Martial Arts Strengthens Your Body and Mind by Instructor Ma
Martial Artists for centuries have understood that the physical practice of martial arts like Tai Chi and Kung Fun have been useful for increasing physical, mental and spiritual powers. By applying the lessons of martial arts, we may improve our daily lives by enhancing our lives as students, teachers, leaders, and mentors.
To begin this process, we must take a scientific approach free of mysticism, smoke, and mirrors as they say. Not that these activities have no esoteric aspect, but rather that we must approach them on the most down-to-earth level. The higher the tree, the deeper the roots. The taller the building, the deeper the foundations. If you want to soar, be certain that your tether is strong. So we need to start with a simple, physiological explanation (if possible!) and then suggest a way that this ties in to advanced artistic accomplishment, relationship skills, intellectual clarity, and spiritual growth.
My own enlightenment in this regard came from studying with Grand Master Richard Hackworth, the first American martial artist to train in the elite ranks of the World Martial Arts Congress personally mentored by General Qiu. While training in China he received special training from the leading authorities on the application of the most advanced principles of martial arts practice. There, he learned movement and wellness concepts never taught to a foreigner before. They shared many of these concepts with GM Hackworth and invited him to share them in turn with Americans. Over the years, GM Hackworth has created numerous articles, books, videos and essays on these principles.
Perhaps the single most important in terms of Mind, Body, Spirit training is what he calls the “Principle Based Learning.” To relate this breakthrough thinking in such a short essay, we’ll have to condense considerably:
1) All physical technique is composed of three aspects: breathing, movement, and structure.
2) Each of these aspects is controlled by the other two (breath is created by movement and structure, etc.)
3) Stress “dis-integrates” this structure. In other words, when you are under stress, the physiological signs will manifest in your breathing rate or shallowness, your posture, your muscle tension. This is why lie detectors work!
Let’s skip around a bit to the truth about artistic and intellectual pursuits: your ability to utilize your intelligence, education, skills or talents will be in direct proportion to your ability to maintain “flow” under stress. Or to put it another way, in life, we are rewarded for how much stress we can handle without folding. Writer’s block, for instance, is nothing but a poor reaction to performance stress.
Combining these ideas, what we have is that mental and emotional balance under stress leads to excellence. Combine this with the fact that learning to cope with physical stress develops skills that are tremendously applicable to the mental arena. The most vulnerable portion of the “Flow State” triad (breath, movement, structure) is breathing. Proper breathing will be degraded by stress before you can detect it in posture or muscle tension. This is one of the reasons breath control is addressed in most religions and spiritual disciplines, whether this is through pranayama (yoga), exercise, hymns, ritual prayers, dance, or sacred postures.
A good meditation teacher, for instance, will place the student in a posture sufficiently extreme to force total concentration. When the student learns to relax and focus, that posture becomes relatively easy, and a more extreme posture is given. The point is to teach the student to monitor their own internal process. Fine martial arts or yoga teachers use similar techniques.
The student learns to recognize the early signs of strain, and to dissipate them. NOTHING in life creates more stress than lack of oxygen and learning to remain calm during oxygen debt will teach you to remain calm when the children are screaming, when your boss is on the rampage, when someone cuts you off on the freeway.
Or when you have a writing deadline, or when insecurity and fear hammers at the door of your resolve.
Deliberately practicing a physical discipline to enhance this quality of calmness and centeredness, while simultaneously working toward goals balanced in body, mind, and spirit, exposes you to the currents of life while helping you develop the skills and strategies necessary to excel. This, over time, leads to excellence, even in a purely mental arena.
There are numerous disciplines that will teach proper breathing under stress, and this article has listed a few. If you wish to reach your maximum potential as a mental, spiritual, and emotional being, seek one of these techniques out, and integrate it into your life. It is one of the best investments you could ever make in your future.
About the Author: Stephanie Ma is a 3rd Degree Black Belt in the Korean self-defense art of Hapkido and a 2nd Dan in Traditional Taekwondo. She is a professional sports and fitness model and full-time Nursing student. She is the World Martial Arts Congress Language, Culture, and Leadership Development teacher. You can learn more at https://www.worldmartialartscongress.cn Follow us at https://www.facebook.com/worldmartialartscongress