The budo path in no easy road

Written by Paul Cale

Budo is a path with no end, and a path without end has no shortcuts.

No easy road
Take shortcuts at your own risk.

Stolen value’ is a term used in the United States military to describe people who dress as service women or men without ever having served a day in their lives. Other impersonators did serve but not in the unit or organisation they claim to have — usually Special Forces. Or they may wear service medals for wars and operations they were never in. For these fakes, there is a real need to be recognised as a warrior to cover various personality shortcomings that drives them to pose as soldiers and war veterans. For this same reason, we also see this behaviour in the martial arts — and more so because to impersonate a returned serviceperson in Australia, for example, is illegal, but it’s not illegal to impersonate a Black-belt.

There is, however, a dangerous difference between impersonators and imposters. The impersonator dresses as the BJJ Black-belt, for example, and next thing they are on YouTube being exposed as a phony. The imposter, on the other hand, has enough information to kick and punch away with some ‘karate’, for example, that they learned but want to now offer muay Thai, which may have become more popular. So, they dress themselves up in Thai shorts and off they go. The issue with the imposter is that they are getting their students to fight in a potentially dangerous sport in which they themselves have no experience.

The worst kind of imposter is the bully masquerading as the master. They operate their martial arts studio as a business first and foremost, yet when a ‘customer’ wants to leave for whatever reason, they can find themselves targeted with the mantra often associated with the martial arts: loyalty. Loyalty is a two-way street and results from an unspoken bond forged by behaviour, not words, and most definitely not bullying tactics. If you treat people like customers, don’t get upset when they behave like customers — meaning, if they are unhappy with your product or service, expect them to go elsewhere.

Just as one should not mistake politeness for weakness, the imposter should not mistake silence for approval. Martial arts (budo, the martial way) have really helped me in life, from practically saving me on the battlefield to spiritually saving me from myself. If I were to sum up budo in one word, I would say ‘suffering’. Budo will push you beyond what you think are your limits and your motivation to push on will come from the example of others on the path, some only just in front of you, helping you take the next step forward, and others far off in the distance giving you the confidence that you are moving in the right direction. In turn, you will help others new to the path travelling behind you. Along this path, limits of the body will be exposed as only limits of the mind. Suffering will redefine your understanding of limitation and you will come to recognise the weakness of the body when being guided by an undisciplined mind. This is the life lesson of budo that transcends from arts of war and infiltrates your very being. Every element of your life will then be guided by the lessons learnt on the path of the warrior.

There is no shortcut along a path that has no end. Your ‘rank’ represents the duration of your suffering, the distance travelled along a particular martial arts path. A belt is merely a signpost stating a waypoint that has been reached by its holder. However, there is a big difference between wearing a belt that was awarded as recognition of rank and wearing a belt that you just put around yourself. That is why it is so easy to spot a budo imposter — because you can’t fake courage in the face of adversity and you can’t fake ability in the company of the skilled.

Sometimes the fake provides us with a laugh via their obvious incapability, but in the worst case the fake gets people hurt by demanding things from them that the fake has never achieved themselves. Without understanding how to safely guide their students through a challenge, more damage than good is done, not just physically but also mentally.

The fake wants to be acknowledged but fears the demands of the journey. Don’t ever strive to be the fake; don’t want for the grade. All will come if you just take a step, no matter how small, along the path of budo…and then another.

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