Ground zero for all who enter Gun Fu is familiarization with your essential nature.
During his years of teaching, Master Archibeque stressed the inherent worth of individuality. This applied to students as individuals, and also as members of the group. He forever intoned his favorite mantra
"There is only one you, you re special!". By this, he meant you were important for who and what you are, and need not feel lacking or deficient in any way. He knew in our society with the universe of social
norms and pressures, lies the ubiquitous drive to compare yourself to others. Along with that drive is the implied conclusion you all too frequently come up short.
Gun Fu starts, not from outside, not from
the teachings of Master Archibeque or his Black Belts, but rather from a seed within you. Imbedded within that seed, your essential nature exists in its full potential. Archie understood the significance of each
person’s essential nature and emphasized you must always know what that nature is, in order to be true to it. This meant even to the point of building your martial art around that essential nature, rather than copying
others, or abandoning yourself and drifting into the unknown.
We have stated elsewhere (in the Gun Fu philosophy section) that Gun Fu requires a solid moral foundation, and complete commitment to the highest
principles. Though a Christian of fundamental persuasion, Archie’s perspective was strongly influenced by Oriental philosophies. This was also the case with his successor (me!), who spent years exploring Oriental
philosophies and arts, culminating in vows of poverty, humility, and service as he matured in the art of Gun Fu (Yeah...I know...humility???....matured???, the poverty part I m sure you were OK with).
teachers understood reality to consist essentially of the self, and its broad relationship to the world about us, including other entities, goings on, and the material of existence. Both further understood the
significance of still another sphere, the weight of collective thought interwoven with the thread of time, which effectively colors everything we do, sinking our essential nature into so dark a recess, that nothing
short of a miracle (or a sudden burst of enlightenment) allows one’s rediscovery of self in the short span of a single lifetime.
This bombardment of thought represents the culmination of human existence
and reaction to experience, and it flows about us, saturating our existence so thoroughly it is no less or different than a genetic pool equivalent, driving our perceptions (and associated conclusions) of all we
In recent years, this was profoundly articulated by Joseph Campbell, particularly in his video series with Bill Moyers. Campbell recognized the importance of the mythological threads in our
everyday lives, so much so he concluded we were driven by those threads, and took nurture in their lessons and messages. More specifically, he felt mythology preserved what constituted the symbolic core of our essential
and collective humanity, a core which has withstood the challenges of time, and which have the potential to restore us to our true humanity.
It may be fact that mythology is the antidote to our collective
pathology, functioning as a counterweight and perhaps antidote to the onslaught of assertive thought, grafted to time, permeating our existence.
Not unlike Campbell, Archie understood that within each
person, during the flow of his or her lifetime, a potential hero stood to emerge.
Other modern philosophers have articulated parallel themes. From the lessons of Zen, to Krishnamurti (as in both J. and UG),
all emphasize the common belief that beneath (Should we say outside?) the thoughts and insecurity of greed and fear is the capacity to directly experience reality. This “natural state" is within the life
potential experience of each person.
Frankly, neither Master Archibeque nor I were encouraging anyone to become philosophers, or monks. Chuck Norris, a devout Christian, was once interviewed on the influence
of Zen in his life. He responded that Zen was a significant factor in his life, one which affirmed and formed part of his essential nature, and remained with him in everything that he did, particularly, in his
Stated simply, there is only one you, you're the best at who you are, you are complete as you are! Don't sell yourself short! Bring who you are out to the world where it can shine! That’s
your starting point, your raw material as you enter a personal study of Gun Fu.
Granted, there are differences from one person to the next. One person is strong, another not so strong; one person is fast,
another slow; one is intelligent, another, flat. Some are perceived as beautiful, others as plain; some with talent, others not.
I remember in a conversation with my late friend, Fred. At that stage in his
life, Fred had been Chief Executive Officer and President of a major credit union, one which he had nurtured from its infancy, to the point where it was a major player on the scene. We were at a picnic, throwing
horseshoes. Fred had heard I played guitar, and in an uncharacteristic, but very enthusiastic encounter, exclaimed he had always wanted to be a musician. I responded that his life direction apparently turned out quite
differently, and questioned how he chose the world of finance and credit unions. Fred responded simply, “I didn't have the talent." I looked over to Fred, and wasn’t sure I had a clear read on his meaning. I
sensed, momentarily, a shadow of disappointment that he had not followed his dream. I was somewhat saddened by the inference that his life, which had been eminently successful, was somehow the flip side of an absence of
He had a dream, a youthful aspiration to music, which was quite different than what blossomed as a tremendous talent in an area which, though not as glamorous, proved to benefit thousands of
others. All flowed from his personal stamp of integrity and leadership which brought success to the credit union over a span of decades. I turned to Fred and responded, You were true to your nature. Not many musicians
could have done what you did for the members of this credit union Fred ."
