True Word Fu

I'm working on a freelance piece right now for a martial arts journal, and its brought me into contact with a remarkable man and book — retired Marine Major Bill Hayes and My Journey With The Grandmaster.

The link above takes you to a reader review of the book that is spot-on (at least with regard to what I've read so far). But secondarily, it's made me rethink my writing. Years of writing to achieve — to earn a grade or a paycheck or praise or what-have-you — have made it more difficult to write authentically. I've written as a marketer, fund-raiser, speechifier, you name it — always with an agenda, because that was the job — and it's now hard to write simply as me.

Hayes's book oozes authenticity and intimacy. In recent years I've learned that my dad wrote quite a bit as younger man. When you read what he wrote back then, you feel as though you're glimpsing his beating heart. And I see something similar in Hayes's unadorned words. He says what he means, simply, so that no meaning and no love is lost.

I need to get that level of honesty back, and it struck me that there are parallels between this authenticity in writing and the way he describes his abilities (and his opinion of his abilities as a young Marine and martial artist) before and after he began traditional training with the grandmaster on Okinawa. The old masters, he says, never have an agenda. They are who they are, and they do what they do.

To paraphrase a certain fictitious master: I have much to unlearn.

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