I am excited to start the homework, the diamond-steps we will be working on are among my favorite things- at this point I feel like I have been saying that a lot but it’s true. This is one of the things that opened up my mind to possibilities, it is so simple, just a way of stepping around a person but I would never would have thought of anything like it myself.
I have been working on the 5 elements forms in spare minutes- it never seems like I have any “spare minutes,” but it really doesn’t take very long to work on those forms (or even 1 or 2 of them), the way I find I get things done is if I just start doing them, without stopping to think about it. If I think “do I have time?” I’ll probably decide I don’t but if I just start practicing, I get at least a little practicing in. I have to trick myself I guess.
My class is going well. There were 4 people this past Thursday, we worked on kicks, punches and palmheels. I always have more things in mind then we can get to, which I figure is OK because then I have something in mind we can do next week… next week I’d like to start joint locks. It’s hard to plan what to do because I never know who (if anyone) will show up for the class, then there might be students who have been to the class before and some who haven’t. I feel like I am learning some of the difficulties of instructing that I never appreciated before. I am lucky to have students who are very good at what we are doing and also enthusiastic about learning and practicing.
I was able to watch my movie homework- Fearless, with Jet Li. It is based on a true story of a Wushu master, his trials, and his path that leads him to take on the world on behalf of the people of China, in 1910. Unfortunately I have not time to do it justice here now, it is very well done, in the course of following his life-path it also explains a lot about the mental side of martial arts. The main character concentrates on learning his father’s style of Wushu since he is a child, even against his parents’ wishes. He fights other practitioners, wanting to prove his style is the best; his mother tells him when he is young, that his enemy should be himself. Only through time and hardship does he come to believe that no one style is the best, only the practitioners are different, and you learn about yourself through fighting others.
At this point I wonder how it is that a student progresses from wanting to fight, their brother or sister, friends/ enemies; to embracing the more mental aspects of the art, viewing it as a way to improve the self, not necessarily to fight anyone. Is this a transition that happens naturally through years of practice? One quote I have heard in my martial art training (I’m not sure who to attribute it to, it is attributed to many different sources online) is that “we learn to fight so that we don’t have to.” This has had many meanings for me through the years. At first when I was learning self-defense I wondered if any of what I was learning would be helpful to me, should I really need it. Now I simply hope that I never find out how well I could defend myself, in a situation which called for real self defense. As I learn more skills in martial arts and we learn not only strikes and kicks, even more than joint locks and self defense, we learn to read body language; we learn to trust our instincts, and avoid getting in to a situation that might be dangerous. And we learn confidence in ourselves, which leads to less desire to fight and “prove ourselves.”
One more thing I would like to share relates to Tom Brown, Jr. I mention his philosophies and training a lot in this blog, since it has been such an important influence in my life, that I feel blends well with my martial art training. Re-reading The Search, I noticed a passage where he details a time when he had to fight a person. He had been talking about moving with the natural rhythms of nature; moving when other animals move/ wind blows/ nature is moving. He talks about shifting his weight to his hands so that when his target steps on to his right leg, which has some kind of problem (he had noticed by tracking) he can sweep the man’s leg with his leg. I have been thinking about this and how it relates to martial arts, and I think a similarity in both trainings is awareness and attention to the details of one’s surroundings. As I have mentioned this is very important in martial arts as well as living/ moving in natural areas.