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Ever forward is a moral axiom for the Exemplar man or woman. It is a principle of action and a charge of behavior. Ever forward is the means by which the warrior faces his enemies and the conviction with which the Exemplar pursues the lifelong path of the sword as a symbol of protection, righteousness, and justice.

Today there stands a class of protector and leader which has selected attributes of warriorship as its calling. The principle of ever forward applies to this class’ lives in multiple ways. Ever forward is how we bring the fight to the enemy. It is how we drive through our greatest tasks and fears. It is how we stride on the martial path of our life, into, through, and after our careers. In action, only a willingness to go forward can provide one the capability of making the decision to go a different direction. In life, there is no end to the warrior’s calling. No matter the occupation, no matter the daily stress of one’s life, the Exemplar must be moving ever forward.

In battle, ever forward is the assaulting mind; what has commonly come to be called “combat mindset.” This concept of “mindset” is primal; it is the root of human combative behavior. By studying and understanding that behavior, culturally and biologically, we can gain insights into what that path of the ever forward mind is, and how one begins to walk it.

By understanding the human entity, particularly in how it has developed in a variety of culturally diverse, historical combative traditions, we can gain insight into how to most effectively train ourselves. Here, above all else, weighted with more importance than can be put in words, the mind is the final pursuit of true martial training. It is to forging the mind that the Exemplar must constantly endeavor.

Integrated with training the mind is following the path of becoming. Understanding one’s role and responsibilities in society is an ever developing effort.

The modern world, for all of its advancements and pursuits in identity and worldliness, lacks a cultural framework within which the Exemplar can pursue the noble path. In our day and social media-driven culture, there is little guidance for those who are inclined towards an identity as protector and guide within their communities and societies. There is no warrior class in the traditional sense, and there is little appreciation of those who are inclined to follow the path of the traditional warrior as protector and leader.

The sense of responsibility that Exemplars carry as protectors of their society is not a concept that is common in an entitlement driven culture. Nor is it appreciated by the great majority of the members of such a society. Our society sees the institution of soldiering and the practice of warriorship as one in the same. That an individual might join the institution of an army so that one might be better able to practice one’s moral obligation to help others is beyond the typical ken of most of our society’s members. Rather, most of our society sees those men and women who are inclined towards the path of the Exemplar as members of institutions, functionaries of government. Here, we will also see members of law enforcement, firefighters, and others who are willing to put themselves at risk to protect citizens.

But none of these occupations—soldiers, police officer, firefighters—inherently denote the following of the path of warriorship. They are professions and occupations, held by risk-takers to be sure, and therefore something that those risk-takers in our society will be drawn to as pursuits.

What distinguishes the occupational endeavor from the path of the Exemplar is the conscious decision and effort made to follow that path. It is an ongoing path, and it does not end simply because one is done with the job. Simply because one retires from an occupation does not end the path upon which that individual is traveling.

The path of the Exemplar, as with warriorship, is and always has been a lifelong calling. That identity as the protector, even if it doesn’t have a name or a group to associate under, pervades and continues after the last paycheck. And while there may be no warrior class in our society, that is not to say there are no warriors.

The true “warriors” in our society are individuals who follow the calling of armed moral obligation. Those individuals are warriors not because of their job description, but because they have made the decision to be so. For that small and self-selected slice of society, the occupation may shine a light on their direction, but ultimately, the individual who is a warrior will be a warrior whether as a police officer in a small town or soldier in an elite unit. And, that individual will still be the warrior as long as he is following the path.

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About Hunter B. Armstrong

As Director of the International Hoplology Society (established in 1976 by Donn Draeger), Hunter Armstrong is professionally engaged in the research and development of hoplology - the study of human combative behavior and performance. In his efforts to gain a broader perspective on hoplology, he has spent considerable time on field research in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India, researching the training and fighting arts of those areas. Starting in karate in the early 1960's, he has been training consistently for the past fifty plus years. Now, primarily concentrating on classical Japanese battlefield martial arts, he has also trained in a number of Chinese combative arts. In addition to Asian weapons and fighting systems, Armstrong has researched and studied classical European weapons and fighting systems and the relationship of biomechanics to the development of weapons use. In particular, he has concentrated on the principles of efficient behavior in combat, especially as expressed in traditional martial cultures.

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