When are you a Martial Artist? Pt. 2

As promised here is part two of last Friday’s article.

Bringing ancient principles into modern life

By practicing martial arts, as those monks did so long ago, you also begin to realize your own power in life. Diligently practicing the art, you change your self-image, becoming more confident in all situations. You see yourself as strong willed and focused. You know that you are mentally tough, and able to overcome obstacles and achieve goals. A           real martial artist is a martial artist in and outside of the dojo. You do not become a superman or superwoman, never hesitating or fearing anything, but rather a person of discipline, fully conscious and aware of all thoughts, feelings, emotions, moods and actions. In all moments, you maintain control, or at the very least, you are able to regain control of yourself quickly.

Don’t think so much

Artists use the term “blocked,” to describe periods when they are unable to move forward. Writers can’t write, painters can’t paint, and musicians cannot compose. This block usually comes from an overwhelming or nagging pressure originating in the mind. Uncontrolled thoughts manifest as self-talk such as, “I used to be creative, but I fear that I’ll never have another good idea. I don’t feel inspired-what if people don’t like what I do? What if I fail?” As a martial artist executing a form, you might tell your- self, “Everyone is watching, don’t screw up. Here comes the hard part. Wow, I did that really well!” During sparring, your inner dialogue might consist of anticipating your partner’s moves and planning how you will respond. “A back fist is coming next…he always throws a back fist after this technique. Here comes a roundhouse kick…as soon as he moves, I’ll hit him,” and so on and so on.  The inner chatter constantly flows, so we must deliberately train our minds to slow down and stay in the moment.

Surrender to your practice

Our desire to perform or produce excellence is precisely what inhibits our art. If you are concerned with ‘it’ coming from you, then you are not able to get out of the way and let ‘it’ happen. For ‘it’ to come, you must become a spectator of your performance, rather than merely focusing on the outcome. How does one reach the state of being and not doing? Ueshiba Sensei said, “Let spirit flow through you.” You must learn to meditate deeply, clearing the mind of all thought, and remain still. Only then are you able to bring a calm peaceful state into your practice. By keeping the mind calmly active and actively calm, the artist responds, rather than anticipates. The artist harmonizes and does not force. Art comes without effort. Surrender to the practice, without judgment, and just be.

Changing consciousness

A Zendo (a place where the philosophy of Zen is shared) inspires change of consciousness, but does not teach martial application. Self-defence teaches martial application, but does not change consciousness. Real martial arts taught in a dojo (a place of enlightenment) uses martially effective techniques to teach self-defence and to change consciousness. The Japanese tea ceremony, performed correctly, produces a fine cup of tea in the end, but the primary aim is to inspire one to be more mindful…to experience life fully, moment by moment.

In that moment when you are a martial artist, spirit is flowing through you, raising your consciousness.  Strive to stay in that state, consciously and consistently, throughout life.

The art through you…not from you

A martial artist understands and consistently uses the principles, both physical and mental, of his art to raise consciousness and increase mindfulness in every act. With great compassion and humility, a martial artist recognizes that the art comes through him but not from hindrance, he has but one job: To remove himself. Bruce Lee said, “Let it happen.”

So, can one simply proclaim that he is a martial artist and thus become one? Or are we only martial artists, when we learn to get out of the way and allow the practice to transform us?

A student asked a great master, “Sir, do you know martial arts? The master responded, “No, I study martial arts, and when I am still, it flows through me.”

Remember that you cannot skip steps. All great artists of any discipline were first great technicians. After years of dedication, unceasingly perfecting their skill, and learning to still their mind, art found them.


Sensei Matt Thurman – Aikido Nottingham

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