Friday, January 28, 2011

Qi: Part One

(the energy of uniting opposites?)

It's my belief that everyone who trains eventually searches for the verification of qi energy.

It may be conscious or not; it may not be why one begins their journey--but it is always encountered along the way.

And the thought never really goes away. Even if you think it has.

Perhaps the reason for this is that anyone who has spent any significant amount of time training has experienced the near-electric feeling of energy being properly focused and used to its full potential (sometimes by ourselves, often at the hand of another). As a friend who studied aikido once told me about his instructor: "I don't know what it is, but for some reason every time my Sensei throws me it hurts like Hell because it's so powerful. It's like getting hit by a truck. But then, for some reason I can't wait to get thrown and feel the energy again."

His teacher was barely five-feet-tall and my friend is about six feet.

And we've all either felt this ourselves or heard stories like it.

Now, Qi shouldn't necessarily be confused with fire shooting from one's fingertips. It is subtle. It's like looking for something that is so hard to find, only to realize that it IS US. We are the eye that, in Zen fashion, can look directly at anything in the world except itself.

Science, especially when it comes to quantum mechanics, could likely make a strong case for qi being a simple alignment of magnetic/electric body systems with non-local results. After all, the body, as with all matter, can theoretically be broken down into more of a frequency than a tangible solid, by these same scientists (and ancient mystics). Or a psychologist may assert that it's all the result of positive thinking and visualization. (This is the argument the skeptics prefer, that it's all in your head--and they wouldn't be entirely wrong. The world exists alone in one's consciousness, really, and the outer is a symptom of the inner.)

Any reasonable student of meditation will tell you that one goal of their art includes mentally breaking down the barriers between the external and the internal. In aikido circles--pun intended--this is the concept of tori and uke becoming as one. When this unity is achieved, the relationship is altered, and the separation of the tori's mind (intent) and the action of the uke is eliminated. And when two opposite forces unite.... well.... it's electric.

In this process, imagination IS the method of accessing qi. And when your mind buys into it, the body--a water-based conductor--aligns with the energetic signals of the brain.

And the Qi was there all along.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More Cross-Thinking

I am not one who believes a martial artist needs to be ambidextrous when it comes to technique.

No doubt, it is a commendable goal, and I think everyone should train hard to learn defenses on both sides, but learning to work one's strong side is also a practical goal.

That said, most will discover that there are strengths inherent to the weaker side, too, or rather, techniques that come easier when utilizing the less dominant hemisphere of the brain. In randori, for example, I find myself having different "go-tos" depending on the side or angle the attack comes from. The important thing, really, is that there exists a confident reaction either way.

But an aspect of this subject that is less discussed, and equally valuable when it comes to training both sides, is brain function. As the left hemisphere of the brain is largely responsible for the right hand's actions, training the left hand to become dominant in a technique should activate and stimulate areas of the brain used on a less frequent basis. This will, in my far-from-scientifically educated wisdom, create new neural pathways, and serve to expand one's cerebral abilities. (It's just like the theory whereby doing crosswords is supposed to be good for your cognitive longevity).

Anyway, by activating the less frequently used parts of your brain the results may not be just better technical abilities, but perhaps more creative and intuitive talent as well (the right brain is often associated with more creativity).

Likewise, when we break down techniques or art forms different from our own, the brain will have to leave its comfort-zone and reconstruct patterns of thought to make sense of the new data it receives. This should generate more neural expansion.
My theory is that such growth will allow the artist to think about and discern situations in a less limited manner.

And this, invariably, is a good thing.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Maybe It's In the Water...

Maybe it's physical proof of Qi energy. But then again, maybe it's not.

I recently read Messages from Water and the Universe by Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese alternative medicine guru. He has become well known over the past several years for his experiments with water, where he postulates that Hado, or life force energy, may influence the shape and symmetry of water crystals. Dr. Emoto takes H2O samples from a specific source and then freezes the water following an experiment where one sample is set aside and ignored, and the other is the subject of positive intent (via words, music, prayer, etc.). He claims water can store this energy like silicone and be positively influenced by the process. The result he presents is many microscopic photos of misshapen (ignored) and symmetrical (blessed) crystals--all from a common source.

Of course, there are many ardent supporters of Emoto's work, as well as the usual counter-balance of dedicated skeptics.

