Blog #52: Martial Arts

Blog #52: Martial Arts

A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract, and when he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, "I" do not hit—"it" hits all by itself. — Bruce Lee


Jose was a phenomenal champion. He deserved to go a little bit longer, but I still feel at the end of the day: precision beats power, and  timing beats speed. That’s what happened. — Conor McGregor [immediately following his knockout of Jose Aldo in a record-breaking 13 seconds]

When I took judo lessons from the seasoned master Ed Maley, the first thing he taught me was how to fall. Not how to throw someone, nor arm bar them, nor put them in a chokehold, but first and foremost, how to gracefully hit the mat when tumbling down. This priority of learning how to absorb collapse and defeat has profound implications well beyond the scope of judo, as I have discovered in recent years.

Judo literally means the "gentle way", since there are no strikes or blows exchanged. It is more of a style of self-defense than aggressive fighting. The favoring of non-violent resolution obviously has profound implications, just like learning to fall.

I remember reading one of Yogani's forum posts, or maybe a lesson, in which he said that the real test of inner silence comes during situations and scenarios of adversity. When inner silence is solid, challenges can be taken in stride, and conflict can be transformed into something useful. That is why UFC president Dana White said of Conor McGregor: "He eats pressure for breakfast." For the martial artist or spiritual practitioner, adversity and pressure become opportunities for purification and opening, rather than events to be constantly feared. Or, as Walt Whitman wrote: "The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains of hell are with me. The first I graft and increase upon myself; the latter I translate into a new tongue."

In the realm of recovery from addiction and substance abuse, there is plenty of challenge, both on the individual level and within the broader cultural ideology. There are obstructions to be dissolved, and new solutions to be put in place. Much of the work that needs to be done revolves around shaking off a stale identity and uncovering our real identity and vast potential, which is beyond psychopharmacology, ultra-masculine theology, or black-and-white morality.

In fact, I think we can apply Conor McGregor's key terms of precision and timing to the recovery equation. How can we be precise? Well, we can follow the techniques of Deep Meditation, Spinal Breathing, Samyama, and so on. These methods require a mild level of precision, though there is an abundance of room for flexibility. By favoring the mantra in a way that allows it to refine, precision becomes not so much about striking a certain spot as it does staying consistent with returning to a signature vibration that will change with time, thereby sinking deeper into silence.

And timing? Timing is important, because we are not rushing for speed, but rather implementing a daily routine over the long term that will yield beneficial results. With samyama in particular, the timing of repeating sutras between long intervals of silence creates more traction for stillness to move outward. There is no need to rush. We only need to set a rhythm and keep touching the same essences to achieve depth and fruition in our nervous system.

Finally, when we are in the zone, as Bruce Lee said, the doer is undone. The "I" that is moving us is beyond encapsulation or identification. It just is. This is the miraculous occurrence of stillness in action. This is the purpose of yoga. This is our origin, and our destiny.

I bow to the masters.

1 Comment

  1. Tom says:

    I agree, but should also say you’re a much better writer than Yogani!

Leave a Reply