Martial Art as “Do”

michi-e1361579096661One of the last times I saw one of my original BJJ coaches, he gathered us all in a circle and asked us what BJJ meant to us.  Of course, I took it a little more philosophically than most.  I’d like to share with you not only what BJJ, but what all Martial Art means to me.

If the little guy couldn’t beat the big guy, all of us “little guys” would be at the gym instead of the dojo.  But since the little guy can beat the big guy, we spend much more time at the dojo.  Martial Art can be all about simply learning how to use our own force and our opponent’s force against him.  And I think that is the first use of Martial Art.

All of our time could be spent on how we relate to our opponent: making sure we are not going against our opponent’s force, but with it…unfortunately, that would be ignoring the most important dimension of Martial Art: how we relate to ourself.

Kumite, Randori, or otherwise is stressful. We not only have to deal with the stress our opponents are placing on us, we are having to deal with the internal stress, our reactions to someone attempting to or being successful at striking, throwing, sweeping or submitting us. We may overreact to having shortness of breath, experience negative self talk, get anxious, nervous, scared, frozen, ashamed, imagine defeat…any number of negative consequences…and this is the other side of Martial Art.

Just as we do not meet our opponent’s force with force, we cannot overcome our own stress with “force.” We cannot power our way out of a negative state. Just as we must yield to our opponent’s forces, we must relax when faced with our own distress. It’s only when we can weather the storm raging within ourself, that we can calm the storm from our opponent.

This extends beyond the dojo. Martial Art is not only a way to deal with opponents but all the forces life puts on us…and some of those forces will be far greater than any opponent has put on us. But the most deadly force, that force that can lead to quitting in the ring or cage, psychosomatic / psychogenic death for the soldier on the battlefield, or abject depression from the vicissitudes of life, comes from within.

Martial Art is a way of life, a manner for living. As long as I am alive, there will persistent distress from both within and without, but Martial Art has given me the answer for how to navigate it. In fact, I have found it to be the ultimate metaphor: this physical practice informs the rest of my practice. For me, Martial Art, is not a way…but the way to live my life. Martial Art is my “Do.”

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