Martial Arts Extended Studies

IMG_3985As martial artists, our study often takes us into areas that would surprise most people. Some things, like diet and exercise, though not strictly martial, would surprise no one. In fact, “being in shape” is one of the big attractions for martial training even though, strictly speaking, it is a by-product rather than a goal. But this very ancient study has roots in many forms of knowledge-seeking, not just as a curriculum but also as a method of inquiry.

Trying to be honest, humble and fair requires a lot of what might be called “witnessing.” Stupidity, greed and anger raise their heads in martial arts as much as anywhere else but there are, at least, some moral stance. They may start obvious, such as not wreaking your skills on family members. time may allow subtler opportunities for personal balance in the relationships around you.

How our bodies actually work, how we develop power, mobility and similar skills rests always on solid principles of bodies in space. There is nothing so miraculous or non-ordinary that it cannot be rested on agreed upon principles and theories. Even the advanced and more esoteric studies do not, really, discourage a life-long interest in how things work.

Speed, for example, is a matter of physics but also of psychology. How do I think to obtain maximum speed? What thoughts are in my way? This is not even to mention the psychology of combat, of maintaining practice habits, of monitoring yourself and your mental workings. At the same token some aspects of martial psychology suggest some fascinating by-paths.

Martial practice offers many means of  meditation. The strong ties between martial and meditative methods were forged long ago. The immediacy of warfare made meditation an indispensable tool. Not only have both subjects freely borrowed from one another for centuries, but priests and abbots have often encouraged martial discipline for followers to advance their own practice.

While you don’t have to be a Buddhist or a Taoist to practice martial arts, some practitioners are intrigued enough by the philosophical basis of their styles to further explore their studies. Many curious seekers (as opposed to curiosity seekers) have expanded their views of the religious life and goals of such practices as Hinduism, Buddhism and Daoism. In many case there is an immediacy that greatly enhances core principles at the heart of religion and martial practice.

Many martial artists become interested in the concerns and goals of keeping the people they love and, by extension, the larger community, healthy and safe. Martial artists have shown particular generosity and dedication in conducting community classes for self-defense and personal safety concerns. Historically, the martial artist was often asked to take on tasks and responsibilities no one else wanted.

Opening oneself to another culture, another set of values and habits, another way of viewing the universe, is definitely a form of chance-taking. Partaking in everything from different foods and tea, to travel and festivals, is an involvement that many artists explore.  

The beautiful and graceful actions of a classical form, the efficient and fluid moves of high level fighting skills; these often inspire a wider search for beauty. As yet another extension of cultural growth, previously unacknowledged, curiosity and interest in Asian fine arts, dance and physical movement, often find nurture in the world of martial performance.

Few martial students have not at least tried their tongues at the native language of the art they are studying. In the last few years this has become much more common, as have cross-language studies in general. Often, even a focused group of essential terms can be greatly helpful in mastering a particular art. Sometimes just learning to pronounce the moves and count in class are a way into a new tongue.

I can’t tell you how many Chinese medical practitioners either come from martial arts or are starting to investigate martial training. One of the main reasons is that martial results bolster dramatically the claims of Chinese medicine. The acupuncturist, for example, may use physical manipulation technique  from TuiNa massage. Of a course of Qigong may be recommended. Even to this day, Chinese massage practitioners practice Iron Palm training techniques to increase the efficacy of their treatments.

Just to suggest that there is a Kung Fu to almost every human activity, the whole of martial practice is simply a deep  of attention brought to the exploration of the “ordinary” aspects life. Nothing is too common not to be seen as extraordinary and therefore worth the time and attention of study. Proper sleep, in proper posture, is a very interesting and often helpful topic. Anyone who has been around the martial arts for a while realizes that improper sleep can be a main cause of aches and pains. Other considerations include “martial dreams,” and the ever-popular waking up in the middle of the night with some action you practiced during the daylight cramping your leg. Spouses with hyper-active partners are encouraged to take up martial studies themselves for those “active” nights.





3 Responses to “Martial Arts Extended Studies”

  1. The kungfu of sleep? That’s a new one on me! All of these other aspects of martial arts life are familiar. But you guys are going to have to point out some resources on this “sleep gongfu”.
    Thanks Sifu Ted

  2. Jeff says:

    Yes indeed proper posture during sleep is essential. The way you sleep can lead to all sorts of pain issues. Lower back pain, knee pain, wrist, shoulder, elbow, achilles tendoninities, plantar fasciitis. can all stem from or be aggrivated by sleeping in a twisted posture.

    I’ve been struggling for months with weakness and pain in my left arm, so much so that it is difficult to practice or even hold a weapon. This pain was the result of the way I was sleeping, with my wrist folded. I changed my sleeping position (and wore a wrist brace to bed) and the pain has gone away. A few years ago, I had terrible shoulder pain that began when my cat chose a new place to sleep on my bed, unconsiously forcing me into a restricted position. I moved her, and the pain went away.

  3. Y. Pruitt says:

    Thanks for that info.I feel like you’ve helped me already.

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