The Tao: The Way

A Commentary on the TAO:  the WAY

I have watched the controversy that has emerged on this Website with interest. It is a controversy that has existed in American martial arts, and probably in all Martial Arts, as long as someone has wanted prominence without effort.  Who is the real Martial Artist?  Can skill and ability be bought?  And, if it can be purchased, what exactly is received in the exchange?

If the purpose of engaging in the study of any Martial Art is to find a personal path to the WAY, then such a purchase is meaningless. The sale has no substance.


A long time ago, in what is now the United States, European settlers came and convinced the local residents (so-called Indians) to sell them their land. The “Indians” thought they were making excellent profit since they were going to receive wonderful goods for something they did not own: the land. The earth had always been free to everyone. And, these “settler” fools were going to pay for something that they could have shared for free: something that anyone could have from only a little good effort.

The difficulties occurred when the “settlers” began to act as though they really had purchased something. They told the former occupants that they had to move from the land. The settlers made rules on how the land could be used and who could use it. They developed social rankings based on land ownership. In the end, everyone lost. The “Indians” have all but disappeared along with their culture that was so tied with the “Earth.” The “settlers,” now called entrepreneurs, choke on their own greed and constant conflict exists between those who are permitted access to resources and those who are kept away from resources. And the land, the Earth, has been pillaged, distorted and in some areas misused beyond recovery. Everyone loses.


The Martial Arts, any form of such training, is a Path to the TAO (the WAY). There is no travel agent who has cornered the market for the tickets to this Path. Each student must discover the WAY based on that student’s efforts and that student’s personal discovery.

A philosopher named Lao-tzu wrote in an attempt to bring some direction to those who were searching for the WAY (TAO).

(an excerpt from Lao-Tzu  Te-Tao Ching)

1.     The Great Tao flows everywhere. It may go left or right.

2.     All things depend on it for life, and it does not turn away from them.

3.     It accomplishes its task, but does not claim credit for it.

4.     It clothes and feeds all things but does not claim to be master over them.

5.     Always without desires, it may be called The Small.

6.     All things come to it and it does not master them;  it may be called The Great.

7.     Therefore (the sage/the student) never strives himself for the great; and thereby the great is achieved.

It is central to the WAY that all things have the opportunity to achieve their true nature. As each human being achieves true nature everything is possible and nothing is impossible. Conflict occurs when one acts against ones true nature. In all efforts one must learn to see things as they are without the distortions created by personal projections and unmet desires.

(an excerpt from Lao-Tzu  Te-Tao Ching)

1.            Take emptiness to the limit;

2.            Maintain tranquility in the center.

3.            The ten thousand things – side-by-side they arise;

4.            And by this I see their return.

5.            Things [come forth] in great numbers;

6.            Each one returns to its root.

For the Martial Artist, the following lines are relevant.

(an excerpt from Lao-Tzu  Te-Tao Ching)

7.            You’ve no doubt heard of those who are good at holding on to life:

8.            When walking through the hills, they don’t avoid the rhinos and the tigers;

9.            When they go into battle, they don’t put on armor or shields;

10.      The rhino has no place to probe with its horn;

11.      The tiger finds no place to put its claws.

12.      And weapons find no place to hold their blades.

13.       Now, why is this so?

14.      Because there is no place for death in them.

By clearing the mind and the heart of acquired desires and introjected fears, one finds the Way. And, immersed in the Way, one finds LIFE.  The Way and Life cannot be purchased.  Falsehood is full of itself and has no way. That which is True emerges because it is Truth.


Reference:  Henricks, RG (1989) Lao-Tzu Te-Tao Ching . Ballantine Books: New York.


Robert F. Sawicki, PhD

Las Vegas, NV

May, 2000