We start each martial arts class by saying shikin haramitsu daikomyo. My favorite translation of that is in every encounter lies the opportunity for enlightenment. There is a potential revelation in every moment, in every interaction, in every breath you take.

This March, I had the pleasure of attending the 2010 IBDA Tai Kai, a forty-person, three-day, intensive training camp for those teaching and studying Bujinkan ninjutsu, hosted by Shihan Van Donk in San Francisco. I hoped for the Tai Kai to hold a little bit of enlightenment for me, but I kept myself reasonable and didn’t let my wistful thinking get too far off the ground. However, as it turns out, it was exactly as inspiring and fueling as I had wanted it to be – far exceeding my realistic expectations.

One of the many lessons I took away from the Tai Kai was the concept of being at zero. Many of our instructors discussed this, but one approach in particular stood out to me.

A gentleman named Jim King asked us what defines a warrior. In my head, I answered control – control of oneself, control of the situation, control of others to prevent escalation and damage. His answer was similar in some ways and very different in others.

His understanding of a warrior is that of balance; only unbalanced people will start a fight (excluding soldiers executing orders). A warrior is an active participant in everything; a warrior chooses to act, to bring the attention and aggression upon himself, and in doing so, he protects those around him. Everything is a deliberate, conscious choice; a warrior takes responsibility for what he does and for what happens as a result.

In order to remain at zero, a warrior does not invest himself into the fight, or the technique, or the outcome; he acts and takes opportunities where they arise, as they arise, and abandons them the moment they cease to be useful. It is intuitive, immediate, flowing; there is no tension, no intention, no emotional attachment. Ultimately, this balance stems from love, compassion, and peace – not hatred, fear, or anger.

One who is balanced is never forced; instead, he only accepts an invitation to become involved as necessary. Being balanced is an inner quality, not an outward characteristic born of great skill or competency. A warrior chooses every single thing he does deliberately and consciously.

It hit home, solidly, intensely. I am still musing over the concept and how to further integrate it into all areas of my life, not just physical training. And it’s important enough to be the first martial arts concept I blog about.

How do you balance yourself and stay at zero?

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"The broken will always be able to love harder than most. Once you've been in the dark, you learn to appreciate everything that shines." ~Zachry K. Douglas