This is my martial art book for this time period; A Path To Liberation: A Spiritual And Philosophical Approach To The Martial Arts, by Herman Kauz. I started reading this book over the last week, and I am really enjoying it. The introduction resonated with me. In it the author recognizes the unnaturalness of our urban landscapes-
“paved over earth, buildings that surround us and shut out all but a small patch of sky, stressful days devoid of physical exercise, conditioned air, piped-in music, and electric lights at midday.” He talks about the urge to do something to make the world a better place, and echoes the wisdom of the sages, who have suggested that to change the world we must change ourselves-
“They base their recommendations on their perception of the interconnectedness of all that exists, so that change in one part of the world changes all the other parts. Thus, each of our actions affects the world, if even in a minute way. Further, they believe that the world is a projection or reflection of our minds. It follows that as our minds change, or our thinking alters, our world will also change.” His question then becomes, what can people do to help themselves make positive changes in their lives? His answer, as a 4th degree black belt in judo and 2nd degree black belt in karate, is that martial arts can help people have a more positive life experience, which therefore positively effects the greater world.
For me reading this book is a reminder of the reasons that I practice martial arts and teach martial arts. Much as I always see that there is more to learning martial arts than learning to fight and hurt people, now that I am starting to teach a children’s class it has occurred to me to wonder if I am really making the world a better place by teaching children to fight more effectively. As if in answer this book is spelling out for me the ways in which teaching martial arts can give people more self-confidence and lead them to have a happier experience even outside of the martial art class. The author goes on to explain some of the ways that physical training in martial arts can be beneficial-
“All this training increases physical strength, agility, and endurance…. Working with our body in the martial arts allows us to develop coordinated physical movement in which the required muscles are most effectively and efficiently employed…. As we become more skillful in our martial art, we learn to move in a relaxed way. If our body is tense and stiff, our moves will be slow and seem inhibited and restricted…. Learning to relax is clearly very useful in our everyday life. The psychological stress in our lives often exceeds the optimum necessary for a zestful life. The more strenuous martial arts help us to release the tensions we develop…. Practicing a martial art like tai chi chuan can teach us to relax by the constant emphasis on using the minimum of energy to perform an action and also on learning to offer no resistance to an attack…. If we can internalize this more relaxed attitude, it may then be unnecessary to practice more strenuously, despite the desirability of the benefits conferred by harder practice…. An easier, more flexible frame of mind will also help us to see that there are many events over which we can exercise little direct control.” Reading this book is giving me good things to think about. I look forward to completing the reading.