Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Peaceful Motorcycle Warrior

Hello, I’m in a story telling mode so kick back and enjoy a bit of a rave about growing up, martial arts and learning self-respect, a story about becoming a Peaceful Warrior.

Many years ago I read ‘Way of the Peaceful Warrior’ by Dan Millman, and it really struck a chord with me. Equal parts fact and fiction apparently, Millman talks about ‘Socrates' a wizard of sorts who leads a wayward ‘Dan’ on a journey of enlightenment.
It ignited my imagination, I particularly identified with because his student’s name was the same as mine, and I too once had such a teacher.

A 'Sensei' of the Martial Arts he inspired me in many ways as he taught Freestyle Karate, Zen-Do-Kai, held at our local High School gymnasium, and he also taught me the value of earning respect.

I was 13, as scrawny as all hell, and getting picked on relentlessly at school. I got no respect. School was shit for me.

Shipped back and forth across different schools I guess I was a gentle boy, and maybe a little bit soft. This made me popular with the girls, just friends to me, little did they know, but also a great target for bullies. I was very slightly built, so much so that a wild gust of wind once blew me sideways across the schoolyard.

I was pretty freaked out about it, all of the time. School had become an all consuming terror, and all I could think about was how to get around unnoticed to escape the next torturing.

Then I got the death-threat-in-the-locker-letter. That was pretty much the end of the line. I was getting bullied and beat up and I felt small. Useless. Powerless. Disrespected. I needed to know how to handle myself.

So I started taking Karate lessons with my older brother. And no I didn’t write the script for The Karate Kid and my Sensei’s name was Gary, not Mr Miyagi, but you gotta admit it sounds kinda familiar.

Best of all, I was good at the karate. Good in a gymnastic, acrobatic, speedy little weed kind of way. Not in a scary, powerful kick arse kinda way but that didn’t matter. Sensei Gary taught me to use what I had to my advantage; my speed.

So I became a leaping flying kicking mother-fucking ninja, and I absolutely loved it. I gained heaps of confidence and started holding my head up when I walked around instead of shrinking into the shadows.

I worked hard at it. I’d go to training three nights per week, I’d practise my kartas at home relentlessly. I’d work on my strength by doing pushups and situps at night and in the morning; I could smash 100 easy.

Ohh the exuberance of youth, I’d be lucky to do 10 right now... I took additional classes, weapons training, participated in tournaments the nine yards.

Even gave kickboxing a go. I wanted to be a black belt, and I badly wanted the ultimate in freestyle martial arts - the Bushido Cross.


A Bushido Cross is a silver pendant awarded to students at a Sensei’s discretion, when he deemed a student worthy. At the time, I'm talking early 80s Zen-Do-Kai, there was a huge focus on learning about respect as well as self-defense.

You bowed on entering the Dojo, and again on Exit, you bowed to your Teacher when training or sparring, bowed to each opponent before sparring, and you listened carefully to instruction, and also how to meditate.

You recognised the Bushido Cross as a mark of someone having earned great respect. That was my goal. But before I reached it, I had a problem to deal with at school. This bullying thing had got me down, but now I understood that I couldn’t keep running from it like a coward, I had to face it myself and learn how to earn some respect in the minefield that was the school oval at lunchtime.

I was ready. One of the lead bullies thought it was his kick of the footy, when in fact it was clearly mine and I wasn’t giving him the ball. He didn't like that idea and came at me with a wild swinging clothesline.

Problem for him was, I had faced about a thousand of these in sparring at Zen Do Kai and it was easily dodged. Before I knew it, in true Daniel-San style, I leaping front kicked him square in the face. It was a light toe-tap as I had learned control, and, using the traffic light system, this guy was now on amber.

Go again and I will hit Green and you will end up second best.

Be warned mother-fucker.

No one saw it coming.

Not the crowd gathering, not me nor my opponent, now flat on his back holding his slightly bleeding nose looking up at me in complete surprise.

I think I told him 'it was my kick' and carried on as if nothing had happened.

I earned his respect that day, and even though they probably thought I was a psychopath, no one messed with me again at that school.

It was a life changing moment.

Violence isn’t the answer, I know that, but sometimes when push comes to shove it can be the outcome. What I learned from all of that was to have respect for myself above all else and it is something I have never forgotten.

I stood up for myself and took control of my life and became a much better person because of it. I never used violence for the sake of it, and I knew self defense just in case I needed it. I carried lots of the teachings and readings into my professional life later on, and am thankful I had the training.

It’s also the zone I go into when I ride.

Ninja mode. Completely calm, relaxed, supple and aware of my everything.

Nothing but the roads and the bike beneath me to conquer them.

Something else that stayed with me from Zen Do Kai, are the adages that you found on your certificates when you reached a new Belt Level, my favourite of which I'll leave you with today.
"When you see a worthy person, endeavour to emulate them, when you see an unworthy person, then examine your inner self"
Until next time brothers and sisters, stay upright.