Before we begin, allow me to issue a warning to the reader: this article in the series will be longer than the rest, for it is the most important. I urge you to stick it out, for it will be worth it as you engage in creating an environment within which your inner warrior can take root, grow, learn, mature, and -eventually- emerge whole. Let us begin.
We must recognize that we are trying to cultivate a warrior brotherhood in a non-warrior society. This is made ever more difficult by the stigmas with which todays warriors live, and the clouds of abuse and suspicion under which they must operate. Even more important is the fact that their efforts support a regime whose goals run counter to our very principles.
That said, we are still attempting to cultivate warriors in our men. These are men who are products of the society that made them, and we will have to undo many of the paradigms with which they were raised, nurtured, and educated. Furthermore, we will also need to recharge our ancient memory so we can call upon our ancestral warriors to guide us, show us the way, and serve as examples we would be wise to follow.
Gone are the warrior societies of the Greek city states and the Roman Empire. No longer do we see the ancient tribal warriors of Celtic, Germanic, and Nordic myth and legend. Yes, my brothers, these are gone… but they need not be forgotten. We must accept and embrace the need to rekindle those ancient fires to forge the warriors we need today.
After recognizing and awakening the warrior, this is the most crucial step in the process of becoming a warrior. This is where the foundation is laid, upon which everything else rests. Without a strong foundation, the base from which everything stems is hollow, weak, and merely an empty shell. As a result, we men must cultivate that unbreakable foundation, without which our inner warrior would eventually falter.
How do we do this?
Let us shift gears for a moment, from analogies of constructed buildings to something more appropriate: a garden. When building a garden, one does not simply toss seeds onto the ground with the hopes they will grow. Similarly, men do not arm themselves and think they are warriors; at least, serious men do not do this. Instead, the gardener thinks of planting the seeds toward the end, since he has much work to do in preparation.
First, he must till and examine the soil, ensuring it is fertile for growth. If he finds it wanting, he adds nutrients and waits for them to take hold. Next, the gardener removes rocks, weeds, and other items that will work to inhibit growth, thereby minimizing the obstacles in the way of growth. Finally, he sets aside the items he will use to nourish the seeds and enable them to grow, namely plant food and water.
The process the gardener follows is much the same for cultivating the warrior. A man first recognizes and awakens the inner warrior, thus ensuring fertile ground for growth and maturation. Second, he removes the mind-body-soul obstacles that will prevent growth maximization. Finally, a man ensures the inner warrior is fed and watered with exposure to education and training, through which the warrior can be fed and from which he is able to build a resume of experience from which he can learn and mature.
Cultivating the warrior is about providing context and laying the groundwork for growth. This growth is vital to the development of the warrior and centers on the mind-body-soul connection. (I normally use the term “body-mind-soul” to organize and simplify the connection alphabetically, but in this case, I rearrange the order as I will explain shortly.) Context is a good descriptor for cultivation as it encapsulates what is needed for growth.
A man without the proper warrior mindset is nothing but a soldier, a blunt instrument bent on destruction. He is akin to a hammer, ready to smash his opposition without context or thought of purpose or consequence; but in life, not everything is a nail. In contrast, a warrior thrives on context; in fact, he must have it. He must be able to discern right versus wrong action, understand the situation and environment in which he lives and operates, and ensure his actions adhere to the higher principles of his calling. It is all about context.
How does the warrior obtain the context required?
For the man who would become a warrior, this is done though vigorous mental and intellectual research. The man must research historical warriors, as well as the cultures and societies to which they belonged, to glean historic examples -good and bad- of warrior ways, lifestyles, and responsibilities. This intellectual pursuit will provide the man the historic context of what it means to be a warrior, what it entails, and what it requires, both of the warrior himself and of the society and culture he represents and defends.
During this process, the man absorbs the nature and character of warriors, and warrior societies past and present, learning the details of their success and failure. He is exposed to various codes of honor that shape the warrior and dictate his behavior in every situation, from peacetime to combat, and everything in-between. Most importantly, the man who seeks to cultivate his inner warrior tests out things he finds of interest or value. In this way, he determines what works for him and what does not.
This process of cultivating the mind is continuous, even lifelong; for to arrest or interrupt its progress is to invite atrophy and decay, both in the man and his warrior, as well as the society and culture to which he belongs. In short, this process of cultivation helps the man to establish habits that encourage a warriors mindset, and nurtures his self-discipline. From these two attributes -mindset and self-discipline- the warrior can emerge.
Cultivating a mans body into something from which a warrior will emerge is not as easy as it sounds. It takes discipline, know-how, dedication, and hard work. This process of forging the body consists of two complementary and mutually supporting lines of effort.
First, the warrior must be physically fit. He must have the muscular strength required to accomplish great feats. He must have the muscular endurance to sustain a difficult endeavor over a long period of time. He must have the stamina and conditioning to endure torturous physical obstacles emplaced before him. He must be healthy, able to both resist polluting his warrior’s body with unnatural and harmful substances, and withstand exposure to natural and biologically harmful illnesses. Finally, his constitution must be such that he can recover quickly from injury or illness.
