Reprint: Stillness in the Martial Arts

stillp_4croppedHere is a piece I wrote for the now defunct Journal of Asian Martial Arts. A number of people have asked about the “myth” at the front of the piece. I believe it hints at the dialog between stillness and movement that can–and must– be found at the heart of martial practice. If nothing else, I hope that it offers some of our newer brothers and sisters an idea of why one would want to study this aspect of the arts. At the same time, it might work to dispel the idea that optimal practice is when you are thinking of nothing. Not quite true in this case.

4 Responses to “Reprint: Stillness in the Martial Arts”

  1. Stan says:

    Excellent article! Takes me way back to the old days in Karate where we’d do stance training with eyes closed at the end of the training session. It is amazing how distracting sweat rolling down one’s nose can actually be! Thanks for the well written reminder!

  2. Excellent piece. I have been enjoying your articles for so long that I remember them being printed on paper in a variety of American martial arts magazines.

    I have often wondered if our love/hate relationship with stillness has something to do with our millions of year history of being hunter/gatherers. The ability to be still to keep the cave bears from noticing your presence or for enticing a deer within spear range was an essential quality for our ancestors. One that must have seeped into the gene pool.

    Years ago, one of my students was an anthropolagist who had spent much time studying shamanism in Canadian aboriginal communities. He had often spent weeks in the bush with elders, hunting and fishing, and he often commented on how they could stay perfectly still and silent — sometimes for hours — while waiting for their prey.

    You can’t be that still in body if you can’t be still in the mind as well.

  3. Jean Andrews says:

    Reading this was like being given a treasure map; the treasure isn’t there, but the map to get there is!

    Thanks for a beautifully written essay on an easily misunderstood aspect of practice.

  4. Jeff says:

    Great lesson. Got me to thinking. It’s something I practice but not something I’ve shared with others, not intentionally, because to me it seems a natural and obvious thing to do. I never thought that other people might not do it, too, but now it occurs to me, the strange looks I get when I say things like, “Now sit down in that stance.” On a literal level, that makes no sense at all!

    It would be worthwhile to add a few minutes of standing at the end of class.

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