Heroics, Courage and The Quiet Tiger Within


Courage. Without a doubt, I believe, the single most important trait a person can possess — and demonstrate. Why? Because all else that is truly noble relies upon it.



Having said that, I should make clear what I’m not talking about. Bravery, for example, often gets confused with courage, but it’s not really the same thing. Courage is a trait; bravery is an act of daring-do. (As opposed to ‘bravado’ which is more or less just a lot of hot air - ‘daring-do-do’.)


Valor is a lot like bravery, but pretty much comes down to doing your job well. Ok, so maybe people are shooting at you at the time, but in the end it’s still just Taking Care of Business.


And then there’s one of my personal favorites, Heroism. Every red-blooded American boy wants to be a hero. So did I - until I discovered that, as classically defined, heroism requires you do something (a) monumentally stupid, and (b) quite often decidedly fatal - BUT in a good cause!


Being a big fan of good causes, I was still on board of the idea. And then it hit me: He who gets to define said ‘good cause’ is never the would-be hero! Historically, becoming a hero is apparently decided largely by (a) which side wins the war and/or (b) who, if anyone, profited. Without sponsorship for your heroism, you wind up with egg on your face — or worst! (For a really terrific take on this, see the movie Hero with Dustin Hoffman and Gina Davis.) As the British chased him all around NJ, George Washington developed a really keen appreciation for this concept. And without ESPN, NFL players in the NFL wouldn’t be any more influential as role models than teachers with an MBA.


Courage is different from these, but is the necessary element for each. (Except for that ‘daring-do-do’ thing.)


Courage is also necessary for Courtesy, Faith, Integrity, and (Positive) Attitude — five words prominently posted in our dojo, but other examples are all around us. Here are a few I see:

  • Still believing after someone has let you down — especially if you’ve been the someone.
  • Being a parent instead of a caretaker.
  • Coming back to class after disappearing for a month.
  • Getting back up.
  • ‘Spitting in the wind’; swallowing insults.
  • Knowing what’s right; what’s smart, and doing right anyway.
  • Getting back up.
  • Obeying your parents/conscience; disobeying your friends.
  • Speaking up; shutting up.
  • Accepting the occasional bum rap right along with all the raps you deserve you deserve.
  • Getting back up.

Courage makes possible loyalty, honesty, giving, taking, perseverance, sacrifice, friendship, respect, dignity, success, honor, duty… true warriorship.


I love REAL courage; the 3 o’clock in the morning kind that we all one day need. I’ve no patience for tales of world championship sports glory. But everyday heroes, people who display the legendary, tiger-eyed grit to overcome anything this old world did or can sling at them and still manage to “fight with their backs straight”; ordinary people who draw their swords and ride out, every single day, to tilt at windmills - they, from the youngest to the oldest, they choke me up.


Oh, and one other thing does that: Karate students who possess the stainless-steel courage it takes to live up to that better person they’d once asked us to make of them!


I wrote this for one of ‘em.




© 2003 Salvatore T. Musco. All Rights Reserved.