Thursday, March 20, 2008

Letting Go

There was a monk, I don't remember the name, but he was a certified enlightened Zen master who walked away from the monastery and came back in a few days. He found it far easier to maintain his enlightenment in the calm of a monastery than in the hustle of a city.

Maybe that seems hypocritical to you. Maybe it seems that his enlightenment wasn't real if it wasn't universal. That call is up to you.

I think he was very wise. He knew what he had and didn't let his ego force him into spreading it farther than it reached. That is a sign of non-attachment.

Good martial arts (and real fighting} is in the transition. Victory happens less in the technique than in the spaces between the techniques. At the point of impact boxers, muay thai guys and karateka aren't that different, but what they do with their hips, their legs and their shoulders before and after are very, very different. Do you know why classical jujutsu does more damage in a strike than a "pure' striking art? It's because jujutsu teaches target preparation as an obvious and easy part of striking. Make no mistake- a good boxer hits much harder than I do, but 9 times out of ten, if I have to hit the ribs, the threat is bent over my hip with his spine extended and twisted and his ribs exposed and flexed to absorb the strike.

If you haven't been taught to prep the target, it seems like magic. If you have been taught, it seems obvious. A good fighter is integrated. Offense is defense. There is no separation between weapon and target. At higher levels your enemy is working for you, just another variable in an equation. A really good fighter integrates the threat, himself and the environment. An extraordinary fighter integrates luck.

The key to using luck is letting go. Luck can be defined as the things you didn't expect. 'Expectation' is the ‘what you believe’- your experience, your training. When you can accept it when training or experience fail, when you are cool with being surprised, you can exploit luck. Like anything, some people have a talent at it but it can also been learned, trained and practiced.

If you have ever been in the high desert of Eastern Oregon you have seen the steep hills. One of our fun childhood games was to run down those hills full-speed. The trick was to not rely on contact with the ground. Once you were at extraordinary speed you were effectively falling and, when appropriate, when necessary, when effective you would make a small contact with the ground to steer just a bit. It was control in the loosest possible sense. I never saw an adult play this game and it is just as well. The slightest stiffness, the slightest need to show more control than you had would lead to a hellacious tumble and broken bones.

It was good training. Life is like that- something like freefall. Control, beyond a basic ability to control yourself, is an illusion. Even that control is limited ( think how your skills will change with injury and advanced age and different blood sugars). But well-timed instances of control can let you ride out a storm or survive a situation that would crush the stolid and certain.

5 comments:

Interrupting Gelastic Jew said...

A good fighter is integrated. Offense is defense.

Heh. Timing. I just had this conversation yesterday with a friend who has just returned from a major test in her chosen MA. (She passed.) One of the things she said was that at one point she realized she couldn't just get away, that people would keep attacking her, so finally she hit one of the attackers in the head. You can't just do defense, she said.

I have to admit I was shocked. Of course not, I replied. You have to incapacitate, or you might not get away. It had never occurred to her, nor had she been taught it.

Molly said...

I tried the "full speed running" thing when I went home last summer. Riki, of course did great! Me - well, age is a mental thing. What got me most was the damn cheet-grass. Remember how our socks would be full of it, and we pulled it out because Mom made us? I got two little seeds and had to stop because of the "scratchy." Good thing - it kept me from busting my head 1/2 way up Day-creek with no cell access.

Anonymous said...

Amazing. Target preparation? Integration? Your enemy is working for you? I've never heard it put so well, or by anyone else. Well-timed instances of control take timing, timing takes distance, distance, time; time takes awareness. Awareness yields possibilities - the perception of them (external arts) and the ability to manipulate them (the original purpose of the internal arts). The more time you have, the more awareness you have, the finer the adjustments you can make at an earlier time, with less energy, to create a greater effect. The Japanese even have a game that trains these aspects - Go. Mac.

Interrupting Gelastic Jew said...

Oh yeah, and this?

He knew what he had and didn't let his ego force him into spreading it farther than it reached.

Setting off time-delayed bombs in my psyche? Something I would only let a very good friend do. Aaaarghh! I needed that.

Steve Perry said...

It's easier to remain calm in an environment designed to allow that, e.g., a monastery. Might be tough getting up at four a.m. and working hard all day, but that's arguably a lot easier than having a spouse, family, job, and having to drive the freeway to get from one to the other, and getting your shit together while juggling those.

So the monk going back, I can understand: The simple life was easier. And it was good for him to realize he didn't have the wherewithal to make it outside.

But he wasn't enlightened as I understand the term. That's supposed to work wherever you are. If it doesn't work on the freeway, you don't have it.