Friday, August 26, 2016
Life Lessons from a Ninja Granny
When people find out I practice martial arts, a typical comment is, “Oh, I better not mess with you!” My standard response is, “That’s right. If you stand really still and do exactly what I tell you to do, I can defend myself against you.”
Truth is, if I’m ever attacked, I will most likely rely on the ever popular self defense technique of running and screaming.
So why, then, do I spend hours every week in an outfit that looks like my pajamas, practicing kung fu, tai chi, bagua, and sword? Because I love it. I’m not trying to be the next MMA cage fighting champion. (Do they have a category for gray haired seniors?) For me, martial art is exactly that, an art. And while the practical context is combat, the life context is enlightenment.
For me, the practice of martial arts is the process of releasing the ego, of being aware of and responsive to the present moment, of developing and deepening beginner’s mind. The last one is easy, because the more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to learn, until you reach a point where you understand that, like Jon Snow, you know nothing. (Couldn’t resist the Game of Thrones reference.)
It is meditation in motion. Movement within stillness, stillness within movement. Whether practicing with partners or alone, there is a harmony of external and internal energy, a surrender to the natural flow of vital essence that moves through nature and through ourselves. We are one with something...beautiful.
The best part about the practice of martial arts is how, at least for me, it integrates body, mind, and spirit. Not just in class but throughout my life. The principles of structure, alignment, harmony, effortlessness, stillness, and fluidity, influence how I see and respond to circumstances and other people. There is no need to get my ego knickers in a knot, no need to fight or force, no need for anger or retribution.
I have to smile when people think that I must be some bad ass, weapon wielding, Bruce Lee wannabe. (Well, okay, I do wield weapons and I love Bruce Lee.) But oddly, practicing martial arts has made me a more peaceful person. More than learning how to win a fight, I’ve learned how to avoid one.
So should you race out to the nearest martial arts school and sign up? Sure, if you want to. But you don’t have to practice martial arts to learn what I’ve learned. This wisdom is available to all of us, from within us. The practice of martial arts is simply one of paying attention, being present, staying open, finding balance, listening, responding effortlessly, resting in contentment, and having fun.
The greatest victory is that which requires no battle. ~Sun Tzu, The Art of War