Global Resilience Solutions > Category:Stephen Hayes

Warrior Culture at Peace

“I can teach you to fight with the Green Destiny, but first you must learn to hold it in stillness.”
– Li Mu Bai, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

When we talk about warriorship on this site, we’re referring to the ancient traditions of spiritual warriorship. Warriorship, much like athletic contest, was an apt metaphor for spiritual endeavour and personal development which took on a life of its own in many authentic ancient traditions. Sometimes, as with the Shaolin Temple or the Japanese Ninja, the spiritual and physical realms of warriorship intersected.

But more often, the popular warriorship of a culture had no clue. That’s why the ultimate test of the spiritual value of any warrior culture is not how it deals with war, but how it deals with peace.

The Ninja, or Shinobi, were despised by the official Samurai warrior class because they did not offer absolute obedience to a feudal overlord or conform to the rigid social order of the period. Instead, the Ninja were loyal only to their families, and would fight to protect them. Rather than fighting and dying on the battlefield by the thousands as the samurai did, they would endeavour to find the single weak spot of the enemy, perhaps one person who could be removed to prevent a fight.

That’s why Stephen Hayes, disciple of the last living Ninja grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi, writes that to follow the spiritual warriorship of the Ninja in this time does not simply mean learning their ancient martial arts. It means learning to integrate effectively and peacefully into society. For the Ninja, war was never the goal. To be left in peace by the authorities was. Because of their spiritually-grounded understanding of warriorship, the Ninja can happily adapt themselves to more peaceful external circumstances.

A far cry from the Samurai, for whom death in service to their lord was the very purpose of life, and who even in peacetime were legally obliged to kill commoners under certain circumstances.

Similarly, the Shaolin monks did not merely train themselves to be deadly and resilient warriors, they also prepared themselves to be resilient people, through their emphasis on the inner cultivation of gongfu, the quality of peaceful inner power that underlies all of the truly spiritual martial arts. The 72 Arts of the Shaolin, the great pre-Revolutionary compilation of Shaolin training methods, says:

“The pugilistic arts are like fire, while Gong Fu gives a stable ground for shaping a man.”

When undertaking these methods, “the main point is peace of mind and concentration. It is necessary to give up extraneous thoughts.” There are very detailed requirements for the mindset and way of life of the practitioner, without which health benefits and skills will not materialize.

When we consider the warrior cultures which did not assimilate this quality and were therefore unable to make peace either within themselves or with the rest of the world, we can see a pattern. The Spartans defeated the Athenians, but made themselves intolerable to the rest of Greece. Athens was left standing out of respect for its cultural achievements. Sparta was wiped off the map.

Similarly, the warriorship of the samurai resulted in hundreds of years of civil war, and ultimately, the leveling of most of Japan’s major cities in the Second World War.

Discerning Worthwhile Warrior Traditions

It is important for us to understand that the goal of spiritual warriorship in physical conflict is to seek to create peace whenever possible, and to pass through the storms of war not with the idea of vanquishing the enemy, but with the idea of avoiding his force and bringing the conflict to a close as decisively as possible, so as to minimise suffering. To try to prove one’s warriorship by seeking combat is like trying to prove the strength of your skull by hitting it against harder and harder objects- eventually, you will find the one that cracks you open, and long before that, you will have killed so many brain cells that it really won’t matter anyway.