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In Search of the Warrior Spirit

by George Mattson

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Name of book: In Search of the Warrior Spirit
Publisher: North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California
Copyright: 1990, 1992 by Richard Stozzi Heckler

Medical psychologist Jim Hardt is brought in to take the Green Beret team through an elaborate brain synchrony training program. In the initial session, Hardt explains the goals of the brainwave training to the men. He explains the intricacies of brainwave activity and how it can be measured and controlled. The men approve of the program, since there is a logic about it. “You can tell if you’re making progress or not. One of the troubles with meditation is that you don’t know if you’re on the right track or not”.

It was interesting the way Heckler interpreted how the warrior team of Green Berets conceived notions of gender, physical size, strength, or earning honor through combat. He recognized that the battlefield of the warrior must expand beyond the literal interpretation of war and destruction to include every moment of our lives. In order to live authentically with integrity, we must have a certain kind of courage. Ultimately Heckler defined bravery as not being afraid of yourself. “When we are no longer afraid of being who we are we act from integrity and authenticity.”

The biofeedback training is designed so that the team would learn how to consciously induce in the Alpha brainwave, which runs between 8 and 13 cycles per second and is characteristic of a relaxed yet alert, high energy state. The Alpha state is conducive to accelerated learning and creative problem solving. Over-efforting, with accompanying muscle tension, moves us out of the multi-dimensional alpha state into a more linear, less open beta state. The biofeedback monitors automatically signal the loss.

Heckler found that some of the men picked up the technique quickly and ran with it. Others, significantly the Vietnam veterans, had a much more difficult time. Combat veterans seem not only to have anesthetize their capacity for Alpha in order to cope with the stress of battle, to defend against openness and relaxation as unmanageable and perhaps too vulnerable a state. Heckler concludes that this type of training would be an excellent way to work with posttraumatic stress syndrome so common among veterans. They would be able to relearn their Alpha capabilities in a safe, supportive environment.

Heckler also noted, following the biofeedback sessions, that the Warriors aikido performance improved significantly-due to their awareness and ability to transfer the biofeedback experience into the physical movements performed on the mat.

It is interesting to note, that back in the 60s during the time that Leary, Alpert and Metzner (the LSD professors) were training at my dojo, they were involved in these very same experiments. It was their contention, one that they were not able to complete experiments with that the Uechi ryu “Sanchin experience” had the same healing qualities that Heckler observed during his work with the Green Berets in 1972.

In this modern era of the martial art knowledge, the traditional systems are being under fire for not identifying valid reasons for people to study. Initially, teachers like me were contented to offer “the ultimate” in self defense to the public. This was sufficient motivation for people to fill the dojo. Studying a traditional martial art, in a traditional manner, will provide students with all the benefits of a warrior training-minus the “realist” component – where the warrior undergoes realistic scenario applications and stress, designed to test the warrior spirit in relative safety.

Not understanding the warrior benefits of traditional martial arts, and only being aware of the superficial self defense potential, traditional martial arts suffer under the spotlight of comparison with nontraditional and basic fighting methods. In other words, if you don’t understand what you’re teaching and why you were teaching it, you will accept the condemnation of anyone who poses the question: “can you fight, using your traditional martial art, as good as Mr. X., who is a simple streetfighter?”

If the traditionalist believes that what he is doing is for the same reason as a “streetfighter”, he will soon close his doors… or relegate his reason for staying in business, based on completely different purposes-like a babysitting service or afterschool activity for children.

The traditional martial arts must have confidence in their traditional martial arts, if not understanding and believing in this, then they should engage in the kind of research that Heckler did so successfully.

Heckler used a formula of aikido, meditation and biofeedback to supplement the Green Berets “realist” training program. Traditional Uechi ryu contains all of the ingredients Hackler added to the Green Beret program, including some of the physical “realist” components contained in the regular Green Beret program.

It is my hope that someone in the Uechi ryu community will take on this challenge and confirm the multidimensional benefits of studying Uechi ryu, over and above the simplistic blocks kicks and punches that exist in the arsenal of any streetfighter.

A very interesting book and one that I would recommend to all martial artist. G.E.M. 


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