Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Brushing Hair Revisited


Here's an article I posted almost a year ago that serves to highlight the other side of martial art training where, rather than just building up one's power to destroy, one instead draws on that same power to spread kindness, physically and emotionally.

A character in a movie who  practises the techniques of kindness is the Samurai in After the Rain. He is as skilled with his emotional touch as he is with his katana. A beautiful film, I highly recommend it.

he hand that splits a concrete block in half should, in the fullest expression of the martial arts, be able to cuddle a baby.

One empowers the other. The fist that loses its gentleness and spontaneity will harden to the point of calcification, to the point of slowness and deadness in response. Hit the stone too much, and the bones begin, like the concrete block, to crumble, arthritically speaking.

Babies…along with acts of gentleness and kindness are important in allowing technique to go beyond the merely technical.

Take today’s example – brushing someone’s hair. There is a weight to the act of brushing similar to the downward palm strike of basic iron hand training. Poorly done iron hand - or sticky hands… or Aikido guiding…or Karate blocking – stops directly at the point of contact. Well trained iron hand sinks, flows deep into the opponent, becomes one with the opponent.

In a future post, I’d like to address the four main areas of martial arts training. (I tried squeezing them into three, due to the feng sheui avoidance of the number four, but without success.) These are – fighting, healing, spirituality and love/care. Of course, the boundaries between these “categories” remain fluid and constantly shifting, just like the martial arts themselves.

Let’s start brushing –


1.   Your partner sits relaxed in a chair in front of you. Stand behind her/him.

2.  Relax, as in a meditative state. Relax your abdomen, especially the area around the navel. The spine sinks naturally without tension. No tension from the torso out to the fingertips. The shoulders and the elbows droop ever so slightly.

3.  Inhale slowly through the nose. Exhale very slowly through either the nose (with the tip of the tongue touching the upper palate of the mouth) or out through the mouth.

4.  Don’t hold the brush just by the handle alone (that’s too disjointed a feeling). Gently hold the main part of the brush in your hand. The brush should feel as though it’s a part of you…just like a sword in Kendo.

5.  Next, relax both of your forearms on the top of your partner’s shoulders. There is a wealth of pressure points along here that can be comforted and nurtured. Let your forearms droop until they become one with the shoulders…then roll the forearms gently from side to side. Doing so produces an exquisite feeling in both the giver and the recipient of the massage. Don’t look at the clock; massage, at its deepest level, is timeless.

6.  With the left arm gently anchored to his/her left shoulder creating a supportive bond (in massage, one hand always supports and reassures), slowly begin drawing the brush from just above the forehead back across the head. Right away, you should hear the slow passage of the brush going through the hair as if a slow, peaceful tide were coming in. Don’t touch the scalp right away; ease into it, starting just at the surface of the hair.

7.  Gradually touch down on the scalp. Each stroke passes through the hair in a long whisper, seemingly taking forever from front to back. At the end of each stroke, pause. Here the stroke seems to fall away. Here you can actually feel the residue of the stroke drop gently into your partner. Now lift the brush again, as if you and the brush were a slow, heavy tide building up again.

The experience, both for you and your partner, is deeply martial. It’s as if all the old fighters had stolen into the room, taken you by the hand,had said: “Enough of violence, it’s time for peace” and filled your body with their calm energy.

And empathy. Your hands – and the brush – fairly drip with empathy. Empathy passes through her skin and into her bloodstream. Her presence too, her humanity, teaches you to be empathetic. It's one of those rare moments of oneness with the other.

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