Icelandic Sagas and Mixed Martial Arts

A decidedly odd-ball title for a post, to be sure. Heh heh heh…Well, you don’t always pick posts, they pick you–something that screams out “POST ME NOW!!”  And the combination might not always make sense.

And yes, I’m in a somewhat whimsical mood this morning, as I’ve at last had my first lengthy and good night’s sleep in about a week.  So, before the morning’s devotions and training, I thought I’d do a quick post on a couple things that have caught my eye in the last 24 hours.

The first is the Icelandic Sagas Database, which presents the sagas in Icelandic, with English translations given from 19th-century English publications.  And there are some sagas with the Old Norse spellings (which I assume will eventually be the case for all of them).  The home page has more information on the project, as well as the latest updates.  Oh, and it has a Facebook page too…

The second item I came upon completely by accident, via StumbleUpon (thanks again to my friend Emily for telling me about this site). There was a recent article in Men’s Health about MMA champion Georges St-Pierre, one of the greatest fighters out there today, and his approach to his craft. It’s not what you might think: he is actually a martial artist, not a fighter. Fighting is what he happens to do.

“There is a difference between a fighter and a martial artist,” St-Pierre says. “A fighter is training for a purpose: He has a fight. I’m a martial artist. I don’t train for a fight. I train for myself. I’m training all the time. My goal is perfection. But I will never reach perfection.”

This struck a chord with me, as I’ve been slowly groping toward the attitude that GSP expresses here. Training is an end in itself–self-defense and martial awareness flow naturally from the open mind and humble spirit that training requires.  It took me a while to grasp this basic point, although I’ve been doing martial arts of various kinds for many years now. I was always worried about immediate self-defense applications for what I was learning, and had to push that concern aside, until one day I realized that the training itself was what I enjoy–the mental and physical discipline, focus, and rigor, and that that aspect is what I learn most from, and enjoy the most. So, train away, and enjoy the journey.

I think I posted a link to Rob Redmond’s karate blog a while back (the curiously-named “24 Fighting Chickens” blog, but it’s worth posting again. And in particular there’s an old post from 2006 on the pros and cons of Shotokan. Although not exactly what you would expect from a master in the art, it sort of gets at that clear-headed vision of martial arts, and what exactly one obtains from it, that many folks (especially one instructor who I used to know) just simply don’t have, or even want to have. They prefer to dispense wisdom from their greater spiritual perspective, or lecture on the deeper meaning of karate, all the while fostering ego rather than humility, focusing on the end, not the journey. And that is not what a martial artist does–I think GSP and Sensei Redmond would agree on that.

Just some thoughts for the day. Dominus vobiscum.

Leave a Reply