We are aware of the mind- body connection- the idea that the thoughts of the mind influence the body and that the actions of the body influence the mind. This manifests itself in the mental alertness we feel after a great workout or the calm wakefulness we may experience during and after meditation.
I came to martial arts seeking the adrenaline high and physical conditioning that comes from hard physical effort. As a teenager it was a fantastic way to release pent- up energy and stay in shape. I loved it and would walk away from a session full of enthusiasm and excitement. As the years of training passed, the physical workouts began to fill me with a feeling of calm power- there was the same physical intensity, but there was an additional dimension I became aware of that really began to shift the way I experienced and perceived martial arts and the manner in which it affected me.
I believe that martial arts offer a unique combination of mind- body training that seeks to bring these two elements into balance. Once this equilibrium is achieved tranquillity begins to emerge that allows us to become aware of a connection to Self- a spiritual quality that is beyond the mental and the physical. It manifests itself in calmness and power, in directness, agility and stillness that is both physical and mental at the same time. A connection to Self emerges that brings us into connection to all things.
The Masters of Japan, India and China spoke about this dimension of martial arts at length as if it was the true purpose of the training- a far cry from the macho mixed martial arts that we see today so prevalently across the world. I will talk about this in a later blog. They believed that the body housed the spiritual energy of the person and that the body had to be in good condition to be able to allow that energy the freedom it required to express and manifest itself in the world. I will discuss that in a later blog also.
For now, we are discussing how martial arts do not simply excite the body and the mind. They also stimulate the spiritual energy of the person. As a student’s technical ability increases their body follows the natural energy lines that promote greater relaxation, power and accuracy. Projection of spiritual energy begins to become greater and more focussed as their awareness becomes more honed. They become more connected to the environment and people around them and their health benefits not just from physical excerption but also from the healthy flow of energy. Martial arts can simply be a vehicle for greater spiritual connection (by which I mean to feel and understand the energy that flows within and around us all and connects us to everyone and everything). Martial arts are unique because of the training format and the surface level benefits such as physical fitness, ability to defend oneself and others and the resultant confidence that comes from that. Hidden behind that veil lies the true power of the life arts of a warrior.
Please do not be put off by this image as life is full of joy and hardship. Only through this spiritual connection can we hope to remain centred and whole. Martial arts teach us that we have the power to harness spiritual energy and direct it to do good in the world. It also teaches us how to protect ourselves and others and to be able to live lives of peace and compassion. Connection comes through awareness of the energy that links us to all which means we have the strength to walk through life with peaceful steps. Compassion has many faces- to be tough when we need to be, to be soft when required but always with a sense of compassion and love. Our actions emerge from spiritual energy that we hone and cultivate from the minute we begin our martial arts training. Whether we realise it or not, we are after all is said and done, spiritual beings.