Meditation and martial arts, two halves of the same whole
How could something seemingly so passive and static as meditation possibly in anyway enhance the explosive action of the martial arts? Why did battle hardened Japanese Samurai study the meditation techniques of zen buddhist monks? Experience showed the martial artists of old that in the life and death struggle of close combat, physical techniques alone where not enough. To keep a cool head under enormous pressure not only the body had to be trained but the mind also, for this training they used meditation techniques.
The swordsman who met his match in a monk
There is the story of a ruthless bandit swordsman, who with his band of cut throats had killed warriors and unarmed civilians alike. They came to a temple from which all had fled at the warning of their approach, all but one old monk who sat cross legged meditating. The ruthless bandit who had slaughtered so many stood over him and said, “Don’t you realise that you are sat in the presence of someone who could cut off your head and not bat an eye lid!” The old monk replied, “Don’t you realise that you are stood in the presence of someone who could have their head cut off and not bat an eye lid!” The bandit fell to his knees and bowed, he had met his match, for he, unlike the monk still feared death. He humbly asked to be taught by the old monk how to attain such a tranquil mind, free from all fear of the unknown.
Learning from Nature
We humans have developed amazing technologies and harnessed the power of nature in many different ways, however there is a lot in the saying, “When you stand above nature you fall below it, everything has a price.” Hermits and monks long ago observed animals in raw nature and saw that the speed agility grace and power of their outward form was balanced by a calm oneness with the present moment untroubled by fear of the future or regrets from the past. The hermits developed various disciplines such as meditation and the martial arts as training aids so that humans could regain some part of what modern man has lost. Just to regain to a small extent some of the fluid super quick movement that is innate in animals will take a lot of training in a martial art and your improved agility will be subject to skill fade if you don’t keep training.
Nipper my Jack Russell was laid on the bed, paws in the air, eyes closed a perfect study in complete relaxation. There was a noise at the door, flipping over onto the floor, hurtling down the hall way and slamming into the door Nipper was in attack mode in a flash. Where does this ability, that many animals have, to go from sitting duck to swooping eagle in a heart beat come from?
Meditation on the breath
Meditation is a method by which we can develop a greater level of calmness and relaxation. Rome was not built in a day however and like any skill worth having meditation takes takes consistent practice in order to get results. Try sitting or standing for five minutes just being aware of your breathing, when your mind drifts off just bring it back to being aware of your breath. This practice of watching the breath is a great test and aid to concentration and an excellent form of meditation but it’s not easy at first.
It’s one thing to be able to let go of fear of the future and focus on your breathing in a familiar relaxed setting and that’s the best way to make these techniques into a habit, then you need to be able to make these techniques work in unusual stressful situations.You might have a bit of a wait to test these techniques out in an attack from a screaming swordsman, why not make do with a visit to the dentist or when you get caught in a queue in a supermarket?
The yin and yang of martial arts
Some martial arts are based on the philosophy of yin and yang, indeed Tai Chi meant originally yin yang fist. The yin state could be experienced as a gradual expanding neutral empty stillness, the goal of meditation. The sudden contraction of focused fury in movement of an attacking warrior is very much a yang state, the opposite and the compliment of the yin state.One extreme leads to another and to be a master of action you must also be a master of repose. You need a balanced holistic approach to your martial arts training if you are going to maintain an ice cool clear mind in an emotionally charged, heated combat situation.
Nipper never had to learn swooping eagle style and he was born with the gift of meditation, there is no danger of skill fade because to him it’s all as natural as blinking, Nipper has never stood above nature.