My name is Jared Manninen. I am not a guru. I am not an expert. I am not a master of anything. I am simply a man who, at an early age, was drawn to the martial way. Perhaps this was a direct result of being exposed to my father’s and grandfather’s old military photos, stories, and surplus gear, or maybe it was more closely linked to me watching way too many 1980’s action flicks. Regardless of what inspired me to align my values with a martial approach to life, it has stuck with me over the years.
My first experience with combat-related training was through wrestling in junior high and high school. During those first years of wrestling, I also took up Tae Kwon Do (like so many kids), but that only lasted a couple years due to my deteriorating lack of interest.
I grew up with a black or white view of the world and, upon graduating high school, enlisted in the US Marine Corps (1992-1996). It seemed the only sensible thing for a kid like me to do since I felt so strongly about the concepts of right and wrong. I also sought to follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, who both served. My father was in the US Marine Corps and my grandfather in the Army. And, like the both of them, I did not see combat. Dad was stationed in Okinawa at the tail end of Vietnam and grandpa was in Panama during World War II. Just as I was beginning my training in boot camp, the US was finishing up with its involvement in the first Gulf War.
For the majority of my enlistment I was as gung ho as anyone. However, due to the lack of a “conflict” and confronted non-stop with training for the sake of training, my convictions began to waiver. And then there was also the issue of being in the military during the decadent nineties. Like many of my fellow Marines, I drank heavily, and that habit got me into trouble more than once. Prior to enlisting I had been straight-laced, so failing in the eyes of my peers and superiors, as well as not meeting my own expectations was something new to me. I began to doubt my beliefs about the nature of the world being so clear-cut.
After being honorably discharged once I completed my four-year tour, I went to college. I was still relatively militant compared to my classmates, but I definitely began to soften my outlook on life. One area that I discovered a hidden passion for was art. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d begin a career painting landscape pictures or drawing nude people. But it happened, and I wound up graduating with a minor in fine arts.
During college I also served in the Army National Guard (1997-2000). Although, I opted to be an office worker during those three years. I enjoyed being a part of the military culture again, but my interests for going into a combat-related unit had faded.
After college I embarked on an adventure in the form of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Because of changes I had been making min my life, I needed time to reconcile my worldview. Five and half months of hiking in the woods provided plenty of quality time to think, as you might expect. I returned home, but still suffered from having restless feet, so I went on a road trip that lead me to Arizona.
I spontaneously decided to stay in Arizona with an old Marine Corps friend and decided to enroll in a massage therapy program, of all things. I spent the next year earning a certificate in the field and during that time, my friend and I began to talk about taking up a martial art. We both felt like there was something missing from our lives that could only be found within a martial discipline. We visited a number of schools that offered various arts, but we never pulled the trigger. It wasn’t until I moved back to Minnesota that I decided to give Aikido a try. That was in 2003. My friend had also decided in the same year to begin training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The first couple years of my training were rocky due to my still-persistent restlessness. It seemed as if I had a new job and new home every year for a while. I eventually couldn’t stand living in the place where I grew up, so I left for northern California to re-connect with another Marine Corps friend. It was then that I moved to Lake Tahoe and consistently began to train in Aikido (and still do to this day), and where I earned the rank of second degree black belt (Nidan) in 2013. In addition to training in Aikido, I served as an assistant wrestling coach for the South Tahoe High School during the 2015-2016 season, and I also began to train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the beginning of 2015. And yes, it is quite an experience being a 40+ year old white belt in a relatively exhausting art.
Warrior Poet Initiative has gone through many metamorphoses in my mind over the past couple years, but ultimately I’ve created this website as a means for me to discuss my thoughts about the martial way. As I get older and appreciate just how much martial arts have helped to shape my life, I wish to share that experience with others. So, on Warrior Poet Initiative I will feature all kinds of articles and blog posts that will hopefully inspire you to see the benefits of embracing the martial way.