Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Martial Arts and Daily Living

A lot of people are put off by the idea of martial arts for a simple reason that you need to wake up early and practice outside during winter. In my opinion these are such minor components of the whole practice and if you do get into practicing at dawn and during the winter than you are already into it that much that it doesn’t matter. Your teacher may be flexible enough to assist you in learning whenever it is convenient for you, some teachers take it easy during winter and if you have a spacious apartment you can practice at home. So, first of all martial arts teaches flexibility.

Another simple implementation of martial arts in daily living is that you learn how to keep be focused, relaxed and under pressure at the same time. The pressure comes from the point of twisting your body in new directions, using muscles you haven’t used before, learning what ‘natural posture’ means in terms of martial arts. After a while your body becomes soft outside (for the observer) and hard inside (you experience the flow of qi in your body). Simply, if you manage to keep your body relaxed in strenuous exercise then in daily living you can maintain being relaxed in stressful situations. Needless to mention, daily practice enabled me to remain calm and focused despite the circumstances and the environment.

Many students ask – what do I do with my eyes? Where do I look? Regardless what the practice is – standing, walking, moving – eyes are looking straight but your mind does not register information taken by your eyesight. The gaze is turned internally, observing your muscles, your legs, your hands, scanning every single request with your mind. I used to go to crowded places to train for competitions – the more distraction the better it was. Well, no doubt, I learned how to focus and keep final destination constantly in my mind – perfection of the body posture, allowing the energy to flow freely like cleaning blocked pipes or dirty chimneys. Meridians are fresh, blood circulates to all parts of the body, there are no blockages and as qi starts in your dan tian it swirls through the whole body and is being released into the ground. To reach perfection you first hear about what it is that you are looking for and then step by step focus on each requirement until you get it and lift yourself up to new horizons. I take focus as another insight for daily living.

Recently I have been translating for Liu Shifu – he has new students who don’t speak much of Chinese and I am amazed (again and again) how much patience he has. Each student is treated in a new way, with new perspective, so much appropriate for their personality. I stopped asking how he does it, each time it is just as if he knows how nature works. Of course, practicing ba gua was helpful for increasing this insight (amongst other things). As I translate I keep rushing ahead, giving my perspective on what is being said, talking about my experience while he sits calmly and waits for me to finish. Never a single comment, never a single request. I look at new students practicing zhang zhuan (standing stance) and keep thinking: they must be bored, there is so much more to it! And yet, I realize – their mind is so occupied by simple standing stance (as it looks simple to an observer) and giving them more just takes them away from the final destination. I learned patience by living in China and I know that patience is part of every journey – accept the fact that beginning is slow and that some things you will do well, some will be hard. I accept patience as part of my daily living – with flexibility, calm and focus I look forward to every new challenge.
Copyright 2006 Dalida Turkovic

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