So, in essence, it's the Qi argument all over again. I mean, water is one of the elements, right?

How does the Doctor explain Hado you ask?

"Hado is the intrinsic vibrational pattern at the atomic level in all matter, the smallest unit of energy. Its basis is the energy of human consciousness."

In Chinese philosophy and Japanese martial arts we have witnessed this debate--albeit in a slightly different form--for millennia. But although the song remains the same, and opinions are divided, it really only matters what one's own perception is.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Cross-training..... hmm... check out journeyman's blog about this here.

I don't feel I need to add much more to the martial/athletic aspect of this subject as he and Sue C. seem to have explored the idea well.

However, something I've noticed in myself, which is a bit of a twist on the subject, is the need to cross-think. Blogging, in itself, is a form of this. So is reading the thoughts of others. In doing this, often in conversations with students/teachers of other styles and/or schools, we are expanding our internal understanding of our own paths through contemplation and dialogue with peers outside of own dojo. While I study small-circle jiu-jitsu, much of my philosophy is influenced by aikido, and i cross train, mentally, by corresponding to others who are attuned to this school of thought. I also gravitate to judo in some aspects and karate in others. While I don't desire to alter my physical training at this juncture (largely due to time constraints and focus), I can still enter into the world of these complementary arts and add the information to my own sphere of training. In a nut shell, by reading blogs I am studying not only my own style of budo, but indirectly many others as well.

I do this with books, also, linking not just Eastern thought to my Path, but Western and indigeonous tradition, too.

I feel a more rounded thinker makes a more complete student of life itself.

Monday, January 10, 2011

unruly gang....

i have nothing against board breaking.... i understand the value of focus and power.... i just thought this was funny and maybe says something about not limiting one's training....

Saturday, January 8, 2011

heart on your sleeve...

I see a lot of people wearing jackets on the street with dojo affiliations blatantly displayed across their back. I don't think it's wrong to be proud of your training and I know the dojos appreciate the advertising, but for myself, it's not something i'd be wont to do.

I mean, truthfully, I'm not one to conceal my training and sometimes I think that I like to gab about martial arts a bit more than is necessary. That said, I can't help thinking in an anonymous situation like a city it might be like putting a target on your back for the macho drunk types who crave a pissing contest with someone "skilled" to prove their own worth. It could make someone increasingly defensive like many get when they see a police uniform. Also, any surprise you might create in a defensive situation--think pretending to be crazy or incompetent--could be eliminated as more caution may be taken in an assailants approach to you.

Perhaps it could help de-escalate a situation, I suppose, by making a potential attacker think twice. I dunno.

My Sensei says when he was on the competition circuit his club eventually wore gis without a crest so no one would no what style the fighters would be using. Likewise, a specific patch worn by an opponent indicating Tae Kwon Do or Goju could give him some insight into what to expect strategically.

Although the topic is likely no big deal, it was just bouncing around in my head.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"You lookin' at me?"

The eyes can give away an opponent's intent.... but they can also be used to deceive.

As a former hockey player, we were coached to always look at the chest when defending, because to look at the puck or face would give the other guy a good chance to trick you with a fake. Look at his chest and hit him was the idea.

That said, when I spar I like to engage the opponents eyes (I've been told not to before). But I find most opponents will give away more strategy with their eyes than they will deceive you with them, but I remain very cognizant of the possibility. This awareness is the key, to me.

As my training is based more on defending in real situations and not squared-off fighting per se, body language and visual cues are of utmost importance.

This said, being cognizant of your own cues is also immensely important. You may give away your own attacks with your visual focus, so not telegraphing is important, unless of course it is being used deliberately to misguide your foe. Football quarterbacks are excellent at this--looking at one receiver and then throwing the ball to someone in another location. But a QB who telegraphs his throws gets picked off routinely, and his receivers get very sore and disgruntled.

It's something to look into, anyway.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

ongoing decisions...

I don't make New Year's resolutions.

To me, such decisions and goals should be ongoing. The fact that they are left to one time of the year suggest procrastination and lack of determination in the first place.

That said, the idea of a clean slate I can understand, as well as re-focusing after a few weeks of irregular routine and in my case, extra hours of work. Our lives do seem to follow patterns and as the sun begins its ascent in the sky once again, a new optimism arises within us.

Myself, I am happy to let things settle down and get back to fulfilling the resolutions I make each and every day.