Happy Independence Day! George Washington, founder of our country and general of the American Revolutionary war, is the leading martial figure from our American history. Many of the stories we know about Washington and the Revolutionary War are ones with the army fighting against a superiorly trained force with bravery. George Washington employed one of the rules taught in our dojo on day number 1 of self-defense class: the best fight is the one avoided. Many times in the early part of the war, a battle was avoided as the British had superior numbers and the Americans came at a time advantageous for their victory.Like some of you, I have relatives that served in the revolutionary war. They were not trained warriors. They were farmers and people that worked with their neighbors for a living. I can only imagine that George Washington looked on his new soldiers, or white belts as we would call them, and wondered what it would take to train that group.
When we visited Valley Forge, our family was fascinated to learn about the great history of the revolutionary army at that time and location. As you remember the story, it was a time when almost all hope was lost. Yes, we all remember some stories about the winter and lack of food. Seeing firsthand the huts that housed the soldiers was moving. We have a hard time imagining how so many soldiers were together in one bunk house trying to stay warm and fit for duty.
Like all great senseis, General Washington was always learning and open to new ideas and methods. That winter the army needed to fix its problems with training and discipline. In February 1778, the Baron von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge as a new volunteer from Prussia. Von Steuben formed the first American version of the drill, teaching the fundamentals of warfare to the Americans at a time when it was most needed.
At Valley Forge, the soldiers learned the fundamentals of the way to be an army and had the confidence that came from mastering a fundamental technique. Von Steuben was in part responsible for the success of the army after Valley Forge as a result of the fundamentals he taught. Think about how you learned your first punch. We teach, as it does in our book recommendation, how to form first a fist and then throw a punch.
Our challenge for you, as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, is: Are you practicing, or drilling, the fundamentals so you can call on them when needed?
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