Dragon’s tears

You know, practicing the martial arts always make me want to cry. I feel like a little kid every time I think about it. Because although the stuff is there to make you stronger or more self-sufficient (supposedly!), the teaching method is so harsh at the end of the day. Sure, maybe we’re all friends, or brothers, or whatever else, but I still feel like the opera kids in the classic modern Chinese film, Farewell My Concubine. The ones who are horribly beaten into submission by their master. But that agony makes them into the most amazing, beautiful performers in existence: true national treasures.

One character sees adults performing an opera and cries: “how many beatings does it take to become a star?” In other words, how much pain does it take, how much suffering must be transformed, in order to become great, appreciated, brilliant or realized? And how many people are destroyed or stray on that path? Too many!

But if something happens to you in a fight, in the world, in martial arts, in anything at all, the underlying conclusion a person has to understand is: it’s your problem. It may not be your fault per se, but you are the one who has to deal with it — alone. And this is where the idea of modern (post-pagan) religion has stepped in, to provide answers for this, to provide practice strategies to deal with the mental agony of it all, or maybe just comfort and a shoulder to cry on.

I suppose if religions or martial arts are actually creating positive habits in our “spirit,” they do so in the way phrased in Buddhism: a person cannot remove physical pain, but a person can remove the mental association or attachment with that pain. When a person is hurt or harmed, the real pain comes from the concept of being harmed, that another person could do such a thing to another. If you actually think about it, it really is a horrible idea. As soon as you empathize with someone being tortured or maimed or killed, it becomes impossible to do it to anyone else.

And yet in some twisted, sick way, in studying fighting we learn to hurt others without thinking really empathizing with their pain. What a disturbing thing. Someone once pointed out to me, there are three lessons in fighting: (1) Being seriously injured; (2) Injuring someone else and (3) you’ll find out!

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