Friday, November 21, 2014
The Art of Dying
The importance of routine training can not be overstated when it comes to the development of any skill. Some people say ten thousand hours makes you a professional, yet many of the skills that are of the greatest value do not fit into any profession. In fact the development of our character is immeasurable and shouldn't be compared to things as superficial as finance. To train self-defense, is to dawn the cloak of confidence and well-being, but it might as well be an invisible cloak as far as modern society is concerned because we tend to go unnoticed.
It doesn't matter if the lifestyle we aim for is visible, it still requires the daily dos of training that can be hard to fit in after 8 hours of work. Of the small percent of martial artists that are able to maintain their training through the unpredictable and often inconvenient surprises of life, we must make a plan to ensure the progress of our direction. There are so many moving pieces that must be continually adjusted in our system: balance, reaction, speed, power, trapping, kicking, push hands, bag work, weapon work, foot work, etc. etc. etc. There are literally thousands of things to work on and it all has to be done in a tightly packed schedule before or after work.
But Bruce Lee said another quote that I believe hits the heart of every martial artist in one way or another, "You must learn the art of dying."
On the surface this quote seems to say, "Have no fear of your opponent..or accept the situation without thought of the result." It does mean these things, but it also means so much more. It points to the daily battle that takes place within ourselves. Knowing what to train and especially having the strength to make yourself train every day, is a way of teaching your "self" to die.
The "self" represents the fleshly needs that are basically your animal instincts. We work our jobs so that we can gain something, whether it be food, power or some form of gratification. We can perform very challenging and difficult tasks just to make sure that the flesh can continue living. These may seem like mere survival instincts at first, but like anything, the more you train the more powerful it becomes. Anger, depression, and envy are also parts of the flesh: attachments that attempt to control the quality of our survival.
You could say that the development of any skill is the spirit's ability to overpower the need for the body's comfort. Every from of progress is a discomfort for a lengthened period of time. After work my body says, "I'm too tired to train, I'm going to rest," but my spirit says, "get your ass out there and train." After years of teaching my flesh to obey my spirit regarding martial arts, my flesh has become dead in this area. I am no longer tempted to not train, or at least the temptation of not training can not compare to my spiritual need to improve my movements.
You will often hear people say this is mind over matter. However this can also be misleading because the mind is also a part of your flesh. In fact, it is the mind that continues to look for a reason to do something or to not do it. The spirit never needs a reason, the spirit just does. A reason is an attempt to explain what we have no authority to understand. Why do you like martial arts? Why do you like music? Why are there places that you wish you could travel to? These are all questions proposed by the spirit and therefore can not be answered by the mind. Quiet the mind so that the spirit can grow.
Every time you choose progress over comfort, you strengthen your spirit. This is the first and most important step of beginning your training. But as I said before, "How do we know what is useless or what to discard?" If my wife asked me to take her and the baby to the mall and I refuse because of my training, have I fed my spirit or my flesh? What if a man hits me while I'm out with my friends? If I hit him back, which part of me is fed?
We live in a world that is a part of an infinitely large universe and all things are connected. This means that every simple thing lies in the midst of complications. When I choose the needs of my spouse, I've denied my "self," which is my flesh. When someone makes me angry and I deny that anger, I am also starving my flesh. The art of dying means that you are almost always denying your first natural and instinctive reaction. You will find that this process at first will be quite painful. It hurts to hold your tongue after you've been insulted. It takes great strength to not seek revenge.
Whether it be for reasons of martial arts progress or family time, to deny yourself is to put the need of something else ahead of yourself. It's difficult to do or understand because it is the definition of love. Because I love the gift of martial arts that God has given me, I am able to celebrate with the movements that I've learned. Like child, I explore into the infinite possibilities of magical movements. The flesh says, "I have to train," the spirit says, "I get to train." By learning to love not having your way, you've learned to love life…