Only 5 Substances

This post is based on a quote from the book Resilience by Eric Greitens, a book that is well worth your time.  He says:

“My tae kwon do instructor once told all of his students that only five substances were allowed on the dojang floor: water, sweat, tears, blood, and puke.”

In context, Greitens’ focus was on the value of mentors.  I have a deep appreciation for wise counsel, but the passage speaks to me additionally of other things.

The “five substances” are life at its barest and most whittled down form.  They are elemental to who and what we are.  The martial artist will most likely be faced with all of them before the journey goes far.  I use this list as a reminder to come to terms with the basics.

In martial arts:

  • we learn to respect our need for water and hydrate accordingly.
  • we sweat when we practice, in hopes of bleeding less if the time for true combat ever comes.
  • crying is an acceptable release of tension, so long as those tears never lead you to giving up.
  •  just because you’re bleeding doesn’t mean you’re finished.
  • puke — just like tears — can be a way of releasing of stress; get it done, and then get back to it.

The sooner we become familiar and relatively comfortable with these five substances, the stronger the foundation of our art will be.


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