Friday, 26 June 2015

The Martial Arts and Your Anger

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artial arts fuel. The stuff we put into our throws, our Kali strikes, our sticky hands practises.

We value our petrol. We rely on it during our training. Sometimes, the fuel comes from a desire to succeed, an ambition to win the tournament; during other times, we may find the source of our inspiration in deeper, more troubling well springs of emotion. Such as fear, or anger, or…surprisingly…depression.

Clean, itemized emotions don’t exist. You can’t slice anger off like a surgeon can a piece of body tissue and declare: “This is anger, pure and in its essence.”

An emotion like anger, for example, is a complicated cluster of feelings. Anger can be mixed up with a sense of loss, of disappointment, of fear, of depression…
When describing human emotions, we’re focusing  on complexity.  As complex as the human brain.

We should be careful how we fuel our martial lives. Let’s go on to examine anger  a little further.

In martial arts, as in the rest of life, various modes of anger can crop up before, during and after training. Some things to watch for –


BASIC PUNCH – if you imagine someone you’re upset with as an imaginary target, you better get the power well out into the air in front of you. If you perform 100 punches, and you begin to  tire near the end…guess what?...the anger is going to become stuck in the arm because the anger is no longer exiting properly.

That’s not a joke. A simple example is arthritis.  Yes, 100 punches can turn up the heat on specific joints in the arm but just as painful is red hot anger gone awry. Anger dines on arthritic joints. 

Someone over the age of 50 might complain to me: “I can’t put the snap in my kicks anymore. I might as well not train.”

The problem lies in the quality of the kime, or point of focus. You don’t burn through the kime any longer if you have arthritis in a particular limb. You perform exercises first to clear the arthritis then you perform your kicks where the kime point doesn’t focus down to one single point but rather expands. That allows a cool, open breeze in, so to speak. The breeze cools the arthritis.

Pugilists, if their martial life isn’t balanced, wear their bodies down not just through repeated blows but through anger. Anger hardens, then fragments. Then they’re left with regret.


STRIKING EQUIPMENT – no matter how much give the arms of a wooden dummy have or how much swing a heavy bag has away from a punch, you are going to experience some form of counter force that travels back through the fist, up the arm and into either the brain or the rest of the body or both.

If the punch is anger-fueled, part of that anger is going to bounce back at you, and travel back through you. The smoothness of continuous, uninterrupted technique may be slightly disrupted by the blow-back, like a rifle with too much recoil.


You will, however, be able to unleash tons of aggressive techniques through anger, certainly through hot anger. But just don’t count on a great deal of precision. Precise technique may be attainable in little pieces. We’re talking about a volcano erupting; hot lava spurts and flows all over the mountain. Hot anger looks down on the balanced precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.  Hot anger believes in overwhelming an 
opponent via brute force.

Cold anger is different. Yes...cold anger. Cold anger takes over when the heart has been placed in an emotional freezer. Hot anger is dangerous for the cardio-vascular system, for the nerves, for the digestive system, for the joints…cold anger works exceedingly well in combat yet leads to a slow, personal entombment where particles of bitterness and regret may make an appearance once in a while to dance around the tomb. 

Technique fueled by cold anger values precision over speed; hot anger is faster but often imprecise. Emotionally balanced technique, such as one might find in “mushin” state of mind is the fastest and the most precise because it rests – and moves – at the point where technique is.


Technique here lies at the nirvana point – past, present, future, inside, outside, want-not-what, the pure being point of technique where all emotions fuel technique in a perfect and calm expression of no technique. Technique has become no technique.

Here is the meeting ground of all traditional martial arts – technique has become no technique. Not fueled by anger, not fueled by hatred, technique is…and isn’t.

“I can’t explain how I did that. Everything seemed so effortless.”

“Everything was on today. I felt so relaxed. It just came.”

“I could have gone on and on. It felt like I was in a zone and I couldn’t do anything wrong.”

The space between: time to balance emotionally

There’s a saying in the belted arts that when we go for our Black Belt, we’re already a Black Belt. The examination just confirms the truth. When beginners cross the threshold into the training hall, they may take a while to rid themselves of the turbulent emotions that they carry in with them from the day. The bowing, the meditation, are all tools to help them rid themselves of anger and confusion.

The experienced cross the threshold preparing themselves mentally for the class. They use the various stages of initial training to calm their emotions and prepare their more balanced fuel.

The advanced have no threshold. The training hall is outside …and inside…and inside the heart…and inside the mind. They don’t cross thresholds any longer. They are.

So you can win with anger, both hot and cold; or you can win while irritated, or even sad. Or depressed. You can surge yourself to win, collecting all the fragments of your emotions and throwing them at the person you're facing.

But you can’t win health. And you can’t gain the access point to technique-no technique. You might see the door to technique-no technique and actually traverse the threshold to that enormous skill set for a brief period of time. But then your anger fuel will take over once again and blast you back along the well-worn path.

Look into the eyes of the anger-through-habit folks; then look into the eyes of the emotionally balanced. You’ll definitely want to switch fuels.

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