Published: Nov 2012
So there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about martial arts practice and teaching; and its methods for training involving fighting (usually misconstrued as violence) and the internal (usually misconstrued as “the energy maaan”). So I thought I might write a bit about the difficulties of teaching martial arts to a student.
Misconceptions abound in martial arts today about teaching methods and what they are for, the truth is that most teaching methods in traditional martial arts appear to be one thing and are actually trying to teach another. For instance in order for us to understand who we are and our understanding of what restraint, nonviolence and peacefulness is we have to explore the arena of combat and put ourselves to a trial by fire by looking these things that frighten us in the eye. In most cases this is the part of a martial arts class we see from the outside as techniques, self defense and sparring. But here is where even the students get confused, they seem to think that all we are doing is working on those fighting moves, but this is by design in many ways. Examining who we are in the face of danger is really washing away our own masks so we can truly reveal who we are and how we act under stress. Even if it is never spoken of openly each student has that moment of discomfort or fear in training that they get to deal with and get through to become stronger people. If done with control and compassion a good martial arts teacher never pushes the student too far… just far enough to have this realization.
So if the fighting side of the art is what really works on our compassion, understanding of the power of fear and our characters, then what are we really doing when we are working on the ‘internal’ side? Most people are referring here to qigong (chee-gong) training which leads us quickly into the conversation of energy, energy healing and the like. The word qi (chee) as I have defined before in these articles means nothing more than “the inter-relationship between things” and qigong “the study of relationships”. Now what relationships we are studying varies and here I need to define what context we are discussing for our purposes here. Qigong training in most cases is studying the relationships within the human body in order to maximize its efficiency. Which in martial arts contexts usually means organizing the body to create structure and power. So in other words what most people refer to as the ‘soft’ ‘internal’ side of the martial arts is actually the part of the training that studies the organization of the human body in order to cause damage to the opponent. Now of course this is not true in all cases (speaking of qigong methods) but in general it is the case.
So those people who come wanting to learn the soft side, the healing side of the arts need to examine who they are by looking into the things they are generally fearful of- the fighting side and those people looking to FIGHT need to look closer at the healing side, their bodies, their relationship to the tissue and yes in some cases, “the energy maaan.”
Martial arts is not an exercise, a method for self defense or a healing art, it is all these things and more. Before you dismiss what training can do, understand what it really is first. Come train!