“Always grip your sword with the thought of killing.”
“To win any battle, you must fight as if you are already dead.”
All training for lethal combat regardless of form should be routed in death. That is not to say that escalation of force and rules of engagement do not apply but any weapon designed to kill should be treated as such. Too often in the American (tactical) shooting community do we take firearms too lightly. We glorify guns and gear while neglecting the reality on a philosophical and psychological level; we are training to take a human life and more importantly may die in the process. That, or we are cosplaying at the range and should be labeled as such.
Very few people train for death. Whether it be their own or someone else’s; a comrades, an enemies. This is a mistake because just as we mentally prepare for battle we should be preparing for the likely end result. Every young untested grunt knows this, when you’re alone with your thoughts as a fresh warrior they tend to wander to your death at some point. This usually is connected to thoughts of an upcoming deployment or something similar. I believe most are quick to push those thoughts out, they push them away due to fear. That fear can be an existential or physical one that the individual does not want to confront; especially alone, which is the only place you will find yourself when contemplating such matters. It is a natural response since as humans our fight or flight response (the most primal physical state we can attain as humans) has nothing wired into it about acceptance. I am very aware the fight or flight response is directly connected to adrenaline but my point remains. In your most gross motor-skill based, adrenaline fueled, animal side of existence there is no option other than to attack or run…. in avoidance of death.
Physically this is good. Existentially this limits us from achieving true clarity in battle. Fear is still relevant and should be used to push oneself harder but fear and acceptance of death can coexist. By accepting mortality you free yourself from it but by fearing it or understanding that it must be avoided at all costs is the ultimate state of mind for a person. So from this perspective we should do our best to confront our own (and others) mortality as often as possible in relevance to not only combat but in life.
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, author of “Hagakure“, wrote, “The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the way of the samurai.”
Despite the numerous backgrounds the world’s “warriors” come from, we all have one thing in common that binds us and it’s not the weapons or equipment. It’s that we all exist in a profession or lifestyle that inevitably revolves around death. Yet in our various “warrior classes”, especially as Americans, we do not stay mindful of this simple fact. We cannot truly reach a profound state of being (as a warrior) if we do not face its most centrifugal theme. So we should continue to train as hard as we can to beat the “clock” but simultaneously accept the inevitability of it. Once you have come to terms with this, you truly begin to cherish life and appreciate how fragile or fleeting it can be.