As fast as the wind, as quiet as the forest, as daring as fire, and immovable as the mountain.
–Samurai Battle Standard
After being chided by an allied leader for bringing “only” 300 men to battle the Persians at Thermopile, the Spartan King Leonides responded by asking what professions the leader’s men hailed from. The allied leader answered: his men were bakers, farmers, craftsmen, laborers. After quietly considering the responses, Leonides turned to his Spartans and asked their profession. They instantly boomed in one voice, “Aroo, Aroo, Aroo!” (a spirit-shout, similar to the SEAL word Hooyah). The 300 warriors proved to be far more effective fighting the Persians than the thousands of tradesmen who were reluctantly conscripted to fight.
Another Greek warrior, Heraclitus, stated this evaluation: “Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” The Spartans trained together to act as “the one” that Heraclitus upholds as the shining example of a master. Let us strive for the same in our personal and team training.
The troops at Thermopylae displayed a refined warrior’s spirit that was forged over many years of extreme training, austerity and self-awareness work. The resulting brand of commitment to each other and to their mission was unfathomable to others in a head-shaking way. Though the context is different, this same spirit is seen in today in many warrior traditions, as well as elite athletic and corporate teams. My point is that it doesn’t come about randomly or spontaneously. It is trained. This is the core intent behind both SEALFIT and it’s sister training program, the Unbeatable Mind Academy.
When I launched SEALFIT’s 50-hour crucible training, it was initially called the SEALFIT Challenge. After several events I observed how the trainees experienced quantum leaps of personal transformation, from the transcendent bonds they formed with their team to breakthroughs in performance limits to completely new perspectives on life and how to live it. I searched for a word to capture the spirit of the experience, but it was simply beyond the confines of English. The word “Sisu”—Finnish for indomitable spirit—came pretty close. But Sisu alluded to an individual’s staying power, not a team’s, and hence fell dramatically short of what I was actually seeing happen.
Then I revisited Kokoro. Kokoro was a Japanese concept I was introduced to in my early years of martial arts training. It was thoroughly compelling to me. Translated into “the divine heart of a warrior” or “to merge heart and mind in action,” I liked how it spoke so powerfully to the inner warrior. Kokoro was a word that had the comprehensive gravity to fit what I was seeing in our 50-hour crucible event. I selected it to describe what had become our most severe school of SEALFIT—a form of training for modern day Spartans to cultivate the hearts and minds of a warrior.
Climbing “Kokoro Mountain” can be a long and lonely journey. You will never actually summit the mountain, so to speak. There will always be another peak and valley ahead, as you traverse the higher reaches of the spiritual path.
Next week, I’ll continue our discussion on the value of ascending Kokoro and how spiritual development—as tricky to define as it may be—is integral to warrior development, as in the mastery of the self so that we may effectively serve others.
Until then, stay focused and train hard. Hooyah!