Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Best Laid Plans...

In training and in life, I like to have a plan, a roadmap.  

Lately, both have gone off the intended course, somewhat unexpectedly.  This is a bit unsettling, but not necessarily negative.  Just different.  

It is in these times, I suspect, that much progress can be made.  Going off script can have interesting results.  

I hope to follow up with some wonderfully insightful observations in the near future, but suffice to say, things are changing in my life.  I'm a bit out of the driver's seat in many ways, so instead of obsessing over being in control, I'm going to try to enjoy the ride and see where it takes me.  I suspect there's a virtue or bit of a lesson in Budo tucked away in there somewhere...

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 13, 2012

May the Force be with you...or the Science.

It’s been an interesting time lately at the dojo.  With the stress and work of a gruelling grading fading into the past, we’ve started delving into different areas.

We’re working on incorporating qi/chi, or energy work into our Jiu Jitsu.  My Sensei has spent years and years studying Qigong (also known as Chi Kung).  While he does lots of healing work, acupressure and acupuncture, he also incorporates chi into his martial arts, making them that much more effective.

We’ve been doing a bit of meditation and working on breathing and building up and using chi.  There are several references to gates, to dantians, to breathing, to channels, to fire, water etc.  These are all components of Chi Kung and traditional Chinese and energy arts.

First off, meditation and ‘mindful’ breathing which focuses on the lower dantian (or belly breathing for lay people like me), is a great thing to do.  It focuses the mind, blocks out lots of the ‘noise’ of life and generally makes you feel good. 

We’ve been focusing on building up chi during these exercises and then using that energy in our technique.

The result? 

My techniques have been far more effective, requiring far less effort (strength).  In fact, I’ve been getting surprised when my training partners start madly tapping before I’ve even really started to ‘sink’ it in.  I’ve had to start being very careful not to accidentally injure my partner when projecting energy into techniques.

There’s definitely something to this.

Is it magic?  The force?  Is there really a gas tank you can fill with the energy of the universe that can be unleashed on your foe? 

Or is there a scientific reason?  Can it be that the very act of focusing, of actively making the body work together as one, cause synapses to fire, long and slow twitch muscle fibres to work synergistically?  Can it be that a whole host of physical and physiological processes occur to achieve this economy of motion and effectiveness of technique application?

The answer?

I don’t care.

It doesn’t matter to me what causes it, as long as it works.

Now normally, I’m not the sort of fellow that just accepts things.  In fact, in martial arts and in life, I usually refuse to accept things without careful scrutiny or deliberation and thought.  In this case, however, it matters not.

There are a couple of reasons. 

#1.  I like to believe that there are some intangible things inherent to the study and journey of the martial arts.  I still believe there is some magic in the world, things that can't fully be clinically defined.  We are all made up of energy, after all. 

#2.  I’ve seen some proof.  I’ve had masters do things to me that I still can’t quite figure out, like sending my rather large frame flying half way across the room having barely moved a muscle.

Also, there have been numerous occasions and documented cases of feats of incredible strength or self healing.  Parents have lifted cars off trapped children.  And science has shown how some people can speed healing to areas of injury through energy work and focus. 

So, I guess I have scientific proof that magic exists.  Hmmm, kind of talked myself into a corner on that one… 

But that’s exactly my point.  Be it science, or be it chi energy, if it works, what does it matter?

If you need science to explain it to make sense to you and therefore you can apply it, learn about the science.

If you need chi to explain it to make sense to you and therefore you can apply it, learn about chi.

With chi work, some people envision it being a force, some think of it as electricity, some as a wave.  Whatever they need to do to access it is fine.  It’s finding a way to use something, and use it well, that matters.  If you envision a more scientific process occurring in your body, that’s just as good, as long as it works. 

Normally I need to know the inner workings of things, a more clinical understanding of the ‘why’ to make something my own.  It looks like even with this type of need, there are different methods, or paths, to understanding. 

Some people say magic is just something science has yet to understand or explain.  Some think science and magic are one in the same.

What do I say? 

My Jiu Jitsu is better.  That's what I know.  For now, that’s enough.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Path of Budo - Noise


Life has been crazy of late. 

Not enough hours in the day. 

Busy at the dojo.

Busy at work.

Busy at home.

Conflicting priorities.

Everything seems rushed. 

Stressed.  All the time.

Tired.  All the time.

Work/Life balance.  Yeah right.

Sound like anyone you know?

I wonder what to do about it?  We’re so driven as a society for the acquisition of material things that I wonder if we’re missing out on some of the really important stuff.  In fact, I know we are.

All this stuff.  The stress. The long hours.  The fatigue.  The bills.  The commitments.  The housework.  The homework.  The overtime. 

A thousand things.

I call it noise.  I’m living a noisy life.  So are many of the people I know.  Most of the people I know.  Rush rush rush.  It’s a drain. 

I bring this up not to complain.  After all, I’ve got it pretty good.  I’m just not sure I’m spending the proper proportion of my time and energy on the things that matter most.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.  I’ve been thinking about living a more minimalist life, quieting my life.  Reducing the noise.

I think from time to time you need to evaluate what is truly important in your life and make sure that you are taking care of those things, first and foremost. 

I’m going to meditate on this for a while.

I suspect this is all part of the path of Budo.

Something to think about.