Again, there is only one you. You are the best you that can be. Anyone else trying to be you will fall far short from you who
already are. You fill a singular spot in the universe. Within the context of creation, you're no more, or less important than the President, the Pope, or Bill Gates. Despite the fact you are eternally bombarded with
messages from your family, friends, media, and even from within your own self that you are deficit, that you need to change, that you need to improve, that others have something you don't, but should, or that you
deserve more, that you should in some way be good to yourself (as in buying some ridiculously expensive toy)...you must understand, at the end of the day, there is only you, and your acceptance and nurturing of who you
Even more importantly, Archie understood that each person had certain inclinations . These often acted as veneers, nearly insurmountable, blocking efforts to arrive at awareness of self. For example,
when you go into a bookstore, what you normally find is a collection of worthwhile or interesting books which reinforce or re-affirm what already exists within yourself. Something about the title or the cover art
reinforces who you think you are and attracts you to the book (mostly because you already agree with what you expect to find within). In effect, you're looking for readings that reward your beliefs, and validate a
projection of who you think you are.
All of this is a detour, which unfortunately saddles atop your essential nature. We are always disinclined to see to the core of who and what we are. If we have great
speed, our martial art will be one of speed. If we have great power, our martial art will manifest power. Those with limberness, will spend their time being limber, and manifesting that limberness. If we have endurance,
there will be great satisfaction in wearing all of our friends and associates out.
But, what else is there?
In encouraging you to be who you are, Archie discouraged the inclination to favor a single major
talent. Who you are is much larger and multi-faceted than you might at first expect. He insisted you look beyond the surface, dive deep into the true you and confront the entirety. This is the battle you are training
for in your study of Gun Fu. He taught there existed a constellation of talents within each person, and over reliance on any singular trait stymied the potential for maximum growth over time. He held himself and his
instructors accountable for a three-dimensional perspective on each student, requiring his teachers not to produce clones, but rather autonomous human beings.
There was the instance when I once expressed
concerns to Archie regarding a brown belt student I thought was never going to make Black belt. That was because he simply could not learn the required kata. Archie looked to me, and responded that I was failing the
student. He reprimanded that just because I could do kata, and because I had the capacity to remember multitudes of forms, did not mean that every student I taught could or should do the same. To require what was
impossible to a student, without considering alternative potentials of equivalent merit, was a failure of my Gun Fu. I was judging the student by my strengths, and not recognizing he had talent of his own, which was at
least as worthy as my talent, but I had not yet allowed myself to perceive it. Archie felt my failure was a failure to allow myself to be fully aware, and attuned to my own essential nature. What stood before me, in the
form of struggling student, was someone who possessed inherent value in different locales than I had chosen to visit or appreciate. In short, he was not me, and I was failing to see who he was.
This was the
lesson which resulted in Ironcrane tailoring its art to the respective student, and the student’s individual leanings. For Archie, Gun Fu was about revealing yourself to you. Many students emulate teachers. Only a few
are careful to develop a personal philosophy which selects from the world’s endless gifts in an intelligent and pragmatic fashion. It is not about building temples. The Gun Fu Black Belt, for that reason, is something
special to behold. That’s because its shading is different on each person.
I ask only that you take this with you. In the course of your training always strive to:
1. De construct your nature down to its very core; then nurture the seed you find!
2. Never allow yourself to be driven or played by fear, greed, religion, patriotism, or any other appeal to insecurity. The
words of UG Krishnamurti ring true, “The only true freedom is freedom from fear."
3. Work to flow through life, like water. With mind that is like an empty mirror, no dust can alight. Remember
that Gun Fu becomes who you are, not the other way around.
4. Understand that what starts out as martial art becomes how you live. Once struggle is eliminated, and there is no fear, or greed, you re-affirm
control of your own destiny, with a clear awareness of the course to take in deciding whether to experience life in fullness and confidence, or with pain and insecurity. Ultimately there are no other choices
deserving of your potential.
Again, at the end of the day, there is only you, one you. Go to that person, he/she calls you, you can't refuse. When you get there, you ll see there was really nothing to lose.