November 26, 2014

Union of Mind and Body

"Sifu, why is it so important to practice meditation and breathing exercises?"

I Ching: Hexagram #8: K'an over K'un - Water over Earth. 

According to The Judgment of Hexagram #8, Pi / Holding Together [Union]:"...possess sublimity, constancy, and perseverance; then there is no blame. Those who are uncertain gradually join. Whoever comes too late meets with misfortune."

The Image of this Hexagram should always be kept in mind: Water gently flowing over earth, seeping into any opening it finds.

In terms of self-defense, the importance of these types of exercises would be that meditation trains the mind to focus on the objective and proper breathing provides the necessary oxygen supply so that the set movements and techniques can be performed without becoming tired. Proper breathing rejuvenates the practitioner and keeps him full of energy.

To be truly proficient in defending himself, the martial artist needs to learn how to reach a meditative focused state. Meditation, by definition, is an egoless state; and through meditation the martial artist automatically overcomes his emotions and fears. When he does not become emotional about his actions and reactions, he does only what the situation requires him to do. He therefore eliminates any mental obstacles before they arise. He is able to adapt to any situation without prejudice. He never becomes violent or loses control and this allows him to maintain a continuous flow of movement.

Martial arts skill can be obtained without meditation practice, but true mastery cannot. In order to master anything, a person needs to put 110% into whatever discipline he chooses. The martial artist can't allow himself to be distracted. In a self-defense situation, a break in focus could cost him his life. But this form of focus doesn't mean he is unaware of his surroundings and the people and things in it.

When an opponent punches the ordinary martial artist, the martial artist only sees the punch and then reacts accordingly. He is trained as if to say, "When I see that, I do this." But a martial artist who is in the meditative state has eliminated his ego and therefore he has shortened his response time. He does not analyze and react in terms of "I" at all. His response becomes subliminal and is so fast and so automatic that he seems to anticipate the punch, itself. Without having to filter external stimuli through his ego, he remains even more acutely aware of the persons, places, and things that surround him; and this awareness is often crucial.

But the novice martial artist should not be discouraged if he does not succeed all at once. He must practice his skills; but if he wants to attain mastery, he has to control his breathing and his ability to focus.

It's just like anything else: you get what you put into it. Practice and perseverance can only make you better. Strive to hold mind and body together, in Union, and with the grace and egoless action of water flowing gently over the earth.