Martial Musings: Champion or professional?

I was having one of my conversations with Uncle Jim (James Keating, the famed Master at Arms) on all things Martial Arts and life. The topic of many hardships in life came up and how “events will always happen to you and around you."

I told him about certain personal and work challenges that had lately engulfed me. He patiently heard me and then shared some of his own challenges in these times. However he then asked me a question: “Mahipal do you know what is the difference between a champion and a professional?"

I was not quite sure where this was going and mumbled a bit. He heard me out and then said, “A champion fights for glory or purse. S/he is in the game as long as it's exciting and profitable to them. However being a professional is whole different animal."

He had my complete attention. “A professional is someone who does what he is supposed to do whether there is glory or not. He does is because that is what he is supposed to do, it is his duty, it is the code by which s/he lives. S/He gave his word and now he keeps it. What makes one a true professional is that he does what his supposed to do in an exquisite manner."

“So Mahipal, become a professional and live by your code with exquisite professionalism. Events will happen around you - job loss, loss of family etc., however you must do what centers you and what you need accomplished. For us our Martial Arts does this. Return to it not as a champion but in a professional manner. Set your target for the day and like a warrior, go after it. Have the target do you, my friend. "

He continued this theme through our conversation, sharing some of the stories from Mas Oyama and Peter Urban, and the role of Sanchin and Tensho. My mind kept reeling from the distinction he had helped me see. As always it was a wonderful listening of first-hand martial arts history.

Later in the evening, enroute to the dojo, I kept thinking of this conversation. I remembered how Sastri Sensei always “showed up with deep intentionality” no matter what was going on around him. We even trained on on Xmas eve before his family dinner! I fondly recalled how Manong Saturno taught his small private classes way past 2 AM on school nights. I contrast this behavior with some others (including some well known champions) who were there while the going was good (mostly for them). What a stark contrast..I was surprised this dynamic had alluded my conscious awareness for so long.

I made it my goal to now not just show up to the dojo but to also pay attention to the quality of my intentionality: making it as wholly professional as possible. It will now be about living my personal code in a professional manner.

So my friends, I want to leave you with these questions as well, “How are you showing up to the art/s you love - as a champion or a professional? And what would showing up professionally look like for you?"

I would love to hear your thoughts... here in the comments, email or drop by the dojo :)

Until next time, signing off from sunny California

Mahipal Lunia, Sensei

Facilitating Breakthroughs towards Integral Growth (TM)