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Warrior Spirit

by Don Uhrie

I'd like to open by expressing my appreciation to all the men and woman, past and present, who strive to preserve our human birthright, freedom. Since I have never served in the armed forces, or experienced war of the militaristic type, I do not claim to know what this experience is like. However, after years of practicing the martial arts, I do have my perception of what a warrior is, as well as the spirit that must be cultivated to be a true warrior.

I have been practicing and teaching Shotokan, Japanese style karate, since February 1994. Initially, I was afraid to get involved in martial arts. Ultimately, I walked through this fear, and now hold the rank of Yodan (4rd degree black belt). Karate involves practicing various punches, kicks, blocks, katas (a series of karate movements performed in a particular sequence) and kumite (sparring).

Since I was in good physical condition, I thought karate training would be easy. I was wrong. It takes determination and discipline, a virtue I am sure many men and women in the armed forces are familiar with, to perform exercises and basic movements over and over in order to build strength and flexibility. While performing Kihon (basic techniques), a karate practitioner must perform the movements with powerful intention as if defending against, or attacking an opponent. Basic movements, practiced over and over, serve to strengthen the body, increase coordination, and build focus.

Of course, this is no substitute for actual kumite (free sparring). At this point of my training, while sparring, I am able to go to a place deep inside that is devoid of fear. My karate training has facilitated the development of a warrior spirit. This is the place that contains focus and purpose. The purpose is to penetrate my opponent's defense while protecting myself when attacked. The warrior spirit would allow me to call upon my karate skills in a dangerous situation, and to defend myself, or others, if physically attacked.

The study of karate involves determination, discipline, and spirit. Spirit is developed as a sense of devotion to an art, which has been passed down through generations, and from a deep respect for my Sensei. The development of these qualities has also positively impacted my daily life. It is the warrior spirit, developed through repeated practice, which allows me to face adversity in my life with courage and determination. When life knocks me down, as it often does, I am able to pick myself up and persevere regardless of the situation.

Although I have not experienced war of a military nature, I have had many internal battles, and difficulties facing life on life's terms. Each time the warrior spirit within has enabled me to persevere amidst adversity. Embrace the warrior spirit, trust your training, and hardship will be met with determination and courage.

(Previously published in a newsletter distributed to marines deployed in Afghanistan)