Symbols of power and spirituality have always been important to warriors. From the beginning of time warriors have sought power. Symbols are/were used to internalize spiritual beliefs to harness or summon power. Some believe(d) that symbols summon spiritual beings be they gods, demons, spirit guides, ancestral spirits, or the power of nature. Those symbols were the sources of power and works of ancient and modern art.

Discipline brings strength and purposefulness. Warrior cultures throughout history developed discipline through physical regimen, mental regimen, and adherence to a strict belief system.

Intricate stone carvings; wood carvings; paintings; murals; the construction of weapons, poetry; philosophy; literature; music; all forms of art. All take a great amount of discipline and skill.

It seems that warriors possess a fire of passion that others do not. If a warrior lives beyond his youth it seems they inevitably are drawn to art. The warrior poets of ancient Greece wrote great works of poetry and literature. The samurai of feudal Japan were painters, poets, calligraphers, carvers, and craftsmen. Fathers of the American Revolution wrote songs, poetry, and treatises on religion and philosophy. Even modern warriors such as George Patton turned to poetry and painting for solace and self awareness. There are myriad examples in history, of warriors that pursued art.

Recently I attended the funeral of my uncle. He was one of a small few that had knowledge of Choctaw warrior traditions. I’ve grown contemplative of late. While mourning his death and remembering things he taught me. I’ve asked myself questions, already answered in my youth. The only times, in recent years, that I have turned to kata have been to teach them or when I needed to address emotions that I feel I cannot control. The discipline of performing kata focuses my mind, clearing my emotions, summoning strength within me that I haven’t needed and long forgot.

I am a terrible poet. I write poetry anyway. My poetry is very personal. It is one way I can express myself and feel I do so with poignancy. I’ve found that writing my poetry makes me question and explore once again. Over the years my hands have been damaged and my drawing suffers because of it. I draw anyway. I also fancy myself a photographer. When I capture images I frame them with meaning that is within me. My photographs may seem amateurish to some but to me, they have meaning. Trying to employ the rules of photography takes surprising discipline. Drawing has improved my photography. It helps me see into myself and extract what I see and capture it with the camera.

I wonder if the warriors of the past felt as I do now. Is that why they pursued art? Did they seek to answer questions within themselves?

I just needed to vent.

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Comment by David Tindell on September 20, 2009 at 1:33pm
As a fellow martial artist, I know exactly what you're talking about when you mention kata. I try to impress upon my students that kata are a great way to start your workout by helping you clear your mind and focus. Yet few of them get it until they've been in the art awhile, and by then most have dropped out because studying the martial arts is not an easy thing, and they (or their parents) are not interested in difficult things.
It should be no surprise that warriors produce great art. Although I know little about art, I know enough to understand that creating art---sculpture, painting, literature, whatever---takes discipline and patience. You have to be eager for instruction and willing to take constructive criticism. The warrior also is more in touch with himself, because he knows his limitations but is always pushing himself, and the world around him, because he is constantly on the alert and observes things. He understands people and their motivations because he is often in a position of leadership. He can express himself because people look to him for answers. And because he may have to risk his life to protect others, he sees things with more clarity and with a different perspective.
Comment by Dave on September 15, 2009 at 11:57pm
Thanks for your post. It contravenes the myth of soldiers and warriors as brute beasts incapable of expression.

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