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A handbook for Jedi knights

This is how Steven Pressfield describes “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. Everyone knows Jedi knights are just sci-fi martial artists, so with an endorsement like this, I had to read the book!

As martial artists, we are, or should be, somewhat familiar with Zen philosophy and Koans, those enigmatic parables designed to leave one pondering the depth and subtleties of life. In fact, mention ‘philosophy’ to anyone these days and the topic conjures images of a mountain-top recluse pondering obtuse parables. This is not Stoicism. As a philosophy, Stoicism is practical, direct, and simple. It’s just not easy. Tim Ferris describes Stoicism as “an operating system for everyday life”, and this is absolutely true.

Stoicism is a philosophy first codified by the ancient Romans, addressing everything from challenges, to the finiteness of life, the virtues of patience, courage, humility, resourcefulness, reason, justice, and creativity. In his book “The Obstacle is the Way”, Holiday details stories of Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, and Barack Obama, to name a few. Holiday describes how great leaders, time and time again, turn what at first appears as insurmountable challenges into successes. The obstacle becomes the way.

Our students who trained through the pandemic practiced this concept of Stoicism “what stands in the path, becomes the path”. In the absence of all partner work, online sessions were filled with more advanced kata, basics, and solo-representations of 2-person drills that are usually reserved for higher-ranked senior students. Online training, observed by some as an impediment to training, actually fast-tracked elements of training. The obstacle became the way.

I was so impressed with this book "The Obstacle is the Way", that I’ve listened through the audio book twice, and have now turned to the source, having started reading Seneca. Marcus Aurelius is next.


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