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Art Reflecting Life

I was doing an interview on a local television show. I was asked what was so unique about our marital art. I found myself struggling to indentify and communicate the specifics. As I began outlining the key elements, for example, using gravity rather than fighting against it, understanding unified body movement, perfecting balance breaking skills, etc., I heard myself say that collectively these characteristics produce a certain “quality of movement”. That day, I coined that term, and have used it ever since.

As I read An-shu’s contribution for this month I was struck by the very telling description of student profiles. On the one extreme the individual who, for various reasons, responds with intense fear, resulting in rigidity and a tendency to “rush blindly and furiously through imagined ways to ward off attack.” On the other hand, one who does not understand or disregards many of the realities of a violent encounter, resulting in a listless or flippant quality of movement, often lacking in basics such as moving on bent knees.

Our goal, as An-shu intimated, is to facilitate training in a way that allows us to “experience simulated combat as a well-timed experience of watching an attacker move and meeting him with an appropriate response.” This, in my mind, is the expression of finely developed quality of movement. As we progress beyond the merely physical, our ultimate goal is to have this “quality of movement” pervade and characterize our lives. In other words, to be appropriately engaged as we watch our lives unfold meeting each moment with appropriate thought, speech, and action; a lofty and noble aspiration indeed. Yet this, at the end of the day, is the wholly embraced goal of our To-Shin Do martial arts journey.

It is a truth (an often challenging truth) that our movement reflects what we think, what we are focused on, what our obstacles may be, our strengths, and our weaknesses; in essence, who we are. It then follows that if my movement is filled with tension, rigidity, and blind aggression, then so too may be areas of my life. I experienced this first hand as a very young man practicing martial arts characterized by a herky jerky quality of movement punctuated with excessively loud vocal expressions of bravado. The essential nature of this training could not help but work its way in to my daily life. Conversely, if my movement is lacking in vital energy and mindful awareness, then so too will be areas of my life. These are extremes, and the truth for most of us lies somewhere between these polarities.

As An-shu has made clear, we must continue to evolve toward ever more effective ways to help our students cultivate skillful quality of movement. As he said, simply teaching a technique is not enough. Yes, there is plenty we can focus on physically, working from the outside in as it were. For example, carving away at unnecessary tension in my body and my movement will influence my mind and my life. We must do this. In addition, working from the inside out offers a crucially balanced approach. This is why I am passionate about mind science, meditation, mindfulness, and self-awareness study. In my experience these vehicles often provide the missing pieces.

The bottom line is, the way you do things is the way you do things. Period. Pay attention. Be aware. Enjoy your own To-Shin Do journey as a quest for self-understanding and constant progress toward ever improving quality of movement in all aspects of your precious life. Continue your search. Quest on!

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