The Spartan soup*

As modern man’s eating habits spin totally out of control, the number of diets appearing on the market rises accordingly. Most of them, if not all, are proposed or created by experts, scientists etc, have bases where they start from, a theory behind them, and a… philosophy for the soul as well. You can find them everywhere (or better said: they will find you everywhere) in the form of institutes to run to, magazines, TV shows, you name it…
And the louder they are heard the fatter people become, to the point it makes you wonder, what if all diets would be banned somehow? Maybe then people would go back to their normal weight. In case someone thinks that this is an overreaction, it only takes to watch a movie or TV series of the 50s and 60s to make a comparison on how fatter this world has become.
We have kind of “lost it” to such an extent in this present decade, anyone with normal weight is referred to as… skinny!  

A person that is training systematically should go under a different and stricter category, demanding much more on his performance regarding nutrition habits. From beginner to Master (maybe especially for the Master, since he is supposed to put an example for his students) a Martial Artist should constantly stay close to a “Martial plate” (that’s how I like to call it).
With that in mind, we could say that all of man’s effort to create the so called perfect diet, ends up in a simple bowl of brown rise with a small portion of vegetables. This… recipe comes from an old traditional diet that is called macrobiotic. It takes very few variations, is the least “popular” to follow, and is one of the oldest that exist on Earth.
Of course one must be into a serious practice of an Art, in order to “endure” it through time and for that reason I never recommend it openly to anyone who is outside of practice. Non-practitioners usually do not have the mental backup that daily practice offers. Or the group support, in being a part of a Dojo, in order to stick to their diet in the long run. This leads them to give it up, sooner or later, and go along with the mob. And I fully understand and sympathize, the fact that the “mob” doesn’t make it any easier on a lonely man’s efforts…      

I just remembered to tell you a funny story of a guest that stayed at my house for a few weeks. Since we cooked separately for him, at one point he asked, out of plain curiosity, to try out “that thing” I was eating. When I did hand him my bowl he found it tasteless, and started to add so many spices to it, that it became a bowl of… poison.   
Only then it was good for him, and he did eat it all!

One of the first parameters to consider, in putting some order to nutrition, is to permanently avoid eating meat. Especially red meat, that comes from warm blooded mammals, animals that we are strongly related to, as beings.
The classic by now phrase: “Wait for the apple to fall in your hand, instead of hunting food that runs away” should be a thought put to oneself from early on in life.
Also products that come from animals are not a necessity, actually they never were…

Nevertheless most “vegetarians” today have a complete wrong state of mind in being a vegetarian. They have minds filled with guilt and fear over eating meat, which makes me totally uncomfortable to state myself as a vegetarian.
This attitude is the exact opposite with the one that says “I eat meat but I absolutely cannot stand the sight of blood and the idea of killing the animal, unless someone else does it for me and puts it on my plate!” 
Both ways, I don’t know what it would take to straighten this out…

A clear mind is as important as a clean body (clean as in correctly fed). The choice of becoming a vegetarian should be done on a healthy for the mind basis, and not be driven by fear, guilt, remorse, religious oppression, or anything of the kind. We only need to be aware of the realities going around us, in order to have a better chance to stick with our choices.

Martial Arts include blades like knives and swords.
But for the occasion we should consider a different kind of knife as well. The chef’s knife!
Martial Artist or not, if we want to have any hope of good nutrition habits, we must arm ourselves… re-take our kitchen and start cutting real food, for real people. This is the very cornerstone in order to have real control over our eating habits. Cuisine should not end up being a lost art, if it’s not already, or something that only our restaurant chef knows about.

The diet of a practitioner of Martial Arts should be an act of discipline that is gained through practice, and then “invested” there. Foremost it should be based on a warrior’s pride to choose his food and not eat everything that is thrown at him.
It is also important to keep one's weight to an ideal. Just because someone can be fat in Aikido, and still be effective, that doesn’t mean that he has to be fat, and unfortunately we have plenty of those.
A fat Martial Artist of any Art is a very disappointing sight…
It does not take much intelligence to understand that the phrase “true warrior” is a term that is widely overused, on the slightest occasion. But if someone thinks about it seriously, a true warrior is the one that lives in constant preparation of a true war. And among everything that this would take, a man like this would only allow himself to eat as much…
Not because I said so, but simply because it is so! If you read your history, this is what warriors did, since the beginning of time…   

Everybody likes the Spartan warrior and admires his clarity and effectiveness. So, a Martial Arts trainee reads a book, or sees a movie about them, and wishes to become a bit of a Spartan himself.
But when the Master passes to him the equivalent “Spartan soup” and says: “This should be your meal from now on if you want to consider yourself a warrior” the student swallows once or maybe twice, and then turns away.

Everybody wants to be the hero of the film, but nobody will stick to their damn soup…

(*One anecdote, that came down to us through history about Spartan soup, is that it was so terrible, and little to eat, it caused uprisings and rebellions among Greek cities that were under Spartan rule)

October 11, 2007