Reclaiming martial art in troubled Times…

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These are rough times. As we watch economies collapse, people divide, governments uncertain, and war at every turn…it often comes down to just making it through the day. I’m a news and political junkie in my spare time (ok, so I am 5,000 of the 1,000,000,000 hits Drudge will get this month). I grew up in a household with a recovering politician father who ran for governor once and helped run president campaigns, and two brothers are as politically opinionated as they come. I grew up on politics and news and I love reading my sites…Drudge, ZeroHedge, Information Dissemination, Amped Status.

We can’t help but to be surrounded by bad news on every corner.

Martial artists are supposed to have a sense of self – to rise above this and find serenity in our studies when times are hard…to work harder, exhaust our bodies in training to relax our brain…but even that gets hard when instructional videos are high priced, the internet has given rise to the computer desk black belts and trolls who make our favorite forums unreadable, and it seems like every teacher has some dirt that pops up discrediting them like a politician.

Our respite – our arts, combatives, movement education systems, health and fitness. These can become a drag.

What to do?

As we finished wrapping our newest video today, ‘The Lever’, we went for pizza and beers afterwards to talk about the video and it’s structured, and eventually the conversation came to politics as is all too familiar these days. I sat, thinking for a while, exhausted from the filming – thinking about these rough uncertain times. Concern for the world, for my students who are deployed or on the front lines against crime at home or the enemies of our Constitution abroad. Concern for our European students.

First, the world is always uncertain – and despite the doomsayers, if rumors of war and economic turmoil come true, we will all still be here. You will wake up and think, ‘What do I have to teach tonight’ or ‘What will I study today’. I’d like to propose that perhaps instead of Facebook, forums, and blogs, you take that time to look at reclaiming what brought you to the martial arts from the beginning: no, not being a ninja – but finding a higher self in the study of the combative and movement system.

How to do this? Let’s look at the fundamental concept behind Pramek…

Theory + Movement = Application.

Theory – when was the last time you truly studied your art? Take your Facebook 20 minutes of looking cool pictures and research the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Read about it – think about how it affects you in your every day life. Learn the theories behind it. Take one area…why does our mouth and throat dry up when our ANS kicks in. Think about when this has happened to you – were you driving a car and someone cut you off? Did your boss call you in to ‘have a talk’ and your heart start beating and you had cotton mouth? When has this happened to you? Read about why it happens – why we evolved for it to happen. Learn the theory.

Movement: Next, develop a strategy to address when this has happened to you. You get cotton mouth when? Visualize the situation – close your eyes and put yourself into that situation. Movement is the physical manifestation of theory. If you know what is going to happen theoreticall, you can work with it physically. Visualize the following: Your boss, your wife, your partner tells you, ‘We need to talk’ with that tone. Your heart races, you focus on that person, you get cotton mouth. Mentally run through the scenario and forces yourself to swallow.

Swallow your own spit right now – see…it took a second just to do it. Now, think of all the stress of that situation. You want to control your breathing, open your airway, lubricate the airway.

Now, use your movement – visualize and swallow spit. Gross…maybe. But, it’s the first step of reclaiming your active, present interaction with the world and controlling your ANS. Gulp. Go outside, sprint as hard and fast as you can, jump over an object that is challenging and makes you nervous (don’t fall) and sprint a few yard. Stop – your heart is beating, your mind is racing. Swallow spit. Force yourself to swallow.

Application: You have now visualized being able to overcome this physical phenomenon of the ANS. Tell yourself, ‘The next time _____ happens, I’m going to swallow spit and open my airway.’ Pick something that happens to you daily that makes you nervous, that gets your heart racing and your eyes focus and your forget the world but that stimuli, and your airway begins to constrict slightly and you get cotton mouth. Tell yourself – ‘Swallow spit.’ Force yourself to do it.

In the time you have done this – you have learned about yourself, about your body. You have grasped knowledge. You have visualized. You have run yourself through scenarios. Your have gone through an application and applied theory and movement to your daily life. You have made this something you work toward and concentrate on.

The boss calling you, the car cutting you off – for your ANS – these scenarios are the same as the person who comes up behind you when you aren’t paying attention and startles you, gets the ANS going. But, you trained for it.

And tomorrow, next week, pick something else.

Reclaim control of yourself…martial art is really self-control. Reclaim it – focus on it. If we do this daily, make it our practice – we find our oasis in the desert of these troubled times and forget the troubles around us and simply focus on that which we love, and remember the feeling of the first time we broke a board, executed a perfect throw, submitted our first opponent and felt that glancing touch of mastery.

Except – mastery, for me, and in Pramek, and now you – is an every day exercise. By simply swallowing your own spit.

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