My dad was a warrior. He was a Lieutenant Commander on a destroyer in the Pacific in World War II. He's never talked much about the war, just an occasional hint or two, but today he told me about some action that occurred in the Philippines. His destroyer took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which saw the first use of kamikaze aircraft in the war. Dad says he watched a plane pass over him and miss its target by about 30 feet, piling into the water and exploding. Not yet realizing that the pilot's intent had been to fly into the ship, dad's thought was one of awed sympathy, "that guy never had a chance!" Later he said he saw two planes fly into the USS Mississippi. During this action in the Philippines, a shell from a shore battery hit a nearby ship and utterly destroyed everything from the mast forward. My dad took a whale boat into the wreckage and picked up 20-some-odd survivors. As he was offloading the men onto a mid-sized transport, the transport was hit and destroyed and he had to go pick up the survivors again. For this action he earned an award (a Bronze Star Medal?)
After the war, he gave up warrioring and became an engineer, a businessman, and a family man. But beneath these hats there was still a warrior. There was (is) some part of the warrior, noble and stern, dignified and proper, remaining in him.
But I didn't intend this as a simple tribute to my father. My father is an example of an extremely common nobility in America. Because of the relative youth of this country and the frequency of conflicts, America has bred warriors in every generation. I think you'd be hard pressed to find an American that is more than one or two generations removed from this warrior ethos represented by my father. This idea was somewhat hinted at in a quote by John Adams that I posted a few days ago;
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
The idea being that despite our desire to believe that we have evolved into artists, poets, and philosophers, not only are we at most a couple of generations removed from the warrior, but we are indebted to him (or her).
About 120 years ago, Jigoro Kano saw this same thing happening in Japan. His country was emerging from feudalism into the modern era of industrialism and multinationalism and he saw that there would be no place for the professional warrior as he had previously existed in Japan. The next generation would be engineers and businessmen and the following generation would be artists (so he thought or hoped). Gichin Funakoshi in his autobiography, Karate-do My Way of Life, describes coming to the same realization when he had to get his topknot shorn in order to be admitted to a modern school. So, what did these guys do? They reorganized the martial traditions that they had access to in order to preserve the nobility inherent in the warrior ways. That's part of what we are doing in the martial arts - conserving the warrior spirit.
You know, I think it's funny that my dad, the warrior fought the Japanese and it is Japanese martial arts that have allowed me to learn and preserve part of that warrior spirit.