On “Warrior”

     In my previous post, I talked about the misuse and over use of the word “master” in the martial arts community. Today I will talk about the grossly misused word “warrior”.

     The word warrior carries many heavy images within it, and it is this almost universal feel of awe and respect for a warrior that brings many black belts to use the word when describing themselves. Depending upon your upbringing, you may picture a armored knight on horseback, perhaps rescuing a maiden girl. You might picture a Samurai, wielding a four foot razor blade with deadly accuracy in single combat of a battlefield in Japan. For some of us, we may picture someone in the military, for soldiers are the real warriors. This is the common thread between the knight, the Samurai,and the soldier. They really are warriors.

     But is it appropriate for someone who practices a martial art to label themselves a warrior based on this practice alone? Obviously, the martial arts came from somewhere, the word martial means “war type”, based on the root Mars, the Roman God of war. So, this means that martial arts are warrior arts, right?

     Well, that may be an unwarranted jump to an erroneous conclusion. I have long felt that martial arts was an incorrect term for what I practice, but never tried to change it, as I simply followed along with what everyone else was calling it. The sin of the incorrect precedent, I think it is called. 

     There is little real connection between what we do in the training hall, and the realities of combat on the battlefield. For the modern soldier, hand fighting is what they do after everything else has gone wrong. They have a whole host of things they would prefer to do prior to engaging the enemy hand to hand. However, the same cannot be said for the modern martial arts practitioner who wants to classify himself as a warrior. In speaking to one such a few days ago, he told me that he didn’t even want to know how to use a gun. He claimed he was taking the high road in that “anyone can pull a trigger, my skills are the result of years of practice”. And while this line is echoed throughout the martial arts world, the reality of what they are saying is captured in the first line – ANYONE can pull a trigger! Why would you consider yourself a warrior and yet not prepare for any eventuality, and set yourself to the greatest advantage possible?

     The simple fact is that martial arts are fun. They are mostly a sport, with few exceptions wherein the trainees are training for actual hand to hand combat, with only the barest limitations set in place in the interest of protecting the trainees from injury. But even this does not make the trainee a warrior, only a fighter in training.

     There are words which should be used less often and warrior is one of them. Hero is another, along with tragedy. These are important words that should be reserved for important moments. It may be best to stick to the term fighter, and leave the word warrior for the real warriors.