Martial Arts training is the ultimate microcosmic training ground for personal development on all levels. It is a fully equipped laboratory where self exploration and life skill development abounds.
What is the True Self ?
Bruce Lee once said that “ultimately, Martial Art means honestly expressing yourself.” I believe that this “honest expression” made possible by a raw, intimate knowledge of self is one’s True Self.
It is something we are all born to develop but with which we tend to lose touch without the proper guidance and experience.
Martial Arts can help strengthen one’s connection with Self and free up the ability to express it. To better understand how this happens, it’s important to also understand the relationship between Mind, Body, and Spirit.
These are rather cliched subjects in the Western world as a result of their use in marketing and the overly romanticized view of Eastern philosophy. Despite their frequent employment, very little understanding is being demonstrated by the commercial institutions that use them.
These subjects, or rather the MindBodySpirit subject, exists to describe a world full of awe and mystery where science was non-existent. I still like to use them because in today’s world, science has only scratched the surface of the universe and our powers within it and so the terms are still very much relevant in encapsulating a concept that is, by nature, difficult to explain.
The Body as the gateway to Spirit
A few years back, during post graduate studies in traditional medicine, it was suggested to me that both the Mind and Spirit have direct connections with Body, but do not connect directly with each other. This was a controversial subject considering how so many spiritual practices seem to emphasize the Mind-Spirit connection, primarily due to the Western scientific emphasis of the mind and dismissal of “spirit”.
Regardless of one’s beliefs about spirit, there is simply no mind without the body. Hence any real change within one’s self MUST include a body element.
Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, and even prayer and meditation generally involve ritual and a focus on something physical such as the act of breathing. These practices, including Martial Arts, have become mainstream, yet their true power of self development is largely not being tapped.
The issue seems to be in the modern cultural trend of shortcutting and “thinking” one’s way success and thus bypassing the body.
I think, therefore I don’t know
Thinking is essential, but thoughts by themselves are just noise. Thinking coupled with honestly feeling and consequently doing is considerably more involved. Sometimes we “think” we feel this and that, but again, this is the mind getting in the way of truly experiencing ourselves and a good example of the difference between thinking and knowing. As we are physical beings, our bodies are absolutely essential to feeling and thus knowing. The key is being conscious, present, and open to the feelings our bodies allow us.
Expressing yourself honestly
The practice of Martial Arts is extremely physical and can thus be used as a powerful tool to control the thought process and nurture our innate ability to simply be and feel honestly. There are times when training is easy and calming, there are times when it’s fun, challenging, and exciting, and there are times when joy and happiness duke it out with anger and frustration.
The entire gamut of emotions is exercised and every moment is an opportunity to let things bewhile you enjoy, learn, and grow.
Martial Arts training is deeply rooted in one’s ability to move, feel, and interact. It is a physically based practice aimed at honing one’s Mind and strengthening one’s Spirit by cultivating one’s Body, effectively clearing the way for the expression of one’s True Self.