You’ll never know what freedom really means, until you’ve been pinned against the wall with no hope for escape.
Google defines freedom as “the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints.” Popular culture and public schools promote this childlike view of freedom, wherein our supposed inherent rights are actually another person’s liabilities.
By declaring health to be our inalienable human right, we would compel a doctor to treat us; by asserting the right to a minimum standard of living, we compel another to provide the necessary wealth; and so on. Such entitlements are clearly not inherent, or universal, or inalienable, as they are entirely dependent on the action (or inaction) of someone else.
It is not these wishes-cum-rights that are truly inherent and universal, but the limitations they seek to overcome. Paradoxically, we come to understand genuine human freedom through the experience of poverty, sickness, danger and death. For example, the danger of unarmed combat.
Although sparring is often regarded as a mere cardiovascular conditioning routine, its real value is disillusionment. As our opponent is raining blows upon us, we realize that our most basic guaranteed “right to safety” is a soothing but meaningless proclamation. Aside from ourselves, there is no party with the motivation, means and opportunity to guarantee it.
In the end, the only freedom we possess is that which we can personally hold onto while under attack. For those who lose their composure and give in to fear—on or off the mat, inside or outside the dojo—there is demonstrably no choice and no freedom whatsoever.
Our sole inalienable liberty is not a freedom from circumstances, nor is it a freedom from consequences; those are only childish fantasies. It is not even the right to life, which is in all cases temporary. Our most basic freedom is self-determination—for those who can keep it.