Martial Arts enable people to gain insights on everything; from whether or not they are willing to fully commit themselves to a project, to how well they defend themselves in every day life. Martial Arts can teach you a great deal because you are using your breath throughout, and always engaging your mind - so it incorporates meditation with mental focus and working with the breath.
During retreats and training sessions for business executives, healthcare practitioners, engineers, teachers and others, we get out from behind the conference table for a totally different type of learning. Martial arts is a great way to either shape up, lose weight or stay in top condition. It is also a path to self-discovery that augments and complements meditation.
What do you learn?
- Do you move in a way that is naturally elegant? Or, do you feel awkward in your body?
- Are you too fast to try and execute moves the instructor is demonstrating, that you miss the details? Or, do you pick up the moves quickly and accurately?
- Is it easy to keep your attention riveted on what the instructor is explaining? Or, does your attention drift from one thing to the next?
What I have found is that the qualities one brings to and executes in martial arts are likely to be the same ones that people display throughout their lives. For example, a position called "Fighting Stance" is the stance you use to start many movements. When you put up your hands to fight, where are your feet? Some people take such a wide stance that it is easy to knock them over. Others are naturally constricted and stand with their feet so close together that they look like they are walking on a tight rope. Again, it's easy to push them over.
"Fighting Stance" means you have to put your hands up as a block with one a little higher than the other to defend your face. How far from your face do you naturally put your hands? If they are too far, it's hard to defend yourself. On the other hand, if they are close to your face, you will hit yourself if someone should hit you.
Blocking is key in martial arts as it is in life. Do you use lots of force and big movements that end up leaving you exhausted in no time at all? Or, do you move with economy of motion, able to ward-off a potential attack with the slightest movement of your wrist against their arm?
Martial art is about more than brute force. Great champions are sometimes smaller than their muscle bound opponents. So, how do they beat them? With agility - pop, pop, pop. Jabs are fast and not necessarily where you'd expect them to come from. Martial artists train to be able to flick a foot in a way that an opponent thinks that's where an attack is coming from - only to find out a split second later that the real weapon is the other foot or a hand.
Engaging in a knock down brawl is not always the best strategy in life. Sometimes evading attack makes better sense. And, that requires fleet footedness - the ability to see the best escape route and to move quickly to avoid attack.
So the next time you have a few minutes to yourself, stand in front of a mirror or a glass door where you can see your reflection. See how you stand naturally, how you move, what is your strongest and weakest side. Check out your own image to see if you extend your arms completely when you punch while maintaining solid balance. Or do you tend to lose your footing? Do your punches land on the imaginary target or do you miss the mark.
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