Action as Medicine

He sat alone on the wooden floor of a little cabin, miles from town. Deep in the night the clouds parted. Moonlight came in and made its way softly across the floor. From time to time the sound of voices far away, talking, maybe singing, were carried in on the breeze. 

Someone strange jumped in through the window. He held a knife in his hand. “Give me money. I will kill you.” 

“I have no money. I have nothing but the clothes I am wearing, my bowl and the moonlight. Take them.” 

What could the robber do? Kill the man, move on, or fall to his knees with his heart split open, seeing a kind of life he never imagined.

The story is told in different ways. However we tell it we should understand that the man in the moonlight was not passive. He did not yield to fate, whine, complain, scream, beg, become weak, indifferent or afraid. He was strong, composed and certain. He was certain about right and wrong. And about what to do.

He was training, sitting there on the floor. He was calm. He could tell the difference between moonlight and murder. He was completely still, and at the same time, completely in action. 

Action is medicine, whether it is physical action, or action of the spirit. Action transforms the mind and body. In each instant, and as it accumulates over time. Because of that we don’t act artbitrarily: we are not impulsive, careless, clumsy, or selfish. We are skillful, well-trained, purposeful and good. 

That is what we practice in the dojo. Our kind of action is medicine which heals people from the poisons of the world; it counsels us on the difference between right and wrong, between success and failure; it nourishes us for life.

The call to action comes to us in many guises. 

To protect the people we love. To keep predators away. To protect our bodies from atrophy or from excess. To be on the lookout for the attractive poisons, degradation and nuisances that sap our strength, devour our attention, and propel us from desire to desire. To be on the lookout for the responsibiilities which, however unappealing or difficult or dangerous, are not to be shirked.

When we move with discipline and skill in the dojo, strengthening our bodies, sharpening our minds, gaining the skill we need to make our life our own, undergoing this training discipline freely, day after day, we refine and deepen our lives. 

We become free from attachment to foolish things, from fear, and from passivity. We become free to be patient, to persist and to act with skill.

Training as we do, for real, with all its difficulties and dangers, its rewards and failures, is real medicine for the stupidity, weakness and cruelty doled out by fools who prey on the gullible. This may afflict anyone. 

Who will be the example of another way of life? Who will offer an alternative to people who have never imagined there is one? 

Who will live a life of purpose, unmoved by fear, unmoved by attachment, who, by virtue of good training, will be moved only by what is demanded by the moment, whether in the heat of battle, or in the cool light of the midnight moon.


Post by Jeffrey Brooks, Mountain Karate, Saluda, NC, Yamabayashi Ryu, author of The Good Fight – The Virtues and Value of the Martial Arts and The Rhinoceros Tale – Martial Arts and the Path to Freedom. Post copyright © 2022 Jeffrey Brooks and Mountain Karate Dojo, LLC.

Photo by Cottonbro via Pexels

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