Quote, October 13 2012 — Sometimes meaning can turn up in the most unexpected places

To ask why we fight is to ask why the leaves fall: it is in their nature.

Perhaps there is a better question.

Why do we fight? To protect home, and family. To preserve balance, and bring harmony.

For my kind, the true question is: what is worth fighting for?

– Narrator, cinematic trailer for the Mists of Pandaria expansion for the online game World of Warcraft, YouTube video dated August 16, 2012.

First off, even if you don’t play the game — and never have any intention of playing the game, ever — I’d still recommend the trailer for the animation. The animators do a really good job conveying moods with facial expressions, sometimes even with just very subtle changes. In particular, the sequence from 2:25 to about 2:37, and the last couple seconds with the monk’s smile around 3:35 to 3:37, are really masterful (in my opinion).

Secondly, to go off on a weapons geek tangent for just a moment: even though the monk’s staff work is very exaggerated and it’s not possible for a normal person to do all of that with just a staff . . . a quarterstaff (or bo or kon if you’re using terminology from most Asian martial arts) can be a truly amazing weapon. It’s not as flashy as a sword, but if I saw a staff expert going up against a sword expert, I’d bet on the staff expert. Unfortunately, a staff can generate so much force because of it’s length and leverage that as far as I know, there are very few schools that allow any type of free sparring with staves because there’s so much danger of serious injury.

But to finally get to the core of this post: some people fight. I don’t mean that they like to fight, or that they look for fights. They just have a bad temper and a very strong will and very definite opinions and they fight. Sometimes when I try to describe this, I call it internal fire.

Having a fighting nature doesn’t mean the person should indulge it. If anything, it requires extra responsibility. And to be blunt, extra self-knowledge, self-honesty and self-awareness.

Someone who tends to fight and doesn’t admit that to themselves becomes very thoroughly unpleasant to be around. They want to fight and so start picking silly, trivial and stupid reasons to get angry so they have something they can feel justified fighting about.

It is possible to channel that internal fire into constructive ends. But it takes self-discipline. And that recurring boogieman, self-honesty. It is amazing how many people would rather be complete jerks to people they ostensibly care about, rather than look inside themselves and ask “Am I really so that I’m willing to risk this much pain and anger in others? And if I am that upset, what am I actually angry about, and will my current plan of attack actually accomplish anything? Or will it just cause lasting pain and hard feelings in exchange for a very fleeting amount of smugness and gloating?”

The monk in that video ends his narration by saying: “the true question is: what is worth fighting for?”

If you’re someone who has that innate tendency to fight, you need to ask yourself this question on a very regular basis.

And to diverge back into that weapons geek thing again: the last 18 months or so I’ve been slowly relearning a lot of various Asian martial arts forms I used to know, and even teaching myself some new ones. I’ve gotten to the point now where a run-through of the Tai Chi form I know, then Pinans Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan & Godan, and Jitte, Jiin, and Jion, followed a run through of the long secret inspector jo kata, and Sunkake No Kon to end, is a good 25-45 minute workout.

And it really does help me achieve balance and harmony. It’s been about five years since I’ve been in a martial arts class now, after about 10 years of constantly being in at least one martial arts class of some type at any given time, and sometimes two. I’ll probably start looking at some of the schools in Great Falls one of these days, but for right now the forms do help with inner harmony.

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