Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coherence in practice

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop at the Open Center on martial arts philosophy. It was based on the concept of a love based martial art, led by Rick Barrett, where love is defined as a state of being that embraces what is. Fear was defined as that state which rejects what is. You can see how this may be relevant in the practice of a martial artist. It reinforced many of the ideas and concepts we already have in place at the dojo.

One such idea was the concept of coherence. One of the underlying tenets of this workshop, and when you think about it most martial arts, is that entropy is inversely related to the coherence in any given system.
Coherence being ordered focused energy and non coherence being chaotic dissipated energy. The analogy that comes to mind is that of a laser and light bulb. A light bulb while providing light is dissipated energy, whereas the laser (which is also light) is focused to such a degree that it can penetrate steel. Both are light, one is focused and coherent the other is dissipated and dispersed.

So how does this apply to practice in a martial art? I will take kata practice for example. Two people can perform the same kata and yet the one that is focused will flow through the kata, while the other will struggle through the kata. Kata is an ideal indicator of the state of mind of the practioner ( in addition to being useful for many other things).
You will hear me constantly tell my students to stop thinking so much and let their body do what it knows to do. This state is arrived at when we are coherent. At this point you are not "doing" the kata or any other technique for that matter. When you are truly focused(coherent), you are "being" the kata.

The other example where this is clearly observed is kumite. The speed that seems to be exhibited by seniors is not a supernatural ability(although it may appear this way). What is happening is that the seniors are simply more coherent, and by being this way they are connected to their opponent. This connection can be so deep that it would seem that the senior is reading their opponents mind before they attack. In reality it is just a high level of focus and not thinking, but being. It means being in the constant now. While these words are very easy to type-being in the now without distraction or lack of focus takes time and practice.

We are all connected, all one. Most of the time we are oblivious to this connection, because we have a tendency to walk around in a fog as a default. When you study a martial art and have a practice, you will find that you cannot deny the connection you have. Realization of this will make you a better martial artist, but more importantly it will make you a better human being.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

1 comment:

Bryan said...

very nice post!
I completely agree with what you've said and it's helped clarify something for me. At the moment I'm 5th kyu so I like to think I'm well and truly past the beginner level now but still very far from being 'experienced'. Anyway, I was sparring last week against my favourite oponent. He's roughly the same level as me in skill but unlike me, never holds back at all. his punches hurt a lot when he gets them in. I suppose this is a good thing as it makes me take the fight very seriously. For the first 2-3 minutes I kept my distance, focused on my stance and kept him from landing a decent hit, mostly focusing on my defense. Then in the last 30 seconds of the fight I felt something change, like I was more in sync, I started finding it really easy to dodge and parry and counter attack, I started really dominating the fight. It felt really good and like you said, it was like a state of not thinking, just reacting, almost like a dance or something.
Anyway I really liked that post and I've been looking around for people who connect martial art to philosophy, your really good at it.

Thanks, Bryan (bryzaa@hotmail.com)