Choose Your Own Adventure…

Nuclear bombs are released.  The world as we know it is over.  You were lucky enough to have survived, either you were far enough from the nearest blast or you happened to be in a building that isolated you from the fallout.  Law and order is non-existent.  People scavenge for food and supplies.

You are out walking one day and you see a small child.  The child is alone, and looks tired and week.  They have likely not eaten for days.  You have one can of safe food left, but you know you can find more, so you give it to the child.  The child is ecstatic and runs off towards, you assume, their shelter.  You smile and turn to do the same, but you stop suddenly when you hear a scream.  You run towards it, and see the same child.  He is being attacked by a man who wants their food, but the man does not stop upon taking the food, he continues to beat the child.

******

Now for the choose your own adventure part.

Scenario A:
You watch in horror.  There is no one else nearby.  The child will likely die if you do not intervene, but you never learned to fight and the man is clearly stronger than you are, so if you intervene, he may very well kill both of you.

Scenario B:
You have never been in a street fight, but you did take a form of martial art in order to prepare yourself for just this moment.  You rush in to help the child.  You use only enough force that is necessary until the man runs or is unable to continue fighting.  The child is injured, but with proper care, will be fine.  You take them to safety.

******

I am by no means a great fighter, though I have taken about two and a half years of various martial arts forms (and I intend to take more once I am able).  I have been attacked though….twice.  Both times would have likely resulted in sexual assault had I not been previously trained to keep my head and react as necessary.  Both times I walked away safe.  The first time there was a bit of a struggle before I managed to escape to a public area, the second time I only needed to show the slightest bit of ability before the man was scared off and left the scene.  I have several friends who have not been so lucky.

There are still many within the community that hold to the idea that Jedi do not need to learn how to fight.  Perhaps it is a stance of pacifism, perhaps it is fear, perhaps it is another reason entirely.  Learning how to fight does not mean one NEEDS to fight however.  A proper martial art sharpens the mind and spirit as well as the body, and you are encouraged to only fight when necessary.  Learning how to fight means that you know what to do IF you are ever in a situation that demands that you do, if you need to protect yourself, or someone else.  It is the duty of the Jedi to serve and protect.  It is therefore the duty of the Jedi to prepare themselves the best they can in order to serve and protect in any situation.  When I say that Jedi should learn how to fight…it is not for some silly tradition, it is not because my standards are set impossibly high, it is because I do not want to see anyone injured, murdered, raped…if any of us are in a position to prevent it.

 

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The Starfish and the…evil eight-legged thingy…

A few months ago, a book (The Starfish and the Spider (seriously…they could not go with an Octopus or a Squid?!)) was recommended by a couple people in the California Jedi Chat.  Since then, I have noticed a several people discussing the organization of the Jedi community, arguing that it is more of a Starfish (smaller groups all operating independently) vs. a Spider (each community operating under the direct control of one person/group).  This discussion spiked when a recent organizational document made its way around.

I cannot entirely agree with this though.  I think Starfish-type organizations function better if the group functions on a “whatever-works-best” basis.  In other words, there are no standards or requirements, people just do what works in order for their group to be successful.

The Jedi that we see in the prequels are at the end of their life, and are too much under the control of the republic, but I think the structure they had is most appropriate.   You have a central governing body with the council, they set the standards and uphold the order.  Each Jedi or teams of Jedi however, must function on their own when out on missions.  It is a hybrid organization (which are also addressed the book).

The Jedi in our reality currently are more of a Starfish organization, but because of that we have a wide variation of standards, and even groups completely lacking standards all together.  A central council would be ideal, though it has yet to be successfully achieved, mainly because there is a variety of ideas of what exactly we should be.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Knight?

Time to Learn

     A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master:
“If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen?”
The Zen Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?”
Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”
“But, if I really, really work at it.  How long then?” asked the student.
“Thirty years,” replied the Master.
“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student.  “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer.  Why do you say that?”
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

I wish I could give a source for this story.  I first read it in a book many years ago, when I first began training as a Jedi, but I have seen it many places, and in many variations.  People have commonly applied it to Martial Arts as well, asking, “How long until I earn my black belt?”  Whatever the discipline, whatever the goal, the message is the same.

Too often, students on the Jedi Path fall prey to this mindset.  They want so much to be the knights they know of fiction, that they are more focused on the title than actually being what that title represents.  Some people attempt to put time limits on the time a student must be a student, in order to control this.  One person I knew applied decades; ten years as a student before becoming a knight, ten years as a knight before becoming a master.  Others have begun to apply hours, but these measurements of time only add to the problem.

People now-a-days want instant gratification.  Six months and you are a knight.  Train two Padawans in the next year and you are a Master.  Really?

Your basic college education takes four years, even an associates degree is two.  The Jedi are supposed to be knowledgeable and well trained, at the very LEAST I would say the time it takes to become a Jedi Knight should equal a Masters degree, let alone be shorter than an associates.  If you go back to the fiction, students spent on average 10-13 years training in just basic Jedi skills before even being considered for a Padawan; and the Temple had this training down to a science.

Regardless of what time you apply to it though, now the student has a time frame to work against, and whether you stress that these limits are a minimum or not…they will look to that time limit for their progression, not to their training.  And, if they are not given their desired title after that time limit, they will focus on the why for the wrong reason.

Within the fiction, from what we know, there is a set amount of time that most students study in a class format at the Temple, however once they are taken as a Padawan, it seems the only measure, is when the master feels they are ready.  Obi-Wan Kenobi was knighted during the events of Episode I, at the age of 25.  Anakin Skywalker was knighted sometime between Episode II-III, somewhere between the ages of 20-23.  If we had a list of all the Jedi Knights that existed, I am sure we would find a great range of ages in which they were knighted.

The honor of being a Jedi Knight is not something that can be measured by any amount of time, but in what a student has learned and achieved.  Give the student goals in study and practice rather than giving them arbitrary dates that may or may not be enough.  When the student fully embraces and lives the path, then they are a Jedi Knight.

Find Your Weakness; Overcome It

Perhaps you looked at last weeks standards and zeroed in on one that you are seriously lacking ability in.  You might be ashamed, and you might react against it because you fear being called out on that inability.  Instead of that, embrace it.  You cannot do this thing.  Great.  Now you know what you need to improve.  Go create a syllabus of sorts for yourself.

Perhaps it is the Knowledge of Jedi texts.
Seek them out.
Write them down.
Start to pick them apart, one by one and learn them.
Hell, create flash cards
(Example from my life: Before this years Gathering, Opie created a set of questions he asked on the review board.  In the week before, he used me as a guinea pig, giving me the test without any warning of what it would contain.  I was not happy with my score, so I wrote each text down in its entirety and then proceeded to break down the important points on flashcards.  By Saturday night of the Gathering, not even a week later, my score had already improved greatly.)

Perhaps it is Combat.
Go research Martial Arts styles, narrow them down to a few you are interested in and then start looking for schools in your area that teach them.  Don’t jump right into the first school though.  Check them out, make sure they are reputable.

Perhaps it is Physical Fitness.
How so?  Endurance?  Strength?  Flexibility?  All of the above?  Do the research on it and make steps to improve it.
(Example from my life:  I was a SIDS baby.  As a result of that, or maybe the cause of that, I have a birth defect, in which I get severe chest pains when I overexert myself (and sometimes just when I am stressed) and have less endurance than most.  For years I allowed it to rule my activities, never took regular gym class, always had notes from the doctor excusing me from doing the mile run tests, and just refused to challenge it.  Then one day, I decided I was done letting it dictate my life.  In November 2015 I ran my first 5K.  In June 2016 I ran an Obstacle Course/Mud Run 5K.  In July 2016 I ran my first 10K.  And, at the end of October, I will run my first 15K.  Yes, it is hard.  Yes, my times are kinda crap.  But yes, I can do it.)

Any of the standards can work this way, even problems with work or school as well.  Pinpoint your weaknesses and then find ways to overcome it, to become better than you were yesterday.  Do not worry about where others are, just worry about beating yourself each day.

If you have a difficult time figuring out exactly WHAT you should do to improve, consult someone who you respect in  that area.  If you are lucky enough to have found a good Jedi Master, consult them.  Consult a teacher.  Consult a friend who you admire.

