How much is enough?


How much do I need to know or do to be a "real" or "serious" martial artist?

How much history do I need to read? How many Japanese words do I need to memorize? There are so many... 

How many kata do I need to be proficient in? What about all the variations? Or "old" kata? How much time do I need to spend in the dojo or how many special trips and clinics and play-days do I need to attend? How many years will it take and what rank will I have to earn? Does it matter that I've never been in a street fight or participated in any tournaments?

What about all the etiquette? How much of it do I need to know, or to follow? How much of the clothing do I need to wear, and what is the absolute correct way to wear it? Does my dojo have to look like a "real" Japanese dojo? Do I need a hanko stamp or own a set of long and short samurai swords?

Are all the arts that aren't mine "bad" arts, or not as effective as my art, especially if they wear a lot of gaudy patches and logos on their gi, or fight in a cage?

My health is lousy: I slouch (poor shisei, I'm sure), I don't eat right, I have little to no stamina (which makes grappling an embarrassingly short-lived endeavor), I'm overweight, I don't train specific parts of my body to perform tasks specific to budo, I don't meditate, I don't have a kimono or an obi, I've never been to Japan, I don't drink tea from Asia, I don't read lots of books and essays about budo (although I've read a couple), I certainly have never published any books or essays about budo, and I couldn't tell you what on earth "ki" truly is to save my life (and I still don't understand when people try to explain it to me). 

Budo is supposed to be love (so I've been told), but I still get angry, I still judge, I'm still impatient, I'm still proud, I'm still afraid. Do I need to study Buddhism, or Taoism? Do I need to be "enlightened" (whatever that is)? Do I need to be able to answer a student's question with something simple and profound, like a monk on a mountain top?

Am I doomed to be a mere hobbiest, one of millions who have taken some sort of class and hold some sort of belt color in some sort of art?

I don't ask these things to be flippant or to mock anyone or anything. I'm actually genuinely curious. How far do I go, how far do I push myself, dedicate myself? 

How much do I need to know or do to be a "real" or "serious" martial artist?

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