I’ve been a fan of mixed martial arts ever since I can remember.
There was just always something that appealed to me about it, and it wasn’t merely the brutality and violence of hand-to-hand combat—rather, it is something much deeper and more ancient.
What resonated with me was how these amazing human beings could keep calm under the most immense pressure—they remain stoic and serene even with the tremendous stress of being under those bright lights and facing down another savage who would love nothing more than to break them both physically and emotionally.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I feel that martial arts has been a guiding light for me on my path to authentic manhood.
I’m a big believer that it is of the utmost importance to balance and embody both masculine and feminine energies within ourselves—so, what I am saying here is in no way meant to disparage the feminine end of the spectrum. Both energies are necessary to become a fully actualized human being.
I feel as though true masculinity is profoundly lacking in our culture. It has been confused with hyper-aggressive behavior and a “survival of the fittest” type mentality, which really doesn’t speak to the holier aspect of the masculine archetype. The pitfalls of masculinity have been confused with its underlying power.
Masculinity is ultimately an expression of our innate drive toward strength, achievement, and triumph. It is that which implores us to step upon the battlefield when our loved ones are in danger. It is that which gives us the courage to defend what we most value. It is that which gives us the will to act rightly when we are in the grips of fear. The masculine is—in essence—the holy protector, the righteous warrior, the noble soldier.
It is about more than simply “winning,” and this is where we get lost in translation.
We confuse the results for the means, which is to say that we see the fruits of our labors as being the be–all and end–all of masculinity rather than foundational energy that implores us to labor in the first place.
We see wealth and power as symbols of masculinity, and thereby, neglect the modes of being that likely produced that wealth and power. We lose sight of the sense of conviction and resolve that grant us the capacity to achieve anything at all, the fierce and indomitable will that has existed within us and kept us alive since the very dawning of mankind.
It is entirely crucial that we align ourselves with the energy of the holy masculine, this innate propensity to persevere under extreme duress, if we wish to meet our greatest potential as human beings.
Again, this is for both men and women. We all benefit from tapping into the resource of true masculinity, just as we all benefit from tapping into the resource of true femininity.
Bruce Lee talked a lot about “being like water”—this capacity to be fluid, balanced, and versatile when contending with adversity. When our opponent is soft, be hard. When they are hard, be soft. Adapt to whatever resistance we are being faced with, and then uncover the optimal path to overcoming it.
We see this with fighters at the highest level. Jon Jones, perhaps the greatest pound-for-pound mixed martial artist of all time, very much employs this kind of methodology. He is one of the few who actually changes his plan of attack in the middle of a fight, which takes a tremendous amount of awareness and acuity.
I mean, think about that for a second. You’ve been training for months specifically for one opponent, implementing precise techniques and styles so as to prepare for a particular set of obstacles, and then in the middle of the contest you realize what’s happening and change everything in the blink of an eye.
Masculinity is not merely about brute strength and blind persistence; rather, it is about honing the capacity to problem solve amidst immense difficulty, and it is this very capacity that has been integral to our survival and proliferation on this planet. Cultivating the ability to intelligently navigate through problems is the very essence of manhood.
I’ve been dealing with a series of deeply rooted chronic infections over the past few years that have been profoundly debilitating and disheartening—and through this process, this sentiment of holy masculinity has been incredibly useful.
My body doesn’t work, and if manhood is characterized solely by strength and capability, then what am I? How can I be a man if I can’t protect the ones I love and give my life on the battlefield (so to speak)?
It has occurred to me—and this has been proven through experience—that intelligence and balance go much further than pure brutality. In fostering the deeper elements of the masculine force and developing the more fundamental aspects of my consciousness, I feel as though the pieces of my life have been put together in a way that isn’t achievable through sheer aggression and unscrupulous intensity.
I feel good inside, even though I feel bad outside.
This is where the essence of masculinity has been most near and dear; and, although it is a constant struggle, I will not cease to foster this capacity to skillfully maneuver my way through resistance.
This is how I qualify myself as a man now—and moreover, as a human being.