 

 

Standards

Jedi Standards.  It is an age old debate in the online communities, and it has been rehashed over and over and over again (in fact it was just recently brought up again on Facebook).  What makes one a Jedi?  In the movies, they are easily identified by their lightsabers, but we do not have that sort of technology.  They are chosen to be Jedi based on their Force abilities, but again, we lack use of the Force as it is portrayed in the fiction.  So what defines us as Jedi over the many other non-Force/lightsaber wielding Earthlings?

The easiest way to define standards, is to look at what is being tested.  Fortunately, thanks to Clone Wars cartoon and The Jedi Path book, we have The Jedi Trials:  Skill, Courage, Spirit, Flesh, and Insight.  While this IS fiction, thus far it seems the community has largely embraced these, basing their “trials” on them (in varying degrees).  I will go more into each of these in later posts, but here are the simple definitions as are in The Jedi Path book.

Trial of Skill
Demonstrates a Jedi’s competence with a lightsaber and the Force principles of Control.

Trial of Courage
Establishes a Jedi’s skill and fortitude in the face of danger and overwhelming odds.

Trial of Spirit
Tests a Jedi’s ability to vanquish inner battles and emerge unscathed.

Trial of the Flesh
Determines a Jedi’s capacity to overcome great pain.

Trial of Insight
Reveals a Jedi’s aptitude for distinguishing reality from illusion through deceptive challenges.

These, while good, are rather limited to Force ability and Combat.  However, I do like that there is a lot of emphasis on the physical as being physically fit is extremely important for a Jedi.  And more than just knowing how to fight, one should be fit.  But where is the knowledge?

At this years Gathering, there was quite a bit of controversy over what knowledge should be required, and I can see the room for argument as the Trial given list nothing about knowledge, other than that which would be implied in other trials.  If you go a little further back however, you find that in order to move from Initiate to Padawan, THAT is when the knowledge is required.

The Initiate Trials
You must demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the Jedi Code.
You must also demonstrate self-discipline through meditation and lightsaber combat.
You must prove that the Force flows through you and that you are not a rock stubbornly blocking its current.

Basically, the Three Pillars:

The Three Pillars of the Jedi
Force
Knowledge
Self-Discipline

While only the Jedi Code is mentioned, we SEE some of the initiates in class during the movies, the are obviously learning more than just five lines of code, especially as they are in the Temple for approximately 10 years (depending on when they are brought to the Temple and when they are accepted as Padawan’s).  All that they learn there is crucial to their lives as a Jedi.

So basically, Jedi spend their first thirteen years or less studying at the Temple.  In order to progress and be accepted as a Padawan, they need to prove their knowledge and basic skill with the Force and the lightsaber.  Once they have proven their knowledge, they go out into the galaxy and practice their skill, courage, spirit, and insight in practical application.

So, what is required of a Jedi?

Knowledge
Knowledge of the Jedi, of their history, of their texts, and of their ways.  Jedi should also have basic knowledge of the world and of communication and interaction with others.

Creative Thinking/Application
Just knowing and understanding is not enough, you need to be able to apply what you know to the world around you and to think on your feet.

Basic Combat
Even if a Jedi plans to follow a more scholarly route, they should be able to defend themselves and others, should the need arise.

Physical Fitness
Knowledge of Combat does little if you are not in proper shape to execute the knowledge.  A Jedi should be physically capable to handle whatever comes their way at all times (with consideration to physical limitations).

Physical Health
All the fitness in the world will not help you if you do not take care of yourself.  Eat well, stay hydrated, and take care of yourself when ill.

Mental Health
Not that you have to be an absolute picture of mental health, but any major issues that may affect your performance a a Jedi should be properly dealt with in whatever way you need to do so.

“Use of the Force”
More of a loose term here, since, as I have previously stated, we do not have use of the Force as the Jedi in the fiction do, but Jedi should have intimate knowledge of meditation and be in control of their emotion and reactions.

Behavior Befitting a Jedi
While we all have moment of weakness, a Jedi should strive to always be open-minded, respectful of others, and act from a place of peace.  Jedi should always think prior to words or actions.