The mind and body are supposed to become connected in Martial Arts training. So why do so many people have a tough time believing that we should as martial artists pay attention to things other than going to class or our next belt test? I suppose it has to do with tangible goals and obvious things we see happening in our training as opposed to reading old translations of books we don’t really understand most of the time but our teachers or things we see on the internet tell us are important.
I know the first time I read the Tao Te Ching or the Art of War as a teenager I truly had basically no idea how they would be of any use to my martial arts. I did not magically start fighting better or doing forms better or really anything! I see people saying things all the time about how reading a book does not make you a better fighter, fighting does. While I see this point of view because I was totally a supporter of it, I mean I got a job as a doorman for this very reason, testing things out. It is not the only path and I would venture to say it is somewhat unbalanced in the end. You can’t just do one side of anything and expect to become truly great at it. Carpenters all make mistakes as my grandfather told me, great carpenters cover theirs well. You have to understand the good and bad of everything and so saying only fighting makes you good or reading books is useless for martial arts is definitely one sided thinking.
But what about these crazy old books like Tao Te Ching, Art of War, Demons Sermon on the Martial Arts, Book of Five Rings, 36 Stratagems and so on? I honestly had to read them year after year as I grew up in my training and simply as I got older and they started to make not only more sense but more impact on what I was doing when I trained. The idea of balance I spoke about earlier is very Taoist and really just makes basic sense. Common sense is not so common though and so most of us have to really look at it and read about it before it starts to come together. Are the other books I mentioned other than Tao Te Ching any more easily applicable to your training? Depends on you. But I can say from my experience it is worth the effort and research to see how it can be used in your training, fighting, competition and so on. I mean what can it hurt? Besides reading a damn book can’t be a bad thing in the end right?
Read a damn book.