Up until a few months ago, I thought I was done with fighting for good. But lately I've felt a resurgence within me of my fighting spirit. But the form it's taking this time is unique and unprecedented for me.
As I write this, I'm 31 years old. The last time I was seriously training in martial arts was my mid-twenties. I've dabbled here and there since then, but I couldn't keep interested. I kept trying to do it the old way, the way I knew before. Namely, the hard style. My favorite disciplines in the past were wrestling, jujitsu, and several styles of kickboxing. I'd never tried any kung fu, tai chi or qigong types of practices. I wanted ferocity and the satisfaction of clashing with a heavy bag, or even better, a sparring partner.
From the time I was little I've been playing this way. And generally, I've always excelled. I'm a fast learner and I've got a heck of a will to win. My dad enrolled me and my brother (and my sister even for a couple seasons) in wrestling from first grade. I placed at the state tournaments every year, and went on to become the wrestling team captain in Junior High. I got tired of pure wrestling around 15 and started to learn boxing, occasionally from my dad, but mostly by trial and error at regular neighborhood boxing circles.
By the time I was 19, I was ready. I joined an MMA gym and had my first amateur fight just a few months later. I won! It hurt like hell, but I won. I could write an entire blog post about that experience. The intensity, the fear, the determination, the relief when it was over. Oh, and the glory. It feels damn good to win after months of preparation.
I had my final MMA fight 3 years later at the age of 22. By this time, I'd won two amateur title belts and was one of the top ranked amateurs in my weight division in the country. It was my 10th fight, and subsequently, my first loss. I could probably write an entire post about that one as well. Going from undefeated prospect to nursing a broken ankle and ruptured ego. Not to mention the existential questions. I felt the same way I did after wrestling for so many years. I was tired and losing interest. I continued to coach and train others part-time for another 4 or 5 years, but the fire to compete had gone out.
Now all these years have gone by, and as I said, I thought I'd given it up for good. I'm regularly reminded of the hell I put this body through. Breaks, tears, and strains of all kinds. But to my surprise, the fire has come back alive. I'll never again compete in MMA or anything similar. But my love for martial arts has been reignited.
As I mentioned earlier, I never tried kung fu, aikido, or any of the gentle arts. And I'm glad I didn't. Because now I'm integrating my fighting spirit in with my open-heartedness and meditative disposition. I'm turning it into a unique spiritual practice that eventually I can even offer to teach others. The real gold here is that I'm finally integrating different parts of me that I thought I had to leave behind. Turns out, there's still a place for them. Now that they are reintegrating, they can re-emerge in more mature and thoughtful forms.
Even beyond this, I've begun to integrate that fighting spirit into more and more areas of my life. To be more full in my expression. To be unleashed from the constraints of avoidance. I've outgrown the recklessness of my youth. But that doesn't mean I can't keep the fighting spirit alive!