I teach that for mindfulness, meditation and Martial Arts, the mind needs to be aware, focused, sensitive and intense. The right kind of intensity is a key factor and often misunderstood.
You cannot be half hearted. The enemies of the mind are apathy and distraction, to avoid them the mind must be intensely focused and that requires the right kind of effort.
To me, after posture and breathing are correct, it’s like getting into an elevator and dropping instantly 100 floors down. This is both my meditation and fighting mind, it cannot be disrupted.
Sometimes it feels like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, with my toes curling over the edge and precariously balanced.
Bad intensity is disruptive, good intensity is incredibly focused. There is no thinking mind, no ego, no individual, no ‘self’, just an open awareness where everything is in the right place.
The mind has the widest perspective with no barriers, this is where our innate wisdom resides, it’s a place of refuge where the mind can heal – without anger, fear and worry but full of kindness, patience, tolerance and compassion for itself and it’s environment.
In martial arts and intense mindful state is able to respond instantly and appropriately in a natural to any attack, it’s where you are ‘in the zone’.
It requires practice, every second you are mindful, you are alive and ‘awake’, every second you’re not, you’re a distracted, apathetic zombie.
We often talk about what makes a good Instructor and what makes a good club, but what happens when we turn that on it’s head and ask what makes a good student?
The one thing that I discovered was that if I knew how to be a good student I could get far more out of my Instructors than anybody else and that as an Instructor I am far more inclined to teach a good student thoroughly than a bad one.
The inescapable facts are that many Instructors don’t get to choose their students, sometimes they teach because they feel it’s wrong to favour students and therefore ‘stick it out’ with what they consider a bad one and sometimes the reasons are financial, but either way I quickly discovered that there are ways to get far more than anyone else was getting and I didn’t have to compromise my morals to achieve it!
You don’t have to like a person to teach them well, a student doesn’t have to like an Instructor to learn from them, all it takes is a bit of patience and tolerance on both sides to get there. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with many students in the past and I can understand that they hate me for being blunt with them and for making them do things that they didn’t want to, if you don’t push them beyond what they think are their limits, how are they going to improve? If they don’t have that basic faith and trust in me even if they don’t like me, or what I’m making them do they can never grow as a martial artist. I never worried about popularity, just results.
What can a student do to make the relationship work better? This is the magic formula that I used to get that extra tuition and information that the others never got.
Always pay your fees. Seems obvious but isn’t to many. Never barter on a price. Always pay for your lesson whether you turn up or not. If you want that regular spot, book it with money, then it’s always yours and a bond of trust is formed. There is nothing worse than a student that books an instructors time, cancels and doesn’t pay. If someone who does pay regularly comes along they will naturally give the time to them and you will forfeit yours. The Instructor will also not be inclined to teach an irregular person well because they will see them as untrustworthy and think that they are wasting their time. If you are a long term student, raise the fees yourself, it is unlikely that the Instructor will do it and when you show that you value their time and consider their well being it will be appreciated.
Always make notes. Learn a training shorthand of matchstick men, arrows and keywords so that when you get home you will remember what you’ve been taught. Ask the instructor to film you doing what you’ve just learned on your phone and if you’re lucky he will give advice whilst doing it. If he doesn’t want to do this get someone else to do it as soon as possible afterwards. Between lessons train continuously on what you’ve been taught and think about it all of the time. Every time a question arises, write it down to ask on your next lesson. There’s nothing more encouraging for an instructor than a student who pays attention, makes notes, trains hard between lessons and then asks questions on the next lesson.
Listen and pay attention to what you’re being taught. Don’t give your opinion. Don’t talk about what you’ve done or what you think because you’re paying the Instructor to give you the benefit of their experience. There’s nothing more boring than a student who pays the Instructor so they can talk to them for a couple of hours about what they think and have done. Every minute is important not just from a financial point of view but that instructor could be dead tomorrow and you’re wasting precious time with your own ego. If you’re asked, “what do you want to do?” the Instructor is being polite, answer “whatever you think I need to work on”. You are likely being taught a system and it’s best to learn it in the right sequence put together by the expert, not randomly by your own desires.
Develop respect and care. If the Instructor is doing their best for you and you are for them, mutual respect is earned naturally. If there’s anything you can do to help or support in their home life, club and association development do it, because it means that your teaching environment is less likely to be affected by outside influences and it’s good to care. I’ve represented my Instructors on Governing Body Committees, helped them to write books, shoot videos, buy houses, helped with legal problems, opened clubs for them, taught on their seminars and helped them bring over their Instructors to the UK.
Every time you reach a milestone in your training, like a grading, winning a tournament or opening your own club, always thank your instructor before doing anything else and always give them credit for what they’ve taught you. Nowadays that courtesy has all but disappeared and you can see students prancing around with their new grade or trophy and everyone patting them on their back whilst the Instructor sits quietly in the corner. It’s not inappropriate to buy them a small thank you gift or at least give a thank you before celebrating yourself.
It’s easy to teach just the surface of a system and the student would never know. Often that’s done as a test to see if they’re worthy or capable of receiving deeper instruction. Courtesy is a given, respect is earned both ways. When the student and instructors ‘chi is in agreement’, respect has been earned and they are capable of working through the hard times together; the ‘hidden levels’ can be taught. Nothing is being held back, it’s just that the environment has to be right. The surface teaching is known as ‘eating sweet’ and the deeper levels as ‘eating bitter’. ‘Eating sweet’ is full of flashy moves and certificates and ‘eating bitter’ is made of sweat, blood, pain and a system that gradually alters the body and mind.
