Stillness & Movement: Part Three

stillness and movementDynamic Balance

There’s a very old martial arts saying that we should “find stillness in movement, and movement in stillness.” It’s not just an old saw. For instance, say someone punches at you. You move out of the way extremely rapidly, but not so hurried that you resemble a bad example of the startle response; different limbs moving at different speed, confused actions, etc.

In the heart of movement you must remain still inside because you need to marshal your forces and you have to adapt to the situation. You cannot let mind or body erupt.

On the other hand, what about the reverse: movement coming from stillness?  Probably the classic image would be of two Japanese swordsmen staring at one another, eyes unblinking, absolutely frozen, seemingly immobile. Suddenly, they both explode forward—and one of them drops.

A situation like this calls for maximum speed. But you cannot reach maximum speed—speed beyond the normal human range— unless you have enough stillness to check and incorporate all the parts of your body, even though they may not be connected until the moment you execute. It’s only through complete integration that you can reach your maximum speed.

It is obvious that this type of thing cannot be done while your opponent waits for you to line up all your ducks. This is why a high level of training requires dropping into, then climbing out of, stillness. You might call it punctuated explosions. You move fast, then stop, then explode again. When you stop, you take inventory. And, with enough practice, the stopping can actually hide and even build the power for the next needed execution.

At first you set—like a bow and arrow—each shoulder, then each leg, then each… In the old days, the Chinese called these the Five Bows: four in the limbs and one through the back. This is a great example because, with the bow strung, at the moment needed to ready yourself, you can immediately start stringing arrows. This is just as stillness has taught us. When energy finally does manifest in your actions, it comes not from what you do, but from the release that stillness had created. This is true speed, and when it comes it does so without the slightest hint, or hitch, or prelude.

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