There is an old story I read many years ago. I will do my best to retell it:

A sword master was visited by an old friend in his village. They talked of the times they had lived through as they drank tea in the small room of his house.

At one point, the talk drifted to the three sons the sword master had. He was very proud of these sons and wanted to show how they were progressing in life and swordsmanship.

He arose and put a pot of water on the top of a partially open door and then called his youngest son to him.

As the boy walked in, the pot of water fell and the boy pulled out his sword and slashed at this attack, spilling water everywhere but striking the pot as it fell. With water dripping off his head he came forward to meet his father’s old friend.

The man turned to his friend and said this is my youngest son; he has a lot to learn but is a good student.

Next he called his second oldest son to him. As the boy opened the door, he noticed the pot falling and caught it before it spilled the water on him. He did pull his sword but in the end realized it was not necessary and was able to deal with the pot without spilling the water.

The man turned to his friend and said this is my second son he is doing well and progressing fast.

Finally he called his oldest son to him. When the son reached the partially opened door, he stopped, calmly reached in and up, took the pot off the top, opened the door and came forward to be introduced to the old friend of his fathers. He displayed calmness and a great degree of awareness of his surroundings.

The man turned to his friend and said this is my oldest. I am a lucky man.

Some may say this is like the passage of life. In our youth we are bold, forceful and strong willed. Willing to show that strength.

As we enter middle life it becomes more tempered, like good steel, able to hold a sharper edge, but used more discriminatingly.

In our later years, it is hoped wisdom and awareness become the weapons of choice. The ability to not engage in conflict, but work toward peace, is like many things in life: a skill that needs to be developed.

Each is a stage or a passage into the next, often needing time and guidance to get through.

It is often said in the martial arts that if you have to fight you have already lost. True martial arts are not about how well you can fight but how you can avoid it.

The belief that the better trained you are, the better able you are in avoiding conflict, is one held by many practitioners.

As always, I leave these articles with the thoughts for such a future to be possible …

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts over 38 years and trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at toddhardymla@gmail.com.