Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Self reflection is not only important in terms of making progress in your training, it's also beneficial to help you gauge direction by separating your own needs from the "needs" force fed to you by society. Bruce Lee often mentioned that we must use our art to honestly express ourselves, but most people have such a diluted understanding of self that this concept is drowned in many forms of false identity.
How do you determine the bad habits in your fighting style from your own personal concepts of combat? Should you accept yourself even though you are overweight? Or should you become the more physical fit version of your self to be true? As early as birth, you are trained to understand a self that may or may not be you. Are you an American? Then you must speak a certain language, be opposed to certain ideas and be supportive of your countries cause. If there is a plane crash somewhere in the world, it doesn't concern you so much because it's not related to the "self" that you have been assigned.
You could philosophize for a lifetime on who you really are and never reach a concrete answer, just the same way a martial artist could train for decades without making any progress. In terms of both kung fu and life, determination alone is not enough to find direction. No matter how determined a pilot is, he must follow a specific flight path to reach his destination as is the same for life. But the vast majority of us are easily lost in both our lives or in our training because of our misunderstanding of self. I've found that sometimes by analyzing a single movement, I can find direction in my system. Just as analyzing a word, can help find direction in life.
After I had spent about five years training basic punching, kicking and grappling, I became obsessed with the concept of free movement. Being able to hit, without thinking and spontaneously react to any attack has always been the best way to subdue an opponent. At the time I felt practicing a movement just as it is in a form is exactly how to get beat up. I learned to use footwork effectively to free up my attacks and control the range of the altercation. I even continually practiced fighting against multiple opponents and people with weapons to assure my ability to use my art. After another five years, I knew that I was very effective, but I also knew that I had reached a plateau.
There is one truth that no martial artist, will ever be able to escape: defeating an opponent is far easier than defeating yourself. In fact winning matches can be a way of losing focus of yourself and your art altogether. Through research and self reflection, I found that there was far more to combat than just punches and kicks. When discovered Bagua, I was in awe to learn there was power that could be utilized that most people will never be able to comprehend. In order to wield this power, I had to discard my initial understanding of combat and submit to something that was more than self. In short, I had to surrender my freedom of movement.
Now that I have been training for 32 years, it appears that I am moving freely when I trade hands with other martial artists. When an attack is launched in my direction, I can move and react much faster than before. However now when I move, it isn't a single punch or kick that I attack with, it is the system of Bagua itself. By surrendering my ego and personal ideas to a system, I have enhanced the way I fight and think. I'm no longer a bunch of random martial art techniques, but an outline of well knitted and coordinated physics. As with many crafts, martial arts is just a tool or mirror that teaches how to separate your true self, from the identity that's been assigned to you.
I always tell my students that it's ok to mix your combat art after you've practiced one style for ten years. Just as Bruce Lee had invested in Wing Chun for quite some time before learning how to move freely. Even Ronda Rousey practiced Judo for 15 years, which is why she stands alone in the UFC. All of her opponents are equipped with many different techniques, but no person is able to defeat a system of physics. It's the same as using your personal opinion to have a debate with science itself. Both Ronda and Bruce had a specific root before adding other movements. This is not mixing, but the completion of an art.
In many ways, much of our confusion stems from the term "freedom." In both martial arts and life, we use the word freedom to loosely. In reality no one is actually free. What would happened to you if you stopped making money? What if you decided to stop eating? Yes you are free to be a bum and free to kill someone and go to jail, but the more you act on those irrational impulses, the less freedom you will have as a result. We are all slaves to many things, yet we continue to use the word freedom to describe our country and objectives. In truth real power doesn't come from freedom, but restriction.
If you want to have a nice body, you must limit what you eat. If you want to be good at martial arts, you have to restrict your time and train every day. If you want to marry someone, you can no longer see other people. As a father, I must make many restrictions on my time in order to see the proper development of my children. If you love anyone or anything then there is a cost and a responsibility that comes with it that will certainly limit your freedom, but whenever you sacrifice something in love, you actually become free. Just as surrendering yourself to a single style of fighting will show you a more efficient form of free movement.
Now when I move with Bagua movements, I don't feel restricted at all. Just as the love of my wife empowers me, so does the system of combat I use. Submission to the correct guidelines may not feel like freedom at first, but through time and growth you will find a better definition of power. If our planet rotated freely and wasn't on a fixed axis then nothing in this world exist. If you have a pen and paper you are free to mark it however you like, but if you wish to create something, you will have to learn proper shapes and proportions. Most of us are confused because we believe we want freedom when we actually want purpose. Purpose by definition is the sacrifice of many freedoms.
Even though I understand free movement within my system, I must continue to tune and tighten my techniques throughout the course of my life. Every day I train, the system of physics merges with myself more completely. When I hit or even get hit, it's very clear that I am Bagua. In my life I continue to learn how to follow Christ. Even though I make many mistakes, it's still easy enough to see that I'm a Christian. Conversely, the world will continue to proudly chase freedom, adopting a form of decorated chaos.
We are continually encouraged to be greedy, wasteful and over-saturated with entertainment. We are free to sleep with as many people as we want or buy many things that we don't need. Whether through alcohol, pride or ignorance, there is no limit on how much we are able to destroy ourselves. We must always protect our freedom of speech, but it's often used to justify saying hurtful things. The reality is that the world is completely lost and it's not finding itself anytime soon. If you follow the projected self that has been given to you, you will eventually begin defending issues that are harmful for yourself and encouraging ideas that you actually hate. Like many others, you will be in a sea of depression because all of those "freedoms" will cost you everything.
In contrast to what the world is doing, learn to limit yourself to things that will be a blessing for others. Just as your movements can be improved through sparring, helping others is a great way to find yourself. Don't let all of your time be consumed by random thoughts and fears of the internet and media. These are dark clouds that seem harmless, but will eventually poison your thoughts, teaching you how to think and eventually giving you an identity. You will become unreasonable if you continue to watch unreasonable things. Through refining your skills and helping others you will find a light amongst the confusion. You will become a leader in a time that people don't even know they need to be led. Clear your mind with positive development at least long enough to find your purpose. Because without purpose, you will never be free.