By all means find the right club and instructor, but remember that they are also looking for the right student.
By Steve Rowe
Translation by me….
Buddha was a proper geezer.
As a youngster he was a great martial artist.
Despite being a prince he became (in current slang parlance) ‘woke’.
The word ‘Buddha’ means ‘one who is awake’.
He left his wife and child (making sure they were cared for) and went ‘walkabout’ to find himself.
Buddha is not a god. He is not a son of god. He is not immortal. He was not a prophet.
He became a master of logic.
He was (in slang terms) a ‘proper geezer’.
When he found himself he put it in simple logical terms.
It hurts when you want or don’t want something.
You can stop doing this to yourself.
He then gave 8 pointers to the way of becoming woke.
Here’s the 8 pointers:
Plan with that perspective in mind
Speak the truth
Earn a living without hurting anyone
Put in the right effort
He gave 3 helpful truths about existence:
Nothing stays the same
This can make you suffer
We are all like waves rising from staying connected to and returning to the sea.
He said it helps to:
Always look for the truth
Have good mates to support each other
Buddhism is the path of logical self examination to discover the truth of who and what you are.
And that is why the ethos of traditional martial arts are steeped in this wisdom.
Today wisdom and happiness comes in 2 triples, the first is Anicca, Dukka, and Anatta, the triple gem of existence.
We all know this, but much of our suffering comes from not accepting it. Everything rises and falls without cease, therefore we need to be able to fully engage, to love, enjoy and then at the right time let go. To be able to do this we need to remind ourselves in daily meditation that all things will pass and just knowing this will broaden our perspective enough to give a deep happiness.
Suffering is borne from desire and aversion. When we have an unnatural attraction to have or an aversion to not have, we will suffer. Accepting what cannot be changed and is inevitable is important to be able to get on with life and change that which can be changed to contribute to the world in a positive way.
We are not born into this world, we’re born out of it. Our DNA goes back to the big bang, we have always been here in one form or another. Our meditation connects us to the source and we understand that what we think is the ‘self’ is in fact just a wave riding on and fully connected to the ‘sea’ of the source of all things. We are much, much, more than the thinking mind, when that ceases in meditation, all is revealed.
The second triple gem is the 3 essentials of enlightenment.
To Be Awake
To have a mind that is fully aware, focused, sensitive and has the right kind of intensity. Once this mind is developed we are not subject to the mental enemies of apathy and distraction that make many people into living zombies. Others are unable to manipulate us as we can see through the deceptions with clarity and are able to thin k and judge for ourselves.
The Pursuit Of Truth
Truth just is. It is our personal journey, we have to discover for ourselves. Wisdom and truth reside in and arise from the wordless mind in meditation. It’s intrinsic and often cannot be defined. There is a difference between knowing about something and actually knowing and fully realising it. We all know academics that know everything about martial arts but can’t actually do it. A big difference!
The Right Circle Of Friends
A ‘Dojo’ is ‘a place to find the way’ and like a church is not a building but a group of like minded individuals. Part of the pursuit of truth is solitary but the other part needs other people for mutual support and exchange. A ‘Sensei’ is ‘one who has made the journey’ and is able to guide you in following the path. He/she can’t do it for you but can certainly help with a map of how to get there.
So there you have it. Understanding impermanence, suffering and the truth of the self and how to be awake, discover truth and mix with the right people. 2 triples that really can be life changing!
In ritual magic you affect the macrocosm by understanding and changing the microcosm.
If you want to really understand kata/form and what was in the mind of the originators and you have enough knowledge – try inventing your own.
Why would you invent one?
It would have to improve the understanding and standard of the practitioner.
Do you want to categorise an entire training system into one form?
Maybe there are specific ideas and principles that you want to put together and train in one sequence?
Very quickly you will begin to understand the problems the originators had and how they had to overcome them. You realise that some are an entire training system compressed into one form, that you have to look beyond the technique to see the ideas and principles that are being trained, because there’s no point in endless repetition of the same idea with different techniques, then some are focusing on body skills like the internal system, core manipulation or power sourcing. It’s only when you try to do this and walk in the shoes of the ancestors that the doors of understanding open to you.
You can’t communicate on a broken phone….
On a deeper level, by widening your perspective, you realise that the basic ideas behind all martial training is align the body, breath and mind ( ‘Sanchin’ the resolution of the conflict of mind, body and breath) that brings about a harmony where the wordless language of your body and the rest of universe can be perceived, felt and heard. When the mechanism of your universal communicator is fixed, an entirely new perspective is found.
This gives you the opportunity to understand the universe around you, how do you do that?
By using your newly found skills to ask the questions.
Why would you invent a universe?
It may be the result of one mind or an evolutionary process by accident, or most probably something well beyond the mind of mankind, but the result is the same.
Does the universe have a purpose?
If it does what could it be?
Why does it have to be a world of opposites?
How is everything joined up?
How does it communicate?
Who am ‘I’ and what is my place in it and how do I fit in with harmony?
You realise that you’ve taken the first steps by fixing the communicator, that the universe was talking to you all the time but your communicator was broken.
Now you can receive as well as transmit more fruitfully.
The meditative conversation begins…..
“When you speak it is silent, when you are silent it speaks…”