Running and Warriorship
For me training and Warriorship are intimately connected. Some training may seem obvious, such as Shinkendo, sword training, and other martial arts. However, one training which holds a particularly strong connection to Warriorship for me, is running. Several aspects of running that make this connection. One is the nature of what’s involved psychologically with long distance endurance running. Another are the types of goals and motivations one needs to maintain endurance training over time. And a third, on a more mystical level, is the ancestral connection between running and our ancestral Warriors. For me, the convergence of these facets makes endurance running an ideal physical training for the Warrior.
Fundamentally, long distance running involves overcoming pain and discomfort and willingly causing oneself to be subjected to such over long periods of time. The clincher is that the runner grows to enjoy this. As a young man, I was required to run fast, and long virtually every day, and I always say hated it. However, this is not true. I did, in fact, hate running. But I learned to love the residual side effects. The performance boost it gave me in other activities, the sense of calm I was embewed with for the remainder of the day, the clarity, the pride. This type of self-imposed discipline, coupled with a developing affinity for, and enjoyment of the discipline, is very closely aligned with the discipline and development of a Warrior. Whereas much of the discipline experienced in society is enforced from without, the Warrior’s discipline is built from within, within the construction of his personal architecture.
The goals a runner sets and adjusts over time, as well as what motivates a runner, are very akin to the Warrior. I always say if you’re not training for an event, you’re just exercising. The point is that there needs to be a point. There needs to be something you’re moving towards, and getting ready for, that is outside of yourself. It’s not enough, for example, to do it to look good. Also, a runner needs to adjust goals over time, initially as one’s ability increases, the goals will become more challenging. Runners will encounter setbacks, bad race times, injuries, illnesses going into a race. These will put don Miguel Ruiz’s mantra into perspective, “Always do your best.” Your best will fluctuate. Also, as you get older maybe, the physical challenge will give way to other goals, and payoffs. Critical to the Warrior’s development is the experience of setbacks, and the adjustments required to deal with, and overcome those setbacks. Sometimes, we must be water and, overcoming means adjusting goals. Sometimes, as water it means just wearing those obstacles away. Regardless, setbacks and their impact on goals are critical to the Warrior’s development.
On a more mystical level, the runner and the warrior are linked by millions of years of human evolution. Humans are built for long distance running. Anthropologists frequently point to our several physical shortcomings, but the ability of humans to cover long distances continually, and relentlessly is, not unique, but rare in the animal kingdom, and singularly unique amongst primates. Additionally, running constitutes the first form of human hunting. Today this is referred to as persistence hunting. On its basic level, running prey down for miles and miles, until the prey succumbs to exhaustion. Historically, this was an all hands-on-deck affair, practiced by males and females. It is still practiced in certain parts of the world today.
The best runners, as time went on, developed into the core of warrior societies. Running is still today, a key component of training soldiers, the one-dimensional cousins of Warriors. The soldier experiences all of the above described aspects of running during his time in training. Running becomes a purposeful activity, especially to the light-infantry soldier, whose job description includes potentially finding himself literally running for his life.
Whereas Warriors and soldiers are not the same. The experience of the soldier in running as an integral part of their training points to the kinship between Warriors and running. The psychological challenges, the peculiar morphing natures of a runners goals and motivations, and this visceral, ancestral connection underscore the connection between Warriors and running. They point to the usefulness of running as a training activity, and as a key in unlocking the mystical doorway.