Monday, 28 July 2014

Train Deeply


oronto’s Kensington Market, back in the 60s, was a wonderful scene of organized chaos. The shops spilled out onto the sidewalks and the pedestrians on the sidewalks spilled out onto the streets.

Poultry carcasses, hanging upside down, gaped at you, so close they almost touched you; great wheels of cheese, from many parts of the globe, waited to be  spun across numerous feasts.

No, you were never insulated when you went to the market. Not from the sights nor the smells. Sometimes these few blocks of raw life managed to rob you of your breath.

We mixed in each other’s cultures, as we still do now. Poles, Lithuanians, European Jews; migrant Italian families who worked so hard in construction , pooling their resources to later become heads of their own construction companies.

The scene conjured up thoughts in me of a trading post along the Silk Road. Except in Kensington, everyone had her or his own Silk Road, stretching from their original homes across the sea to this city in Canada.

I trained once in an apartment overlooking the market. The place belonged to a young American, a student of comparative mythology.  For hours we practised Tai Chi in a room lined with books resourcing the cultural beginnings of an entire world.

We kept the windows open to the light and the sounds. Dozens of languages drifted up and filled the room, caressing the covers of books by Eliade and Campbell. We trained in the Yang style 108, slow and easy, playing in the life of the street. Then we sat, on the floor, engaged in conversation...about the similarities and differences in belief, about the rhythms of life, about death and rebirth.

A good training companion

Then we did push hands and fighting applications.  Our Tai Chi was filled with the joy of being at a confluence of raw life, the written word, physical activity and the spoken word.

Later we ate. He was an excellent cook, especially with Chinese fare. We sat on the floor as if the floor was the earth wherein the roots of all cultures converged. The rhythm of Tai Chi became the rhythm of the meal. Like the simple act of taking a lungful of air, I felt the energy of each mouthful coursing through the body.

Again we trained, comparing Tai Chi to Karate and Jiu Jitsu as well as to other systems of Kung Fu. We gave and we took cooperatively. There was plenty of room along everyone’s Silk Road. I think we spent most of the day training like this.  Time tended to roll in and out of itself.

Another possible companion

When a roomful of books comes alive, when Tai Chi mixes with a corner of life, when rice and tea turn into music and music turns into shouts on the street and shouts on the street take you to the soil where the subjects of these texts come from…that type of training stays with you long after.

If you train in the martial arts, train deep, train without boundaries. Infuse the training with other things in your life, things you enjoy. If you enjoy sparring, or practising Kata, then include quiet periods of meditation. Spar or perform Kata again, then read a text you enjoy…as though with your whole mind and body. Follow with more training. Eat. See what the food tastes like, rich and complete. Get up. Train. Listen to the voices of the past in the Kata.

Bring the world's voices into your training

Air…food…training…thinking. Bring everything that makes you who you are into the training.

If you’re a non-martial artist, then exercise, meditate, exercise, talk with someone you care for, stretch, meditate, listen to music, stretch some more, eat. Training can be an experience that touches every aspect of living.

Work? The workplace may be a difficult place to pursue this kind of training (in a future post, I’ll actually show you how to train at your work). If your home is your workplace, then try this…exercise, work for a while, gently stretch…work for a while…meditate…work for a while…spend time with someone you care for…work for a while…eat…work for a while…stretch gently…work for a while.

Fullness and awareness in every moment of living.


  1. Great read, would of loved to be there to take it all in.

  2. Hi Tanya,

    Thanks. The great thing is that we can do the same type of training wherever we are, with the people and the environments that we care for!


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