My recent trip to New York City taught me a lot about being a martial artist, and about being a person, after I took a long look at the New York faces. There are so many people walking the streets. Business people, travelers, young, and old trek the streets in packs, at a quick pace. If you are not careful, you don’t see them, only shadows clumped together, and moving in tandem.
I stopped to look at the faces more closely, and I’m glad I did. I saw eyes that flirted in different directions, lips that curved with subtle smiles, and quirky nuances that defined their bodies. Each one is so different, even if they do walk together in a moving blur down the street.
You can mistake martial artists the same way. They appear similar, and they learn skills and techniques that have a common thread. In a crowd of martial artists, even at a demonstration, they blend together, and are not very distinguishable from each other from afar.
But, they are not the same. Not even close. Their minds and hearts hold different content. Their lives are full of barriers and obstacles that their martial art mindset must, and will, overcome. When you look closely, you see more than martial art actions. Their faces are fascinating.
Have you ever watched the intensity that erupts on the face of a martial artist when he is focused on what he is doing? One moment he is casually laughing and enjoying his peers, the next his face beholds a critical expression of his inward expectations, desires, and dreams. You can clearly see that he wants, more than anything, to make a difference in his life, the lives of others, and maybe even the world.
I see it in myself, on my own face. The desire to achieve personal excellence, betterment, and the quest for internal truth, are all slowly and methodically revealed in my eyes, mouth, and glance. No one can ever see what is on the inside, but if they look, the face tells all.
The importance of facing the faces is this: you are not the same, nor will you ever be the same, as any other martial artist. You can be tested, earn belts, and follow the same steps, but how you manifest martial arts in your life, is completely up to you. Take what you have learned about perseverance, hope, accomplishment, trust, and confidence, and blanket it across your life. Others will see it all, on your face.
I see the way you look at the world around you. I hear your breath when you exhale through a martial art moment. I taste the same passion that you do. Your face, every crevice, reveals it all.
My wish is that each martial artist is seen for who he is. The magic of his own personality, his energy, and his practice is unique. It does not matter how old, or how long he has practiced, where he has been, or where he is going. The important thing is that he believes, and if he does, his face will always reveal what he cherishes inside.
To practice a martial art is not enough. To practice life, is everything.
I loved New York City, and I look forward to my next trip there. I enjoyed the tall buildings that are so eloquently situated, the parks, the lights on Broadway, and Time Square. They all have a “face” of their own. I hailed my first cab there. My feet were blistered from walking so much. I ate a lot of good food, and I rested on a nice pillow in the evening.
Still, nothing was as revealing and exciting to me, as the diverse and dramatic faces of people, from all over world, who walked the streets of New York. Nothing reminded me more about the kind of martial artist I truly want to be.