Rab­bi Niles Gold­stein is the author of The Chal­lenge of the Soul: A Guide for the Spir­i­tu­al War­rior, an approach to spir­i­tu­al learn­ing as seen through his eyes as a black belt mar­tial artist. He is guest-blog­ging all week for MyJew­ish­Learn­ing and the Jew­ish Book Council.

I recent­ly had my ninth book pub­lished, The Chal­lenge of the Soul: A Guide for the Spir­i­tu­al War­rior. While I wrote the book pri­mar­i­ly to help oth­er seek­ers find strength and hope dur­ing times of tri­al, it is a very per­son­al work. It is also filled with some pow­er­ful echoes from my pre­vi­ous book (or, rather, man­i­festo), Gonzo Judaism: A Bold Path for Renew­ing an Ancient Faith.

In my dual roles as both an ordained rab­bi and a black belt mar­tial artist, I have spent the past 15 years try­ing to bring my some­times auda­cious, no-holds-barred approach to my own spir­i­tu­al jour­ney, as well as to my teach­ing, lec­tur­ing, and writ­ing in my con­gre­ga­tion and around the coun­try. When I earned my black belt in karate just after rab­binic ordi­na­tion, I had learned not only a spe­cif­ic set of com­bat skills but a wide array of tools that would help me in my voca­tion as a reli­gious teacher and coun­selor — com­mit­ment, patience, humil­i­ty, the pow­er of rep­e­ti­tion and prac­tice, empa­thy, the abil­i­ty to chan­nel my strength in pos­i­tive ways, self-sacrifice.

I had also learned to con­front — and grow from — some of those dark­er aspects of my rest­less soul, the fears, inse­cu­ri­ties, wounds, and anger that resided in hid­den places with­in me.

Fight­ing taught me how to teach. And learn.

On the sur­face, Judaism and karate might seem to rep­re­sent com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, even oppo­si­tion­al dis­ci­plines. With time and expe­ri­ence, how­ev­er, I have learned how each has com­ple­ment­ed the oth­er in my own life. For me, the two fields are deeply inter­con­nect­ed, com­pli­men­ta­ry expres­sions of the same inner path. Judaism has made me a bet­ter mar­tial arts prac­ti­tion­er, and karate has made me a bet­ter rab­bi. In The Chal­lenge of the Soul, I explore how this phe­nom­e­non has worked, and in the blog entries that fol­low in the days ahead I will be writ­ing about some essen­tial con­cepts and prin­ci­ples that I think are crit­i­cal to each of our unique spir­i­tu­al jour­neys. I hope you have a good read — and a gonzo road ahead of you, one that helps push you along the way and past those forces that try to impede your progress.

Rab­bi Niles Goldstein’s book The Chal­lenge of the Soul: A Guide for the Spir­i­tu­al War­rior is out now. Come back all week to read his guest blogs on MyJew­ish­Learn­ing and the Jew­ish Book Council.