Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Balance

I am returning to the philosophy of circles.
When I began martial arts, it was with the focus on the circle. Techniques were always completed with this concept in mind; defences were based upon rounded movements, such as jiu-jitsu usually is. This philosophy became the basis of my training. And while I haven't forgotten this, somewhere along the way I started to take my own philosophies for granted.
You see, as I grew to be a more experienced striker, I learned the value of a linear approach to defence to complement the circle. I learned about centre lines, jabs, and crosses. Attacking on angles and doing kata in line formations. Often, it seemed, the quickest route to reach an opponent was in a straight line.
My circles never went away, though, I just didn't focus on them in the same way I once did. But my mind is returning to it, now, albeit in a more layered manner than before.
I like to look at a karate reverse punch as a good example of combining straight lines with circular movements. The punch, to be quick and effective, must travel directly at its target – in a straight blast of power. The foot, also, lunges into a forward stance, aimed in the same direction as the arm. But, the circle is still there. The fist corkscrews as it is extended; the hips turn in order to generate power. It is a perfect balance of both concepts at work.
Lately, I have been hoping to increase my jiu-jitsu training once again. It's like going home and I'm excited. I am once more thinking in circles both small and large. And I am applying the philosophy to what I have learned in the meantime, blending the two, hopefully, into seemless, coherent actions.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Becoming Immune

In the realm of frenetic commercialism, those who wish to find a quiet mind must work to develop a sort of “materialistic immunity.” Just as the body can become immune to certain diseases, so, too, can the mind subdue the unwanted “noise” of the world.

It is hard enough, I've discovered, to find moments of peace without countless billboards pouring crap into my conscious and subconscious mind. Life, it seems, is challenging on its own, without omnipresent television screens with ego-filled actors telling me what I “need,” and how to be happy. And when I walk down a city street it feels akin to running a gauntlet of materialism, and I know it impacts us all deeper than we think on the surface. After all, that's the point of advertising, isn't it?

But peace can still be found. I try to become consciously aware of my surroundings, and take my power back by holding an internal place of focus amid the chaos.

The martial arts world, an argument could be made, has become increasingly commercial in recent years as well. Some dojos want to sell you what they have to offer, and many teachers and students flaunt their knowledge as if advertising their self-importance, unaware of the impact it may have on other students with whom they train. While most instructors and students I have met have been humble and approachable, there is always that one guy or girl who fails to check their ego at the door.

Again, we need to focus on ourselves. Martial artists train daily to cut out distractions, to breath, and to redirect the energy of an attacker. In this case, the attacker may be ego, materialism, or just unwanted attitudes of negativity. I just try to redirect the unwanted energy. I try to become immune to negative surroundings, and hopefully add a bit of positivity in the process.

It is my way of trying to find a quiet mind in a world that often seems out to confuse and distort what life is all about.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


The year 2014, while full of memorable moments in the dojo, was a year that ultimately brought lessons in patience and perseverance.

For the first time in seven years of dedicated training, I hit a point where I could see quitting. Plain and simple. I was down in the dumps; my energy depleted, and my focus gone. But only in fits and starts. I would miss three weeks of class, then go regularly for three more. I binge trained, to be honest, and there were points where I had to drag myself out of the house to make it to the dojo for a training session.

What kept me going was knowing that each time I did go to class, I felt so glad that I did so. I felt refreshed, excited, and pleasantly tired from a challenging lesson. But then it would fade in my mind, and one day off would turn into many more. I was extremely busy with my family life, and my drive was just, well, not there.

Another thing that kept me going was watching my seven-year-old son's classes. I observed his excitement as he advanced to the “bigger kids class,” and enjoyed seeing his progression as lessons in the martial arts unfolded in front of his youthful eyes.

But why was I struggling? I needed to figure this out in order to move forward.

I could pin blame on many factors if I wished: exhaustion; injuries; absent training partners; not enough time; feeling too old; other interests, etc. I also have to deal with mental depression and anxiety which severely impacts my motivation at times.

However, these factors have never stopped me in the past. And who doesn't have challenges to overcome?

So what I had to do was dig deep and decide what the martial arts mean to me. And two of those things, among many others, is the cultivation of patience and perseverance. I realized that these lulls and challenging moments are just part of the deal. Training to get past them is not unlike training in endurance or technique. At times it's just hard.

But getting through the challenges, and finding joy once again on the path, is worth all the struggle and discomfort.