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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Training Martial Arts Monkeys

Okay, you train 3-4 days a week. You kumite every couple of weeks, you know all your style's katas, you're a virtual martial arts historian. You may have even won a trophy of two in competition. You can pound a makiwara, your Naihanchi stomps put fear into the mudansha, and everyone in 3 dojos acclaim you as the next Bruce Lee.

Yet you have failed as a martial artist as you missed the most important part of martial arts training.

I don't have studies to support this but I would imagine at least 8 out of 10 dojos talk about spirituality (not religion) in one form or another. They talk about it's importance to training, the need to cultivate "mizo no kokoro", the need to develop awareness in training, "focus", and the like. However lip service is where it stops. They do not actually train you - that’s because they don't know how? (Ask your Sensei; "Sensei, train me in mindfulness." Then watch for the deer in the headlight glazed-over look.) Don't feel bad, there are many, many, high ranking Blackbelts who cannot meditate, and would even know where to try to start.

Without mind training, without a true and active focus/training in mindfulness, awareness, meditation; any student's training is incomplete.

Go back and watch the first "Karate Kid" movie. (Yeah I know - sorry). But look at the core difference between the quiet Japanese-American instructor and the ex-special forces, "kill 'em all and let God sort them out" loud mouth instructor. Which are you? Or do you (more commonly) talk like Miagi but act like the "killer". If so, you lose.

There's a great line in "Enter the Dragon" where O-Hara breaks a board in mid-air without support (a difficult feat). Bruce Lee looks at him and calmly says "Boards don't hit back". You know, you saw the movie, and you too misunderstood what he was saying.

Breaking the board or hitting the opponent is fairly easy. When you overpower them, when you've become a karate machine, they present little danger to you. You ARE the master! Even if they beat you to a pulp your focus is still on THEM, how you're gonna get even, better, faster, smarter, etc. Your focus is still outside yourself either way - you lose either way.

What scares you?

What frightens you the most?

It's not the outside threat, it's the inner threat; looking inside, seeing, acknowledging oneself. Confronting that part of yourself you both hate and loathe. That secret shadow self you would NEVER tell another person about, you already know how their opinion of you would change forever if they knew you _______________ (fill in your own blank).

That shadow self CANNOT be defeated; it won't hit back. Yet it controls your life. The more you try to suppress it, defeat it, control it, the more control you actually give your shadow over your physical self. You LOSE!

The journey toward mastery of karate is a road you CANNOT complete without the mastery of self. Meditation, mindfulness training, forgiveness of self and, ultimately acceptance of self is the ONLY way the shadow self can be dealt with, compromised with, not defeated. Embracing the shadow reunites self with self, ying with yang, and this reunification is the only way you can quiet the battle of the inner turmoil. Again Bruce Lee's "The art of fighting without fighting…"

I'm not referencing religious training. Having a strong religious orientation may help fortify you for the inward journey but, in and of itself, will not get you there. Religious armor for battle won't work. In this battle you an only survive by NOT armoring yourself.

You ever see the monkey on Youtube with the Gi on? Looks like he knows karate? We laugh at him but it's a nervous laugh; inside we identify way too much with the monkey. Physical training without spiritual training only creates trained monkeys. Sure, some monkeys learn faster than others and are better than others, but their still monkeys.

Monkey see, monkey do, but monkey not understand.


Cox Hakase

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