Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Strength - and sensitivity 


t may be difficult to believe, but sensitivity is very important in traditional martial arts training.

Given the image that might be raised in the minds of some when the phrase “martial arts” comes up during a discussion, I can understand.

In the movies, we’re portrayed as deadlier than a typhoon. We’re hard as rocks – and can withstand huge amounts of punishment from similarly violent individuals…to the point of being psychotic.

The brilliant - but troubling – Samurai film Sword of Doom comes to mind. In it, violence passes through violence way beyond any purpose, in fact violence = existence both on a physical and metaphysical level. This is one of the points the film is making.

If we harden our bodies so that our hands can pass through concrete blocks…can we still “feel” the material we’re going through? Or have we sacrificed our sense of touch? If we harden our bodies in order that no punch or kick can penetrate us from the outside…can others still “reach” us. Or have we shut the door on their hearts?

Highly trained sensitivity - and strength.


These are the dangers of one sided training…or excessively training one aspect of the martial arts (hardness). The physical part of us might survive but in the process, our humanity may be lost.

This is why the masters have always stressed balance. The more ferocious our training, the more we have to practise gentleness…and sensitivity. That’s how we keep ourselves on an even keel.

I think this idea of balance applies well beyond the martial arts. If we’re really proficient at one thing, how developed is that talent or skill if we apply only a part of us but the rest is left behind?

A case in point is someone who might be technically skilful when it comes to music. He’ll practise for hours every day until every note, every chord is perfect. The audience and the critics agree – his skill is remarkable. But…it doesn’t have soul.

He forgot to put the rest of himself in the music.

Multiple opponent opponent training


The dangers in martial arts are twofold –

1.  You sacrifice part of you to reach some goal.

That happens in full contact: I’ll take “the shots to the head” for 5 to 7 years because it’s my dream to be the best. But, medically speaking, what happens with my brain afterward? If my brain is pummeled until I’m 30, what happens for the next 50 years as I try to live with a pummeled brain?

This very serious problem is now under investigation in both the National Football League and the National Hockey league.

2.  You restrict your full development as a martial artist.

We need balance and sensitivity to develop a kind of ESP absolutely necessary for advanced training, especially for work in multiple opponent sparring, weapons, situational sparring (such as in the dark), pressure point sparring, chi flow sparring…the list goes on.

You have to be open and sensitive to the attacker in order to read every aspect of his anatomical and psychological make-up. A slam in the face with an overly hardened fist may do the trick but it rarely works against someone deep in the martial arts who fights with openness and sensitivity, who reads your thoughts before you make a move!

My suggestion is to train hard…and meditate; spar lots…and practise lots of gentleness toward others; make yourself strong…and help a lot of people.

In my opinion, the strongest, most courageous martial artist is strong and courageous enough not to be afraid to open up to others.

Please don’t become a fortified castle where everyone outside is the enemy!

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