Thursday, October 05, 2017

Think With Your Body

One of the challenges that soke put before us in our most recent  Seminar was to learn to think with our bodies.

(If I may interpolate....)

Think with the mind means I am always thinking of the next action - and only the next action.  I am following a pre-programmed course of action and not reacting the environment around me. I follow the form but without necessarily understanding why I am doing the form.

As Takuan Soho said:

"To speak in terms of your own martial art, when you first notice the sword that is moving to strike you, if you think of meeting that sword just as it is, your mind will stop at the sword in just that position, your own movements will be undone, and you will be cut down by your opponent.  This is what stopping means." - The Mysterious Record of Immovable Wisdom

The true martial artist - as my soke demonstrated - is the one that understands all the inherent strikes within any attack or defense.  The novice performs the form as they have been taught; the master understands the purpose of the form and every potential attack or defense that can spring from it.

To understand this - the true nature of the form that one is doing with the ability to master all the potential strikes - is thinking with your body.  Or as Takuan Soho says again:

"Although if you see the sword that moves to strike you, if your mind is not detained by it and you meet the rhythm of the advancing sword; if you do not think of striking your opponent and no thoughts or judgments remain; if the instant you see the swinging sword your mind is not the least bit detained and you move straight in and wrench the sword away from him; the sword that was going to cut you  down will become your own, and, contrarily, will be the sword that cuts down your opponent." - The Mysterious Record of Immovable Wisdom

Does this matter in actual, real life?  Yes, of course (all martial arts do).  How often do we do the form of a thing without understanding the intent?  How often do we reach a stopping point, sigh, and then turn away rather than figuring a way around or through the problem?  Understanding all the inherent strikes is really a very elegant way of demonstrating the ability to improvise and the gumption to not quit, something that we tend to place a very high value on.

It is not easy, of course - nothing good ever is - but thus the instructions from Musashi that "You must train diligently morning and evening".  Forms are good, but only meant as a starting place.  The true master pushes through.


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