I will take the next set of posts to introduce a number of the new learning activities I have been pursuing during these last months.
One experience centered around the Martial Arts courses I participated in with Sensei Tam Phan as the instructor.
I began a conditioning process in a range of martial arts forms such as Aikido, Judo, Jiu Jitsu and TaiChi (Chen). The experience opened my understanding of the transformation that’s possible through consistent practice as it re-wires the neural pathways affecting our physical, mental and psychological responses.
As most Martial Arts programs emphasize, the training is much less about using force or strength but instead to learn to exercise a set of techniques skillfully. There were many lessons, but most emphatically the focus was on being centered, and not allowing ourselves to be taken off balance.
I found this grounding initially through my experience with contemplative prayer and meditation. Both types of practices allowed me to become more attuned to my own identity as the “Beloved.” I work more consciously with who I am as a person, as opposed to opting to drive myself towards an unsuitable goal or course of action.
At the start, Sensei Tam was my son’s Martial Arts teacher.
After six months of observing my son’s lessons, I became intrigued and started investigating Martial Arts and its practices (see footnote of some of my readings.) I explored the Martial Arts to see if it could be an additional means to support (through its training) the work I had set out to achieve for the year.
One of the initial insights I gained included a hands on experience with learning about not being in control. To gain control, I needed to let go of my prior conditioned reactions. It is hard to do and to do so purposely. I wondered if it was even possible at various points throughout the exercises. But it was evident that it was as I discovered through Sensei’s demonstrations.
Following my first three months of classes, I have continued to exercise regularly as I have in the past, mostly by running. I am glad that these lessons with Sensei introduced me, at a deeper level of appreciation, to the many facets that comprise our posture and physical movements – and also what these communicate about our discipline and practices.
I mention it at this time, since I think that of the many forms of learning available, these physical and mental conditioning practices can have a profound effect on our sense of wellbeing.
I was glad to learn more tangibly about the mind and body and its connection through our movements. I experienced (as well) the meditative quality of the Martial Arts techniques that I practiced through Sensei Tam’s unique approach. I sense that these lessons will have an influence on my ongoing practice of discipline and overall health.
Gichin Funakoshi, The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate: The Spiritual Legacy of the Masters.
Eugen Herrigel, R. F. C. Hull, Zen in the Art of Archery.
George Leonard, Mastery: The Keys to Long-Term Fulfillment.