So all of us beginngers take the plunge and try to find that warrior within. We have survived our first few forays into the training hall time and time again and have arrived, and have learned to deal with the myriad rituals, methodologies, and mysteries of the martial arts world. We embark, then in the future, relatively unscathed (physically at least!), at a place where we feel that some small measure of understanding has begun to take root.
Within the first few weeks and months, the techniques and principles begin to plant in our thoughts and there is even a few fleeting moments of familiarity with the movements and directions required to translate each technique from what we witness and are told to do (often two very different lines of input depending on the viewer) into what our own individual body types and personalities can create. We have faced the demons of our own doubts and insecurities at the entrance to this new realm of knowledge and at cast set them aside. But being demons they are never fully slain but merely wounded or winded in our hearts and souls for the moment. Nevertheless we take the small victory.
That moment becomes everything for it is really all we ever have, both in martial arts and in life. When we begin to understand (and not merely realise or have awareness of) this, then we begin to appreciate the importance of not merely the fluidity of physical motion to accomplish techniques, but also the fluidity of our own progression, mentally and spiritually, within and without the training hall.
Change, adaptation, and re-direction becomes not merely a state of being for training, but a metaphor for our life and path toward understanding out art, ourselves, and is in essence the genuine meaning of the martial arts and the way of the warrior (in Japanese arts this was called Bushido).
The greatest challenge we face as martial artists and as human beings, is to live each moment within that moment (akin to the concept of Zen). To face directly each single instant and to react in the way required to merge and blend with that instant for maximum effect in all that we do. When challenges arise, not just in combat, but also in life, we can learn much from adapting these small moments of peace to find ourselves and our equilibrium once again (like Utesitting or meditation) All aspects of our psyche and senses may be screaming at a myriad of percieved, imagined, or unknown threats to run, to hide, or worse to turn and fight a foe we do not yet recognise or understand. Yet we must also have the skills to recognise that these reactions are the offspring of our Ego, and of the deepest parts of our mind which exist purely to lead us into self doubt, fear, and ultimately into a loss of our centering and control.
Through training and self-development we may be more readily places to know, and therefore learn to control ourselves better. To act as a thinking and feeling human being rather than merely react on a lizard or monkey-brain level to the world and the situations around us. Control of the self within oneself therefore should be the ultimate goal of all martial arts.
Learning to control the body (and thereby the movement or flow) of ourselves and our partners or opponents deans that many of the methods and movements we utilise will appear counter-intuitive to most. Such as: turning where the direct would appear more productive; entering where any sane person would prefer distance; opening up where a tighter defense may seem logical; controlling and sedating where a coup-de-grace would be far more directly efficient.
Those options are always available in training, but may well not be the most beneficial to you for use during resistance or sparring. Yet we often see students struggling against all odds to apply a technique that cannot be completed, when a more circuitous or alternate route would be much more efficient.
What then does this say about how we train? It identifies that often we are not in control of our responses, opting for the quick and easy but ineffectual, over the controlled and defined required response. In short, we are still functioning on an animal brain level and not making informed choices. In effect, we still have much more to learn in order to read both the situation and our own body movements to know what is best for our own particular style of combat.
Always remember, if we initially perceive a movement as counter-intuitive then so too will our attacker and as a result, the effectiveness of what we do cannot be second-guessed or compromised. W can therefore choose to not work in the direct and obvious or the identifiable, but instead seek to control ourselves and our baser impulses in that one instant to overcome our own natural response and so instill that into our opponent. It is this that renders them, and their attacks as less effective.
In training to respond not to our minds, but to the situation and the feelings and movements we have coming from our attacker, then we can work out-with the envelope of perceived and anticipated reaction. We can return that power back to its source and we can make the informed choice of how to respond and control our opponent by first controlling ourselves, then extending that control to the moment, to the situation, and so to our attacker by default. We work to protect ourselves and to offer that protection to the situation in order that both may walk away from it, not necessarily unscathed but certainly to live to tell the tale.
True Victory in the martial therefore does not always come from the defeat of ones opponent or of a threat, but from the defeat of our human response to that threat. It permits us to rise above and to enter into the very heart of the problem through self control, self-awareness, and self-discipline, choosing the manner and nature of our response not just to protect in the here and now, but in the future.
Masagatus Agatsu Katsuhayabi – True Victory in each passing second, in every breath, in every thought, in every moment before thought and action. In pursuit of only technical mastery in the martial arts we will never obtain true victory in for that moment that we become aware of and realise it, is already gone and the required movements have changed in the flow of combat or in our lives.
Instead we may perhaps realise it through our dedication to training our responses to any situation so that in every action, every impulse, and every breath we manifest the principles of cause and effect through control of ourselves and allow our art to simply be with us, to change us, and to make us better people, in each and every single instant of our lives.