In a previous blog post (“Forge“) I drew an analogy between martial arts training and iron being shaped in a forge.
I recently participated in a conversation with a blacksmith who was talking with people watching him work at the state fair’s forge.
Someone asked, “Did you learn this from your father?”
“No,” replied the blacksmith, “I learned smithing on my own.”
My daughter asked, “Isn’t it dangerous to learn on your own?”
“Sure it is. I’ve been burned a lot,” answered the blacksmith, “so I learned quickly.”
My child was horrified, so I assured her, “If you respect the fire, that reduces the risk of getting hurt. But things still happen.”
The blacksmith added, “You have to really want to learn. See, I think this is fun – I get to play in the fire all day long. But yeah, it takes a lot of time to learn – a lot of dedication. It’s hard work.”
I didn’t have time to do more than meet his eyes and silently communicate that I understood before someone asked a technical question and the smith went into a long, detailed explanation. My daughter and I moved on to another part of the fair.
What the blacksmith had to say resonated deep within me. Training is dangerous. We do get hurt sometimes, and yes, pain can teach us. And oh yes, we have to want to learn in order to reach higher and higher ranks. If we’re serious we’ll devote a lot of time and effort to learning. It helps a lot if we keep our sense of fun. I think this smith would understand us martial artists. We are passionate about what we do. We play with fire and we are shaped by it.