man, how can I not smile.” Jiu Jitsu is intellectual, like human chess always evolving. It humbles the strongest as you die over and over again on the mats. It encourages you to find the way, to get better. There are no short cuts in Jiu Jitsu only hard work and determination. It typically takes 10-12+ years to get a black belt in the art and there is a saying a black belt is simply a white belt who didn’t quit. This is true. No matter what it is you love dive into this with all of your heart. When we following a path that we love it is not work or difficult as it is part of our way of being.
2. Age is just a number
I am disheartened when people tell me I am too old for something. I am disheartened as I know they live their lives this way. Why would we put a restriction on life because of some arbitrary age limit? Especially if this is a path that you love, as if you have to hang up your dreams, your passion because of your age. This is ridiculous to me. In addition the thought that one might get hurt following their passion is living a life cautious and afraid. It is living in the fear versus living fully on the edge. When you live afraid, you are not living, you are simply existing surrounded by your self created barriers and walls. I know people my age who are physically broken down because of their diet and lifestyle or too afraid to put themselves out there for fear of failure or what others might say. These barriers are self created. You get to choose your life. You are the actor in your play. You can choose to be fit and healthy and live life to the fullest or you can listen to these voices that tell you that you should or shouldn’t do things because of your age or other circumstances in life like your sex, or race or status in life. Do not listen to the hecklers, they are simply holding you down. Often this comes from family or friends in not encouraging dreams. Their words are typically a reflection of how they view themselves. Let these voices go and follow the path of your dreams.
3. Be Perfect Every Day
The concept of perfection to me is living authentically, acting with integrity to the world and myself and to remove any barriers I have to love. Being perfect is being the best possible being you can be in each moment, in each day. I tell my girls to look in the mirror each day, and truly look at that being starting back. This is the only person that you ever have to answer to. I ask them to look and then ask that person staring back at them three questions. One, are you living an authentic life that is true to yourself and not being influenced by the world and judgement around you? Until you do this you will never be free. Two, are you acting with integrity and honoring your word to yourself and the world around you? All we have is our actions and our word. If we cannot honor this then what are to the world. It is important to be your word. And last is the question, are you acting and being love in every moment to every living being? Our task is to remove any barriers we have within ourselves to love. Everything I do in life comes back to these three questions. Jiu Jitsu is a microcosm of this. I train to be the best I can be in every moment. My opponent is always myself, the person I train or compete with is simply a vehicle to test whether I can be the best that I can be. This is why we bow to our opponent an offering of thanks for allowing us to test ourselves.
4. All we ever have is right NOW
Jiu Jitsu epitomizes this principle in life. When we carry our past or hopes for the future into our present moment we become attached that our life should be different than it actually is. In quieting the mind we realize that all of that is noise, that life is beautiful exactly the way it is right now. When we get present to this principle life becomes very simple, we remove any attachments that keep us from this NOW state of mind. In Jiu Jitsu you have to be in the state of now or you will die. It is this simple. If you bring a heavy mind and are thinking about other things your opponent will submit you. In this way Jiu Jitsu is a form of meditation, a form that amplifies this moment of NOW and refreshes the soul. This is one of the reasons I love Jiu Jitsu so much. No matter the pains going on in my life I can train and I can let all of this go for the present moment. In this I am forever grateful for Jiu Jitsu in allowing me to experience this. Find a passion in your life that also forces you to stay in the present moment. Many monasteries call this walking or working meditation in having you be present in every action. Jiu Jitsu has allowed me to see the value in these actions and I carry this over to everything else that I do be it cooking or mowing the lawn as all we ever have is each moment and there is no guarantee that we will have another.
5. Live on purpose and on the edge
Human beings shy away from their true wants and desires in life. Often this is driven by fear. Fear that we are not capable of the task or fear and worry in what others will think of us. This fear keeps us complacent in life. We live an apathetic life yet deep inside our fire burns for a deeper meaning and purpose. You often hear of people talk of living a live with purpose, yet I suggest living a life ON purpose. The difference to me is that when you live with a purpose it is like carry around a bag with you, almost like a nice to have in your life. I think our purpose is way deeper than this. First and foremost my purpose is to connect to the divine within myself. The body I carry is simply baggage around an incredible, divine light. My ultimate purpose is to connect with this light inside of me. Next, I am not here on this planet, in this body and lifetime for myself. I am here to lift humanity. I am here to connect others to that divine being within themselves to find a path of purpose, peace and love. All of us have something we are here for on this planet, something to provide humanity and all living beings. Find it, live a life that is ON PURPOSE not drifting through an ordinary existence. Finally live on the edge beyond your fear. Fail often as this means you are pushing your edge and expanding. Growth comes from expanding. The edge may be scary to you yet this is the place to live. This is why I compete in Jiu Jitsu. The loneliest walk in the world for a fighter is from the dressing room or edge of the mat to the ring. You see on this walk there is no place to hide, you are simply shrouded in a thin Gi with barely anything underneath. Nearly naked figuratively and metaphorically the mind races and begin to question everything about yourself. The voices shout in the head asking am I good enough? Or can I do this? These voices drown out any other thoughts and question everything about who we are and what we stand for in this life. It takes tremendous courage to take this walk and to stand in this space of the unknown, and the question of am I good enough? With everything, ultimately our fight is always within, to quiet these thoughts and to be in this state of now and be the best that we can be in every moment. Winning or losing is never the quest, it is simply did we honor ourself and be the best that we can be in every moment. This is all we can ever do. This is why I train in Jiu Jitsu to stand in this space, to push me on the edge to answer this question over and over again. It is my training for life as we all have this question for everything that we do. Find your purpose in lifting up humanity, find your edge and constantly push it. Expand, fail, grow and inspire the world around you.
As far as I go, I will continue not to listen to the skeptics or those who judge. I will follow a path that I love and be the best that I can be in every moment.
This is the path of a Zen warrior.
Thomas D. Craig
Love. Inspire. Unite