This morning, I got up at quarter to five to get ready for my morning training session. I was a bit slow in getting out there today because we hosted our Corporate Retreat yesterday and I had to really gun it to get through all my training in time to host the event (even so, I only managed to finish my training yesterday at nine thirty and the Retreat started at ten, so I cut things pretty fine). I also turned 43 years old this morning. Well into middle-age. On the slippery slope of inevitable decline. Getting ready to push up some daisies.

And yet… And yet… I have cause to celebrate how privileged I am and have been in my life. I am 43 years old and aside from a few old training injuries that are slowly being fixed by the structural correction of traditional Wushu training methods, I am in perfect health. I am 43 years old and I have never been as fast, strong, fit or combat-effective as I am today.

Hard physical and mental training is a privilege that has both shaped and directed my path through life. Sometimes I wonder why I deserve the life that I live thanks to my training.

I have been privileged to be coached and guided by martial arts masters whose stature, capability, sheer expertise and experience I will never match. People like Master Chen and SiGung Marco Kavalieratos. I have been privileged indeed. To see the sun come up on icy mornings as the steam rises from my body after hours of exertion. Reaching for the sun like Icarus. Knowing that one day I must fall. Happiness.

I have been privileged to live a life free of compromise. Sure, I have made mistakes and sometimes I have been the bad guy, but I have always tried to make amends for my bad decisions. I have stuck to my guns. I have a code that I live by and I am privileged to be able to sleep soundly at night because of it. If I were to die now, I would die without sadness or regret.

I am privileged to have made close personal friends. Not too many. I am not the easiest person to get along with. My close personal friends know who they are. I don’t need to name them.

I am privileged to have a partner who is both beautiful and deadly. Someone who fights at my side. Sometimes at my back when things get really hairy. She is both my comrade and my strong right hand. She shares my dreams and ambitions. She builds with me. She has comforted me in my pain and anguish but also celebrated with me in times of joy and gladness.

I am privileged to have a son who is both kind and powerful. He is brighter and stronger than I will ever be. When he matures, he will be able to shape the world around him like a force of nature. To see him grow is to watch the beginning of an heroic saga. He has the blood and the grace of Kings in him and I can never be more proud of him than I already am.

I am privileged to spend my time building our dream. Here at the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia, we are changing a small part of the world into something altogether more noble, pure and powerful than the mundane world around us. Like an image from a legend of old. Camelot. Eden. Shangri-La. It is the place where my fantasy notions of honour and grace can be realised. Made real. When I look at it through the dark lens of realism, I have to concede that it is nothing but a converted shed on a small, drought-scarred bushland property outside of a large regional town. But when I look at it with my heart, I see a temple, a monastery, a castle, a refuge, a ray of light shining in the darkness. A bulwark against the tide of ignorance, weakness, hopelessness and deceit that is flooding the world.

I am privileged to have all my needs filled. We have enough to support ourselves and some to spare. I am in need of nothing.

I have indeed been blessed by God in my life and whether you believe in a God, the Universe or blind chance alone, think about what you have and be glad for it. It is good to be alive.

Goodbye level 42.

– Lester Walters, Head of the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia