I have taken a short hiatus because I was in contemplation of what my practice meant to me. You may be wondering why after almost three decades of training would I need to contemplate my practice. Am I not certain of what I have devoted so much time to? Is something still unclear? Aside from the teachings-all of which gently ( and not so gently) coax me to live in the eternal now and not to be concerned with past or future. This presents me with a unique position. Even though I strive to be in the present, am I not the sum of my past history especially in regard to my training on the martial path?
It was this train of thought that led me to pursue the question of what my practice meant to me. What did it mean to go deeper in my practice, was it even possible to go deeper? Were there any depths to be plumbed? I am a firm believer in continually studying especially when it comes to being on a martial path. I have said it before-we are on a summit-less mountain, therefore we never arrive, we never achieve complete mastery. There is always more polishing to be done, always.
With this in mind I began to delve into what may considered reaching a pinnacle in any given path. I wondered if it was becoming a tournament champion. While I no longer participate in tournaments, I do not disparage them. They serve a purpose, albeit a narrow one, in my perspective. Many practitioners feel fulfilled competing in tournaments, for me personally it has always felt hollow. I also feel that if you need external validation of who you are as a martial practitioner then ego may be at work, which really has no place on the path.
What about becoming an accomplished fighter? When you examine this aspect of a martial path, especially in our current times it is possible that the martial aspect of what we do can get overlooked or ignored completely. Certainly it is useful to have the skills of fighting, however if you are in a situation that has degenerated to physical violence it is my belief that you have failed in your training in that moment. Fighting very rarely solves a situation and usually exacerbates it. Real fighting that occurs in a street setting, where there are no rules is a chaotic, messy, more often than not bloody thing. Its also very very fast. Faster than most who have been dojo trained are prepared to deal with.
So then what does it mean to go deeper? What is it that must be pursued to facilitate this depth? How do I accomplish attaining a deeper level to my practice, if its even possible? Well I can only answer for my path even though I put these thoughts here for you to view and spur you to consider your path and practice. We each walk our own path. I will tell you what I have learned for my practice.
The first paradox that I encountered was that in order to go deeper in my practice I had to completely forget about myself. On occasion we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget that our purpose is to give of ourselves, our time, our knowledge. The more you give of you, the more there will be to give. When you are doing these things, you have little time to contemplate yourself.
I next discovered that kata and its practice is the foundation to excellence, notice I didn't say perfection.. I know this may sound like an oversimplification and yet it really is that simple. Practice your kata, embody them, meditate with them. They are the underpinning of everything your art is comprised of.
Once I saw that- the next thing I saw was that I needed to be compassionate and gentle. When I was younger I would scoff and those who would advise me to be gentle, not understanding the wisdom in those words. I felt that if I was strong I needed to demonstrate it and make sure it was known I was strong. Ego in its highest form. It took me many years and many difficult lessons to learn that only those who are truly strong can be gentle. Having compassion showed me to view life from others eyes. Putting myself in the position of others allowed me the perspective to see with empathy.
I am still learning everyday. Each day I have the choice as to how I will be. It is a choice despite what many will say. We choose to be the way we are. We choose our responses to life. Life simply is. We add or subtract the meaning.
What will your choice be each day?
strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Use of the author's blog posts without express written permission by the author is plagiarism and punishable by law.