the little tests

Wimberley zip lines- a recreational destinatio...
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I have mentioned in previous posts that I subscribe to the idea that:

A man’s ordinary life at peace reflects his courage or cowardice just like a mirror…Having the least bit of spare time, he will put his mind to Learning, and not be negligent in his practice of the martial arts…He will protect his health fully and will keep in mind the desire to perform at least once in his life a great meritorious deed.


It’s my opinion that a person should, on occasion, test themselves. Large, life altering tests are not as necessary as frequent, smaller tests.  These “little tests” can be as simple as; speaking up when you see something wrong, being the person who takes the lead when it’s obvious that everybody else is looking for someone to make the first move, making a public speech, etc.

In this day and age there are also many opportunities to test your “gut” in a relatively safe manner. There are numerous adventure and X-sport opportunities out there to test your mettle; rock climbing gyms, skydiving schools, SCUBA courses, etc. I recently had the opportunity to do a high angle “adventure” course. You may have seen them, cargo net climbs, wire/plank bridges between elevated platforms, zip lines.

Now, I’m not claiming that doing stuff like this is somehow going to guarantee that you will perform well under stress, or make you magically courageous (my daughter and niece went on this course with me btw) but any opportunity to associate that little twinge of fear with fun is an opportunity that you can use to prove to yourself that you CAN override fear and do what needs to be done.

I look at opportunities like this as a chance to “practice” those things that you don’t/cant practice by shooting at targets or even by trading simunitions with another living person. There is no (or very little) pushing past actual fear in a lot of tactical/weapon training, you get to fantasize about what you “would do” in real life, but it’s still just training. There is a reason why most military boot camps run their recruits through “confidence courses” and obstacle courses…and it isn’t to train them to perform common soldier tasks.

What I found interesting in this latest excursion was the ratio of young people to adults. It’s somewhat amusing how many parents will let their kids do the course but will pass on doing it themselves. Granted, youth has long been known to be more adventurous, but where is the line between adventure and the over-cautiousness of adulthood?


9 thoughts on “the little tests”

  1. Funny timing for this one. I’m re-watching “Shall We Dance?” (Japanese version) which is all about shaking up the humdrum and discovering or reconnecting with your ‘gut’ by doing something out of your comfort zone. For martial artists, I wonder if a ‘gut check’ might be something like a public speaking class, acting class, or some other ‘art’ form other than martial arts or another physical risk/challenge activity. According to the ‘old ways’ Samurai (and Euro Knights) supposedly trained in fine arts, dance, theater as well as the combat arts. Remember that, statistically, public speaking is feared worse than death LOL!

    1. In my profession, the most common “gut check” isn’t getting into fights or chasing criminals, most often it’s simply walking up to strangers and talking to or if needs be verbally confronting them.

  2. When I was younger one way I did this was to train with and spar amateur fighters. Being older and injured that’s no longer feasible for me. Recently, I stepped in to the role of promoter, and I’m co-promoting my own amateur thai boxing card on Aug. 19. (nail biting) LOL.

  3. tgace,
    I think, even more than the physical dimension of incrementally building courage, the day-to-day opportunities to improve moral courage are often overlooked.
    How often do people shirk the opportunity–responsibility–to say or do something to stop a little, itty-bitty wrong, but still think to themselves as they sit in a movie theater, “yeah, if that happened to me I’d be able to ‘rise up?'”
    Moral muscles, coordination, and endurance require the same conditioning as physical, yet I see all kinds of people that daily make null, weak, or cowardly decisions in small personal interactions, but still maintain the illusion that when the “big one” comes along, they’ll rise as heroes.
    I’m thinking not so much. Right action, right thought, right conduct are habits every bit as much as they are attributes.
    Rebuking a stranger, co-worker, or a boss for a small moral infraction is difficult, but from what I’ve seen, those who fail to do so get in trouble later for not stepping in (or stepping up) when the big infraction comes along.

    1. +1 Boss. I think that the problem for some people is that they have never seriously thought about what they would do in any given situation. They haven’t decided what sort of things are worth “speaking up” about and what would be better to simply let slide. Then when the moment comes they vacillate, then afterwards they rationalize.

      Some people with a conscience may then struggle with what they “couldda” or “shouldda” done, but unfortunately many simply accept their rationalization and carry on.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree. The hardest thing that a person can do is to stand up for the little things and say something about it. They do rationalize it in many different ways (i.e. it’s not my place, it doesn’t affect me, who am I to say…. and the list goes on). At what point do we say “I have to do something about this? That’s an integrity question that one must answer for ourselves…

  5. I do think that young people have a tendency to think of themselves as immortal and indestructible, and older people have learned that they are not. There’s such a thing as sensible caution to avoid needless injury. Young people need to be more cautious of possible injury – and sometimes, as you said, older people need to learn to push limits.

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