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One of the virtues extolled in martial arts is persistence. This is exemplified in sayings such as “a black belt is just a white who never quit” and “steel is iron passed through fire: the saber forges the student” and “After one thousand repetitions the student will realize that the sword cuts through illusion to reveal justice and fairness, dignity and honor”. One object of practice is simply the mental discipline to do something many times so that it becomes as natural as breathing. At a visible physical level the object is to do the movement correctly. In a good martial art what should accrue as the result of persistent practice is a confidence that one can perform the movements, and that the movements will be tactically successful. In a superior martial art what must be instilled is courage, which can be defined as discerning the challenge or the problem in a situation and acting appropriately.  We do teach many weapons, but not pistols, rifles or shotguns, so it is not possible for us to comment on how proficient the various law enforcement personnel present at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida were. So far, no evidence that there was courage displayed by the professionals. Perhaps there was not enough practice by social services end education professionals to deal with Nikolas Cruz. Or no one had the courage to tackle that problem.

We just passed the 75th anniversary of the end of the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II. I would think it fair to say there and at the earlier battles at the Coral Sea and at Midway the US military was fighting equipped with inferior technology, at numerically disadvantageous odds and with poor political and military leadership. Nevertheless, ordinary soldiers, sailors and Marines, often at horrific cost, did extraordinary things. It would be remiss to imply that Australians struggling on the Kokoda trail or that Japanese in either campaign did not have more than their own share of courage. But the real question is what are we, here and now, going to do?