I did not know what real pain was. I thought I did, but I was a fool.
Dark men exist who are masters of pain. And pity is not part of their training.
Little did I know that my purpose would be sorely tested by them, and that real depth of agony would become an intimate friend. The crack of bone, the snap of tendon, the hemorrhage of vast bruise and the taste of blood was to become a familiar companion for many years.
But that was why I was there: to absorb their great and terrible gift.
It was for purpose more imperative than life itself that I endured the tumble and turn of not just my mind and heart but also my body in their hard and unforgiving hands.
My joints were laughingly torn apart, my broken heart was dissected and turned inside out, and my mind was severed from everything it had taken for granted and the bottomless pit of the dark world yawned open and took my plummet with a howl of delight at the flavor of my terror.
It was the grim and determined desperation of a young man who had sought the darkest and most ferocious path available that brought him to that gulf. And he leapt in with both feet, his eyes wide open.
It was the only way out I could think of.
It was my sacred purpose.
Growing up smaller than your peers, with less athletic ability, is often a path to unpleasant interactions of bullying. It is normal, and while children can be rather abusive to each other, it isn’t a bad thing.
It is simply healthy preparation for the human world.
Going through school a year younger than your peers, with less physical and emotional maturity, is a quick and unsurprising route to exclusion from cliques and clubs. Also normal, and very predictable.
It is accurate preparation for the social world.
Skipping a grade and being elevated over those older peers, in order to maximize your intellectual gifts, deepens the rift from mere difference to one of resentment and ugly, guaranteed disfavor.
That is the blunt nature of the real world.
Doing these things while stripped of a crucial sensory perception, the one that severs you from conversation and communication, removes both subtle signal and blunt warning, is a recipe for real danger.
That is the reality of the dark world.
I did them all. I was swiftly and irreversibly educated that I would need more than mere typical skills to survive and thrive in the world I would eventually head out into. It would not be sufficient to be smart… I needed to be incisive. I would not survive merely by being strong… I needed to be formidable. It was not going to keep me alive if I simply become fierce. I needed to be ferocious, and I needed to be fearsomely dangerous to the full extent of the weaponized human being.
I needed the skills and training of a gravely authentic warrior.
God help me, for I needed to find the ninja.
And so I sought them out. I read everything I could and learned to distinguish between myth and history. It was not enough to read that they were unstoppable silent assassins; I wanted to know who they actually killed, how they killed him, why he was marked for death. And how history changed after.
I needed more than just stories of mysterious sorcery and legends of power in the night. What was the reality of the nine cuts of the kuji-kiri, of the dark mantras voiced by those figures of fearsome shadow?
Movies were unhelpful: silly, stupid and absurd. Black-clad figures scaling office buildings in broad daylight, throwing glittering stars across football fields and instantly slaying scores of faceless soldiers who died in wave after wave of assault, suffering ridiculous casualties.
Sorting the nonsense and the legends from the probable mundane reality was necessary.
What was the truth? Did the ninja in fact coldly decide the fate of a man’s life and death? Was the magic of mantra and forged intention real, or simply an unsupported legend?
Was there difference between their skill in battle and what was available to the casual public?
I learned the answers, and I learned the hard way.
I was twelve when I decided that the direction I would take was towards the ninja.
It was a year of searching before I met them for the first time, and begged for entry into their halls.
“Not fully,” I was told. “Not yet.”
“You must graduate high school. Only then will you be permitted to apply as a student to the ryū-ha.”
For three years I incubated that purpose. It was the focus of my days, it was the dream of my nights, it was hours and hours of study and planning. It was for deadly serious purpose: a life in which I was not deaf and helpless, but perceptive and dangerous. Not shunned and mocked, but seamlessly fluent and powerful with charm and magnetic leadership. Not weak and thin, but strong and graceful, capable of more physical capacity for dominance than most men even believed possible.
I held that purpose, and I nurtured it for three years. My desperation demanded it.
I was sixteen when I left home to enter training, hundreds and hundreds of miles from my home and parents and childhood. And I remember well the embrace of the master teacher, his words as I entered the halls of the ninja:
“Welcome to the family.”
The very first things I was made accustomed to were the feel of pain and the hard impact of the floor.
Mats were rarely used in training. “There are no mats in the dark world.”
Protective gear was prohibited. “You must know exact distance to the bone.”
Points and competitive clash were cruelly disparaged. “Life and death are not a contest.”
Injuries were common. Pain was not injury, but source of amusement. Pain was proof, pain was reality, pain was so intense that I spent the first six months in very real fear that I could not endure it.
For many years that was my life. I followed the purpose that I had conceived of as a child, and I made it a reality. There was no left hand, right hand waxing of cars, but there were many long hours with rake amid the leaves on the vast estate of the teacher. There were long nights of training with steel in the darkness, of disentangling illusion and reality, learning to tumble and turn, to penetrate and detonate and collapse.
At the age of twenty-three, my purpose was achieved and I set out into the world.
There have been many adventures since, and many terrors, but many joys and above all many lessons.
And there have been new purposes. For that, too, is the Way.
Find your purpose. It is sacred. Do not let anything deter you or derail you.
Live it, and make its full achievement the demonstrated proof of your sincerity.
Then find the next one, and the next. Win them all.
Live your life with all the purpose you can muster.
In this way, you will come to love it.
This excerpt from The Nine Laws is an important one.
Purposeless men do great evil in the world.
Follow the Way and live well.
Much love, honor, and respect,