Second, the warrior must know how to fight. He must have the skills and the capabilities required to protect himself and others from threats. Most importantly, he must have the maturity to know when and when not to use his skills. This means that he must be able to discern which situations required non-lethal force and which demand deadly violence of action. The warrior is not a sportsman; he does not fight to the bell, or spar with rules. He is ruthless yet merciful, as the situation demands. But above all, he must be skilled.
A man must cultivate this two-pronged approach by gaining and maintaining a high rate of physical fitness and martial skill. From these foundational pillars, the physical might of the warrior will emerge. He might be a stand-up fighter who can run for miles on end; or he might be a grappler with strongman strength. The details do not matter other than to provide the man the basic capabilities from which he can cultivate fertile ground from whence the warrior will emerge.
For every warrior, there is a set of guiding principles. This code can originate from any number of sources: the Ten Commandments, the Fourteen Leadership Principles of the U.S Marine Corps, the Bushido Code of the ancient Japanese samurai, the Nine Noble Virtues of the ancient Nordic warriors, the Code of Chivalry for Medieval Knights, the worldviews of the ancient Germanic or Celtic tribal warriors, or of the Spartans of ancient Greece. Any of these, and more, will suffice. What matters most for a man is finding the code by which he can live, which he can embrace, and which he can embody.
The human soul is very complex, yet powerful, and it can adapt to changing environmental conditions a man faces from time to time. In some situations, the “inner warrior” must lead the way; in others, a mans softer side is appropriate. Regardless of who is leading at any given time, a man must embrace his warrior spirit. This does not mean he must disavow his non-warrior side; on the contrary, compassion and gentleness are part of the totality of traits we all embody, even the contradictory ones. The true warrior can demonstrate strength without compromising tenderness because both are elements of his personal self, and both have roles to play, not only for the warrior but also for the man.
The key to maintaining the balance needed as a warrior is inner balance, for there must be peaceful coexistence between the opposing poles of the inner self. The warrior spirit, rooted in a code, and spiritually cultivated, must be tempered with wisdom and moderation. Both of these two things only come with experience, but they must exist so that the warrior can react instantly and appropriately to chaos, confusion, and even conflict, while still maintaining goodwill and a sense of fairness.
Another aspect of cultivating the soul of a man to become a warrior is through trust. This is one of the most important efforts a man can make, since its loss is nearly irreparable. When men trust each other, they will come to one anothers aid at a moments notice, often laying down their livelihoods or even lives in the process. When there is no trust, however, there is no authority, and a dearth of leadership. Warriors must earn the trust of their fellow brothers; from it comes authority, and with it comes leadership.
Trust is most often gained through shared experiences. The strongest ties are forged by stress, but the trust and cohesion that results is irreplaceable. Trust between family members, for example, is nothing like that found between warriors. Families build special bonds, to be sure, but families are not warriors. To be a warrior is to realize that it is not about you; rather it is about your fellow warriors, those you protect, and the people you serve. Warriors cannot serve without trust.
Cultivating the Whole Warrior
We have discussed what men must do to prepare themselves to become warriors. They must embrace the mind-body-soul connection, and cultivate each in turn to enable the warrior to emerge. The path of the warrior is not easy; it is fraught with difficulty, danger, and stress. Only the strong will endeavor to persevere, conquering themselves as men to become the warriors they must be.
Esoteric perspectives, lofty ideals, and theoretical mumbo-jumbo aside; what does it mean for you in laymans terms?
To cultivate the mind, you must exercise your mind by reading, listening, and watching -absorbing- all you can about what it means to be a warrior. You must take on-board those aspects that call to you and connect with you. Prepare the fertile ground of your mind by educating yourself in the history, philosophy, culture, and ways of the warrior. Let those examples guide what you can expect, and the direction you must go.
To cultivate your body, you must prepare it for the rigors that becoming a warrior demands. You must build the foundations of muscular strength, muscular endurance, stamina, and health; not only to minimize your physical vulnerabilities, but also to enhance your physical capabilities. You must also “choose your weapon.” That is, you must decide what kind of warrior you will be. Will you be a warrior of the sword? If so, learn to fight with anything that can be turned into a weapon. Will you be a warrior of the pen? If so, learn to research and to write, to teach and guide others. If you are to be a warrior of the arts, build those creative skills you require. If you are to be a warrior of the tool, learn the vocational and technical skills which that type of warrior must wield. No matter the type of warrior inside you, hone those skills for they will become your weapons.
To cultivate your soul, adhere to the principles that connect with your belief system and worldview. There is something out there for every man. Find it; find that connection, find your calling. Take it, embrace it, and own it. Nourish your soul because it will guide you on your journey to becoming a warrior. A warrior without a soul is nothing but a soldier. With a cultivated and righteous soul, a man can become a warrior. Find the principles that make you whole, and make living them your lifes work.
Cultivating the warrior within you is the most crucial step of this process. If you take the time to do it right, it will pay dividends in the end, and enhance your journey. If you take shortcuts or fail to properly lay the foundation, your warrior will be weak, ineffective, and a burden to your family, your brotherhood, your community, your tribe, and your people. Do it right. We will not get a second chance.