Self-control is fundamental in martial arts. Any martial arts class will work on this even if it’s not directly addressed. Sometimes in classes for 4-8 year olds it is necessary to not only focus on the topic but dedicate exercises that develop it. One of the exercises used in my son’s class is to stand for a specified time at attention without moving, talking or fidgeting. It’s amazing how difficult it is for kids to do this and I argue many adults I know as well.
This simple activity or rather lack of activity is a form of meditation. It uses a standing posture and guidance to help students develop the ability to focus and let go of distractions. For kids the distractions are over-abundance of energy, itchy noses, noises, and talking to name a few. It sets the stage for the kids to focus on the instructions that follow. It gathers their energy which is critical to later stages of learning.
How can we use this simple exercise in our daily activities as adults? Before entering a room where we have to present to an audience we can stand quietly for a moment or two. We can stand quietly while waiting in line at the store or the airport. We can suspend judgement and sit without moving during conversations which helps us listen with intent. It’s up to us to find opportunities to use what we learn in our martial arts classes. It’s up to us to exercise our self-control like the muscle it is.
The efficacy of acupuncture another other ancient Chinese systems of health are being evaluated by modern medicine. Some studies show benefits. Others are inconclusive. Whether you believe in the ideas of the Taoist Arts or not, the ideas can help us learn by focusing our attention.
Take for example the idea of chi. Chi is touted as many things including the life force, energy, and spirit. Perhaps it is all of these things, perhaps not. After practicing the internal martial arts for a long time, one can begin to sense the flow of energy. It can feel like a spirit or alive-ness in the body. When practicing push hands and other interactive forms, this sense may be used to affect others.
One particular idea shared with me by a long time acupuncturist and Taoist Arts practitioner helped me understand how to use the idea of chi in my own movements. “Chi follows thought. Focusing thought, focuses chi. When chi accumulates without thought, it stagnates and creates pain.”
What I’ve learned from this is our attention and focus determine our ability to move, relax and achieve any sort of stillness. As I talk about in the bizofyou blog (see post on 13Aug15), our focus is a fire we can use to create the life we envision for ourselves. Our focus is our directed attention, attitude and action. This directed intention is energy. How we use our energy or chi creates joy or suffering. It’s up to us to decide how to use our energy.
This idea of energy can also be related to mechanical, electrical and thermodynamic energy as our bodies have all of these aspects. We can use the sense of physics or physiology to understand this energy no matter what it is called. Whether we believe in the ideas originating centuries ago or not, there is still usefulness in them. The utility of the ideas comes through practice and reflection on how it effects our lives. Those ideas having a positive effect should be shared. Those that do not should simply be let go in order to make room for discovering other ideas old or new.