Finding Freedom Everywhere

art_spirit3A good question to ask once in a while, knowing that the answer may be different this week from last week, is “What makes me feel free?” This varies a lot from person to person. It also varies a lot, if you stick with the martial arts for a long time, with your personal evolution as you continue the arts in your life.

For me I have often found one move done over and over, creating a silent groove of concentrated repetition, can push out the walls and keep the world at bay. This kind of freedom comes not only from the practice but from deciding what to practice and going after it to the exclusion of so many annoying daily details.

Forms, too, are especially freeing for me. The slow, precise refinement that goes into mastering a form can be so completely absorbing that troubles and concerns soon fly away. At the same time the form, akin in this sense to Qigong, has so much reference to internal feelings and modifications that it automatically closes me to the world and puts me into a situation where I can do whatever I want at the cost of being completely conscious about it and nothing else.arrowmarch7

I have long suspected that almost any aspect of martial arts training can become or be used as a freeing space, a special relationship where outside considerations melt like the last snows.

For instance, many styles have a built-in meditation or Qigong practice. These, of course, generously bestow an attitude tempered by serenity, calmness; they are meant to, and the construction of their routines shows this clearly.

But what about the more stressful aspects of the art? What about sparring? What about self-defense training? I can only assure you that the same thing is true here. For people who are into sparring or even fighting for that matter, these activities can surely evoke a feeling of something special, something that offers a sense of freedom. First, of course, so many of the technical considerations—this foot placement, that arm angle—disappear and the expression of these long-sought skills becomes immediate, spontaneous and—in a word—free.

Indirect Thinking BThe same can be said of technique training, if done properly, where you are running a series of multiple strikes and movements around the opponent/partner, issuing things you had never even suspected that you knew. It appears and then disappears like the Blue-Green Dragon, emerging from the sea then disappearing again.

I’m not going to end this piece like you might think. I’m not going to say, “to each his own” and leave it at that. Rather, I encourage each martial artist to try and find that vein of potential freedom even in the parts of the art where you don’t feel quite as at home, quite as free—at least for now.

My point is that the art has many regions and they can work together. But, even if you just don’t like some of the “other” practices, try to remember the essential elements that each one of them offers.

2 Responses to “Finding Freedom Everywhere”

  1. Steve W says:

    A fantastic essay, Ted. Thanks.

    It was “freeing” to hear you articulate and validate that which I’d felt but, although known in a sense, had remained unarticulated in the recesses of my being.

    Steve Weinbaum

  2. Yes, I completely agree with Steve, Ted. Sparring was one of the first places I began to have that ‘freeing moment’. It was incredibly hard to describe it to others, in fact, I myself was totally taken by surprise by the intense feeling of being everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Still working on the
    freedom in technique!

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