Borrowed Energy

carthage4This is what used to be called a “casual” so take it for that…

Now here’s the paradox: every night when I come home my cat, Carthage, who has been listening at the door, plops herself down in the middle of the rug, and wants to play. Other than the essential petting the idea of play takes the form of sparring. As we engage in a few rounds of paw-de-cuffs, she invariably catches me with her claws. Her forelimb is 7 inches long. Her paw is 1 inch. She makes a little snip of a movement, barely a swipe, and sometimes leaves me with an 8 inch scratch, longer than her arm, from an action that couldn’t exceed two inches. The mystery is easily answered when she digs a curvaceous claw into my soft underarm. I pull away as fast as I can, helping her decisive blow. In other words, I’m doing all the work! My cat has learned to borrow my energy.

Borrowing is not a new idea to Eastern or Western worlds. When an Asian landscaper incorporates the hills miles away into the manicured enframement of his design, he is using “borrowed landscape”. In shoji, or Japanese Chess, when you capture your opponent’s men, you can flip them over and use them as your men. In war, the good general borrows supplies, weapons and anything else he can get his hands on.

Aikido is the most obvious example of Martial borrowing. And one of the essential features of Wing Chun is termed “borrowed energy”. When a really good Judo man slaps on a choke and pulls his partner off-balance, he is “borrowing” his partner’s weight to supply the force of the choke. If done correctly, you never “lift” someone into a choke; you let them hang themselves from your arm.

The "Mauler" in a quiet moment.

The "Mauler" in a quiet moment.

Of course, to know when and how to borrow you have to be paying attention. You have to reach out with your mind and senses. Well, ok, in the case of my cat, just senses! Even when you are practicing alone you try to maintain this receptivity. Can you really borrow the energy of the Universe? We don’t want to get metaphysical here but what a different idea this might be. Instead of thinking of Chi as some kind of super-energy coursing through our bodies, maybe its practice is just a volitional awareness, a special kind of receptivity to a specific energy outside of us. Human consciousness seeks transformation, and Chi might well be the operation that connects us to that still-undefined field outside of us which, after all, we do if we’re martial artists or painters or stock brokers or people praying or even cats listening for the sound of their masters returning home. “


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