Another Lesson To Be Learned – More of What You Don’t Want To Hear

It is not for the master to control his enemies by his actions, but to control himself and then to defeat his enemy. This is a tenet of many martial arts, the one I am referencing today being Iaido.  My daughters like playing that silly Fruit Ninja game that everyone seems to have on their smart device.  When I saw them playing it and slashing wildly at everything that popped up on the screen, I realize it's part of the game, but I wanted to say, "That's not how you use a katana".

Knowing a little more about the use of katana in something other than the dissection of vegetables, I found it pretty typical that as in much of what we have been talking about lately, there is the right way and the wrong way to go about things.  Swinging a sharpened virtual device at anything that moves, I guess, is entertaining.  However, if you weren't aware (and not too many people are) simply the act of drawing a katana from its sheath ("saya") is an art-form in itself, called "Iaido".  The term Iaido is often translated as "the way of harmonious living". Literally, it is "understanding your surroundings, controlling your emotions, and adapting to circumstance, then returning to normal."  Sound like anything I have been trying to get you all to understand?

Yes, slashing at fruit is just a kids game on the iPhone.  But it takes me through each of these lessons I am trying to get across to you right now.  The warriors of old used extraordinary skill in leading and were revered by their contemporaries in a time without global news networks and the internet.  These people were able to mobilize others to defend their lands, to maintain the honor of their traditions, and their stories live on, in some cases, more than a thousand years later.  The traditions they used prepared students for critical thinking by forcing them to pay attention to the details. When a katana was drawn from its saya, it was done with deep consideration, because it was designed not for an extended Hollywood sword battle but for one decisive chop: end of fight.

A katana was considered the "soul" of the warrior.  The principal weapon of the samurai were actually bows, spears, and the like, before getting down to one-on-one killing, if necessary, with the katana. There were advocates of dual sword fighting and "fencing" but those techniques, according to the sources I have read, were not as prevalent as Westerners would like to believe (because that's pretty exciting stuff).

When the katana came out, it was time for business.  Quick, decisive, final, powerful, but graceful.  Likewise, leading is more than being the boss.  Leading is more than exerting power.  Leading implies taking a deep breath, seeking to know the conditions, and battling on ground in which you can win, or adapting the battle plan to do so.  Leading the right way means doing so where others are watching, admiring your skill, seeing you for the example you should be setting.  And more importantly, making the right decisions as a warrior back then were essential; failure was considered a humiliation that could only be rectified by seppuku, or ritual suicide.

It is easy to go along with the crowd and make lots of noise when you aren't happy.  Children do this all the time.  Real leaders exhibit the ability to seek the answers, even when it isn't something they want to hear.  Even when those answers are telling you that we have been doing something wrong for the past couple of decades and we need to evolve.  I don't like letting go of the past anymore than you do, but there comes a time when, if you don't make the decision to evolve, someone will make it for you.  And as we have said many times before, if it comes down to making changes, I'd just as soon be the one deciding how to do it than someone else deciding for me.

Read this and understand it, because it's going to get deeper here soon and I can guarantee you, it's going to make some people upset.  But it is reality.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Battalion Chief with Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire and Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.

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