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The Crooked Road

Written for Operation Werewolf by Craig Williams.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

Bruce Lee

The coming year holds infinite potential for growth and self-development. At times this can seem overwhelming. Making lists of new goals, short term and long term, our minds can soar to great heights seeking to reach lofty heroic accomplishments. But the opposite can also occur. We can reflect back upon the year and focus on our mistakes, our mishaps, our failures. This can be discouraging for many and even sabotage future successes in the coming year. Why did we not reach our goals?  Why did we lose interest or become sidetracked? The monkey mind can go round and round in infinite circles leading us into a downward spiral of negative thoughts and for some, even depression. When this occurs, I always open up my fight training journal for inspiration. Yes this journal is filled with clinical training data: how many miles run, how many hours spent sparring, how many weeks spent on specific punching drills, etc. But each page also contains important inspirational ideas and quotes from mentors, teachers and Sifus, many I know personally and many I will never meet. Yet in this sweat soaked journal, these figures are always alive, always present and ready to remind me of why I sweat and bleed in the hope for the taste of the intoxicating fleeting moments of self-awareness and self-realization born from the womb of hard physical training.

“Give up excessive ideals”

Wing Chun Kung Fu legend Wong Shun Leung would often say “Having excessive ideals with regard to fighting will cause one to be far too nervous….give up excessive ideals. It would be a far better idea to prepare the student both mentally and physically before fighting, informing them of the realities of fighting, especially that one may have to in fact take one or more blows upon one’s own body in the course of the fight. Thus, when engaged in fighting, you will not be full of misgivings and be at a loss for what to do.”

It is so common to see two seemingly equally matched fighters engage in combat and when the first two or three strikes hit, one of the fighters starts to shut down mentally. You can see it in the body movements, in the changing of the breath patterns. Fear takes over, mistakes are made, the fight is lost. This is a powerful metaphor for life and the predictable blows we will sure accrue over a lifetime of pushing ourselves and seeking a hero’s path. We must not expect to never be hit, we must not shut down at the first blow, or the second, or the third. We must prepare ourselves mentally and physically for what some may term “failure.” We can’t expect any or all of our goals to be easily attainable or the road to goals without mishap or “hits”. This is just basic rules of engagement. Too often individuals shut down at the first hit, or second hit, maybe the third. But we must remember that we are still standing, still engaged in the fight. We must not let our emotions or excessive ideals on what “should be happening” derail the actual event we are experiencing. I have seen fighters pummeled round after round only to land ONE single effective blow which instantly changes the outcome of the fight. Our lives are often like this. We must stay engaged and not shut down mentally, emotionally or physically when experiencing the blows of life. Rather we must expect them and prepare for them. Then and only then can we walk the road of heroes and warriors with our heads held high in victory and defeat.

“Avoid Hesitation At All Costs”

Wong Shun Leung also frequently stated this idea. “Only those who hesitate will be punched. One must retreat or advance as the situation dictates, or else the chance to control the situation will disappear in the twinkle of an eye.”

Just as the previous quote prepared us for the hits of life or the sting of a punch, this quote also warns us of why we must not allow ourselves to be stunned into inaction by the first mishap on the road to our accomplishments. When we shut down at the first, second or any punch for that matter, we lose precious time. We lose any opportunity to regain our balance in the fight of life and will surely lose. We must stay on guard and be ready for any and every chance which comes our way, especially during times of trial and discomfort! A smart savvy fighter, even when being physically dominated, will not shut down but will rather hold his ground and patiently wait for the exact moment to take a chance. We must use this metaphor in our lives and not only prepare ourselves for the inevitable blows and failures on the road to glory but also prepare ourselves to remove fear and doubt from our minds and be ready for that one moment, that one single chance for recovery. If we let uncertainty and doubt take over our minds, we will certainly lose all chance for recovery in a fight or in the attainment of our goals. Prepare to take the hits but also prepare to instantly react and adapt when the door of opportunity opens, even if just for a second!

“The Conditions of Progress”

The occultist and philosopher Aleister Crowley, when asked what the most favorable “conditions of progress” were, stated the following characteristics: “Irregularity, eccentricity, disorder, the Revolutionary Spirit, Experiment…..progress demands Anarchy tempered by Common Sense.” This quote is perhaps one of the most important ones to read and meditate on unendingly. In the pursuit of goals and accomplishments, it is very easy to get caught up in the spell of organization and linear progress. If I do this and this, I am doing the “right things” to achieve my goals. This can often be the case but many times we must be prepared to change plans, adapt, embrace the chaos of life and forge ahead with the revolutionary spirit of a true warrior. We must be ready to become comfortable with chaos, pain and uncertainty at times to reach our deepest dreams and aspirations. Just as some fighters can shut down at the first hint of defeat and lose the ability to react to opportunity, so too can individuals remove themselves from the game of life at the first sign of chaos or unexpected outcomes. Life can be random and bad things will happen to good people. Get over it. Adapt and embrace the randomness and often chaotic expressions of life! Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something unconventional regardless of what the “experts” teach or preach! “Progress demands Anarchy tempered by Common Sense.” Don’t be afraid of being the Anarch at times in your life and break out of the limitations of fear, expectation and predictability. Be a Heretic! Only the ones who can train hard, suffer, and quickly adapt will truly walk the road of heroes. Create your own myth and make it an unconventional and unpredictable story! Use your goals as inspiration but don’t become possessed and swallowed by them. Light the flame inside your heart and mind and let it guide you down the unique and mysterious path of YOUR life. Don’t be afraid of roadblocks, mishaps and randomness. Remember the words of William Blake:

“Improvement makes straight roads, but the crooked roads without improvement, are roads of Genius.”