Self-Knowledge and the Martial Arts by Instructor Ma
Many of you may be wondering what self-knowledge means.
Self-knowledge is usually defined as knowing one’s own character, motivations, feelings, etc. In relation to martial arts, the term suggests both this self-insight and a deeper knowledge.
Martial arts philosophy, the self is the individual soul or inner person while the higher self is eternal and inseparable from the universe. One of the goals of advanced martial arts is the union with the higher self, or harmony.
Self-knowledge is referred to and literally means knowledge of self. In daily martial arts practice, self-knowledge is a vital concept. On one level, knowing one’s physical, mental, and emotional limitations, and strengths helps the student make his or her practice more effective.
On a deeper level, self-knowledge spurs spiritual growth. By observing his mind and body without judgment, the student becomes less concerned with the external and more in tune with his internal self.
At the deepest level, then, self-knowledge is the understanding or awareness that the individual self is inseparable from the higher self. This self-knowledge is the means to spiritual liberation and enlightenment. In addition to martial arts practices in meditation that aid this journey to self-knowledge and enlightenment include meditation and power (ki) breathing.
As Martial Artists we believe that Self-Awareness is the gateway to self-knowledge.
In our style of Haemukwan Hapkido we have five different ways that we deepen our self-knowledge and self-awareness:
Meditation: When you practice meditation it helps you to cultivate a deeper sense of awareness. There are two types of awareness in meditation, focusing on an object, for example focusing your attention on the breath. When you focus the mind without an object, for example on nothing, it is harder as you are asking the mind to just be aware. This takes practice, at first starting with awareness of the breath and with time you will be able to focus on nothing.
The more inward focus you can cultivate and the more you ask yourself questions the more self-aware you become. Through meditation you are allowing yourself space to observe and witness your thoughts, feelings, and emotions with non-attachment.
Sit for 5 mins and just simply follow your breath and see what happens.
Practice Self Compassion: Self-compassion cultivates confidence, growth, and expansion. Self-criticism ignites self-hatred, anger, and resentment. To help you cultivate more self-awareness creating the habit of a conscious practice of love, kindness, and compassion to break down all the barriers of love within yourself that you have built up during your lifetimes due to experiences, trauma and circumstances. Giving yourself the gift of self-compassion helps you to understand yourself on a deeper level, it helps you to open yourself up to a deeper awareness and to live from the heart.
Practice Mindfulness: Creating a mindful practice is vital in cultivating more self-awareness. When you are mindful, you are intentionally present in your experience. When you are living in the present moment versus thinking and living in the past or worrying about the future you can manage any thoughts and feelings that come up. In the present moment you are in touch with what is going on around you and observing, you are in the here and now, whether that is brushing your teeth, drinking a tea or in practicing a Poomse or Kata, all that exists is the present moment.
Journal for Self-Reflection: Decluttering the mind shifts your mind into the here and now and journaling is the perfect exercise for helping you to make the change and become more self-aware of your feelings, emotions and how you are feeling.
It is a great way to let go of anything that is no longer serving you enabling you to create space for the new. Writing things down and getting them out onto paper is such a healing practice and helps you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and what is going on inside of you giving you the opportunity to change it.
Experiment with journaling for just 10 minutes a day and see how more aware you become of yourself.
Practice Techniques and Forms: Your daily martial arts practice helps you to cultivate more self-awareness through mindfulness and awareness of the breath. When you are present on your martial arts training floor you are fully aware of every part of your body. You feel your body in each stance and how it moves. When you breathe and you can feel the air filling your lungs. When you feel unbalanced just by grounding your feet it changes your awareness and anchors you to the moment to regain focus and stability.
The more you practice connecting to your body on the mat, the more you will be self-aware off the mat and in your daily life.
The secret of awareness is to just watch everything that is going on in the body and mind – become a witness and observer, non-attached. Do not resist it, just gently cultivate the practice of becoming a witness and watch, your life will change for the better!
About the author: Instructor 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 language, culture, and leadership development teacher for the World Martial Arts Congress. www.worldmartialartscongress.com