My name is xxxxxxxx, and I am 19 years old. I have studied martial arts for a good portion of my life and continue today. I have developed an interest in the philosophical side of the arts and I was wondering if you could offer some guidance. I have always struggled with anxiety, but it seems to be getting out of hand lately. Most of my attacks center around a thought of death, and that snowballs until it feels like the life is just sucked from my being. How, as a martial artist and human being, can I face the thought of death and, eventually, death itself, and not be afraid?
Thank you for your time.
You have posited an eternally thought of reality. Obviously, death is something that everyone thinks of, and, in many instances, people will tend to form their own opinions. How someone defines death is personal and, regardless of religious inclinations suggesting certain results of the experience, no one can say what it is; therefore, in my opinion, it makes no sense to dwell on something that can only frustrate your efforts in ascending to their own level of excellence. As well, you are thinking of death in light of your training, which suggests that you fear being hit and dying as the result. This, of course, will prohibit you from attacking with sincerity, integrity, and devotion to your art, martial arts notwithstanding.
This may all sound highly intellectual, but, in fact, it is quite the opposite. No one knows what death is or is not. THAT is what creates the fear factor and limits anyone’s ability to rise to the highest sense of self they can imagine. In addition, at your tender age, the whole idea of the unknown is something that you consciously think about in an attempt to understand the purpose of your existence.
The best way to come to terms with death is to simply give it the finger, deny it any authority in your life, and move ahead in pursuit of your dreams. You will live and you will die in whatever time frame that happens according to another unknown. You will accomplish great deeds, or you will not. Laugh at the idea that everything you are doing is absurd in the best of cases and that you will eventually be the magnificent person you think in terms of being.
Read my version of Musashi’s Book of Five Rings for further clarity:
Disciple: “Master, what happens when we die?”
Master: “Nothing! You don’t.”
Disciple: “We don’t?”
Master: “No. You go to sleep and wake up on the other side.”
Disciple: “What other side?”
Disciple: “What’s ‘that’?”