Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kumite- Why we fight

When I first considered training over twenty years ago, the reason was because I felt I needed structure in my life. I told myself I would learn everything I needed to learn, but I would not fight. I had come from what many could consider a violent childhood and at that point in my life I no longer wanted any more "violence". As I progressed through the ranks the time had finally arrived to fight. I requested the opportunity to decline and was told privately that I was studying a martial art, and while the purpose of the art was to defend myself, I would still have to fight.

And so I fought, and to my surprise it wasn't violent. It was however confrontational, not with my opponent but with myself. When we face an opponent in kumite, they become the vehicle for our inner exploration. Our fears,(the fear of getting hurt, of not measuring up, the fear of pain)face and confront us. How well we deal with these fears determines how well we can execute during sparring.

So why do we fight? For those who do not train or practice a martial art it may seem like an unnecessary thing. Surely you can learn everything you need to learn without fighting? Yes and no. Its true much can be learned without ever facing another person, or without ever making contact or being hit. In order to truly appreciate a technique you must hit something besides air. More importantly, its very easy to strike a target or a person, what is truly difficult is evading and inevitably dealing with the blow once struck. We don't fight out of anger (although some do carry excess anger), which would only hinder good technique. We fight because ultimately it is where we can truly be ourselves stripped to the core. There are no pretenses,excuses or reasons that are allowed during kumite. You know when you have been hit as well as when you have hit squarely and with power. You are confronted with harsh truths- I haven't trained enough, my techniques need work, he /she is much better than I am, the list can be endless. Rather than dwell on it we must strive to focus on the moment and to the best of our ability, fight. For many this can be the hardest thing, to let go the litany of reasons and focus on the moment.

It is not an easy path and I don't think it ever will be. Its confronting and many tears have been shed on our dojo floor. Its uncomfortable because its designed to be that way. There are moments where it is physically painful and moments when the pain is much deeper. Through it all, kumite is like a forge, burning out the impurities until only the purest expression of your self remains. This is why we fight, this is why we return time and again to what those who do not practice a martial art may consider torture. Within the context of kumite we discover our limits and transcend them, pushing past them when we thought they were insurmountable.

The Navy Seals have a very famous saying-"The more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle." Its something that we strongly believe, nothing can take the place of training and practice. The more you train the more prepared you are. When you are prepared very little will take you by surprise, meaning you are in a state of readiness. That state of readiness is what we all strive towards, with the understanding that the path is soaked in the sweat of long hours of training.

It is through kumite that we forge a:
strong spirit,strong mind,strong body

Sensei Orlando

Being Connected

I recently was walking down the street when I observed a small group of teenagers. As they walked down the street they each had their handheld devices and were actively texting-each other. It drove home how reliant we have become on technology for communication and connection. For example, we no longer hand write letters we just text or send emails. Even though I was born before the invention of both the cell phone and Internet, I am by no means a Luddite. In many cases I have been an early adopter of technology that makes our lives easier. And while the world has grown considerably smaller and we can now remain connected globally, it seems we are remaining connected in an age of disconnected interaction.

This highlights the importance of practicing martial arts in such an age even though it may seem anachronistic. It is important to be in a tech free environment like a dojo, on a regular basis. Its important to have actual interactions,where social skills and the art of conversation and dialogue are required. Its important to connect to others on differing levels as you train together. Practicing a martial art also puts you in touch with history. In many cases, the art you are practicing is decades if not centuries old. It is transformative to be a living part of history. It makes me realize that I am part of a group of people who felt that the art I am practicing was worth preserving. That there were many before me and if I am diligent in the transmitting of what I have learned, there will be many after me.

This is what it means to be truly connected, to be part of something that is larger than you. To be the catalyst of transformation for others, one at a time. There are many times we don't see the scale of what we are doing and how many people we have impacted until way after the fact. In many cases we may not see the entire scope because it can transcend our lifetime. However, it is important for us, in our quest to be connected that we not lose sight of daring to take on those endeavors that are larger than us, than any one person. Immersed this way we can always remain connected.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando