Martial arts instructors often talk about physical movements and techniques. I thought to talk about something else tangent to the topic: emotions and thoughts. What are the emotions and thoughts that I have when I exercise a technique and how does that affect whether the technique is efficient or not?
From early on I’ve been able to achieve a pure state of focus where I do not feel strong emotions one way or another, but an extreme drive to obtain a goal. This often showed up when my survival was at stake, at least from my personal perspective. Things dealing with water and high places when lacking oxygen. Reading what other people have wrote of similar experiences, leads me to think it is associated with adrenaline, survival instincts, the lizard brain, and various other names people call it (the machine mind). Since it’s not something literature speaks about, except indirectly and abstractly, each person has to find their own interpretation of what “it” means. Just as each person must learn what love is and how that relates to the words in poetry.
The Ancient Taoists promoted the concept that universal harmony and concepts like that are tarnished as entities when humans trap them using words. Yet how are we supposed to understand anything until we put them into words? And yet, we have to know that once we come to “know” something and are now communicating it with words to another person, we are no longer talking about the universe. We are now operating on human fallible levels of knowing and epistemology. In another way of saying it, those who know love understand the experience in some ways, but those who do not and only know love from reading words…. lack a full grasp of its power and depth. Something very simple and wise perhaps… but wisdom is of no use to those lacking the experience to use it. If children always obeyed their parents, they would never learn to think for themselves and if they obeyed wisdom, it would not be because the children were wise but because they obeyed the wisdom of another. Should a child not obey, they might be acting foolishly, yet it is only through recklessly challenging the status quo that one obtains real world experience and real wisdom in life.
To get back to the original point, when I cut something with my blunt steel sword, I first visualize the result. Then apply it to the problem and adjust my methods to suit the problem. Once I targeted a slim piece of plant growing 6 feet high for cutting, I swung the blade. Yet, it missed. Or rather, only the very very tip had cut one of the small branches, one of my targets. Why? I had aimed to cut the entire group of branches together, not just one leaf. When I had analyzed my technique, I noticed that my “kinesthetic awareness” of the blade extended to the very tip and stopped. And I was using that length as my targeting length. If I wanted to cut with more of the blade, I must reduce my kinesthetic awareness down a bit to adjust the targeting point. So instead of touching the tip of my sword (using my natural awareness of the length and range of things) to the target, I must touch the first third of the blade. In essence, I must step closer.
Most of my concentration is not on the technique, but the goal. At the time, I had construct the goal as “hit the target at maximum range”. By changing the goals, my methods automatically adapted. Whenever I have problems figuring out what to do, I clearly visualize my goal and then focus on my methods last.
In terms of thinking or OODA, I observe the target, I orientate on the target by collecting range and movement relative to me data, I decide what the goal is, I act to accomplish the goal. Then next loop I observe whether I have accomplished the goal or not. Then I observe what went wrong or what went right, decide what to do next, and act upon it.
Emotions like fear or anger, they can be useful at times to motivate me into deciding and acting, but they are not things I feel much when I decide to act. Pain is also illusionary as a feeling. It doesn’t feel real or rather it feels like someone else is feeling it and you’re just dreaming their thoughts. When I have come up with a plan and act upon it, fear goes away. I presume since it has already accomplished its task of kicking me into gear. Fear also is a sign that I need to drop my social restraints and go for the kill. Or to put it another way, release one’s own personal limitations and activate one’s full potential. When I feel no fear, I know I am confident of the situation and can afford to be merciful or compassionate. Fear, in this respect, feels very different than the common person’s reaction to it. It is supposedly the same thing from person to person, yet people treat it differently and use it differently. Or are used by it differently.
Emotions are a great source of power. They allow me to focus very well. I can ignore other people more easily. I can concentrate better. I can unleash just a little bit of the normal restrictions I place upon myself in order to function as a normal person in human society.
In many cases, I am in more danger from myself than other people, since I can exert more power on a physical plane than other people around them. Alternatively it makes me behave strange to the common sense perception. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormon missionaries often, when invited from the door step inside to talk or just talking right outside, ask me why I invite them in and they give me this look like it’s something they don’t see often. And I tell them that I have no fear of them and may in fact respect them for taking risks and doing hard work that other people would normally shun. I didn’t necessarily go out of my way to say crazy things like “I could kill all of you in my house if I wanted to”, but perhaps the implication leaked out anyways. Strangely enough, it made them feel more comfortable around me to know why I was so at ease and so pacific towards them, even though many of them are in fact pacifists and won’t wish to learn about what I do when training. At least the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses at least. Of course it gave me an opportunity to do my hobby of “people watching”, reading body language, detecting facial gestures and what not. Got to keep up the practice if one wants to be good.
Essentially, they detected my body language and it was not hostile. I’m not afraid of people converting me just by talking to me. I’m not afraid of people busting in my door and trying to harm me. They’d need to bring a lot of firepower and numbers to activate the fear. Of course I won’t know what they will bring, so I will assume the worst, thus the fear will activate, and allow me to de-activate social limiters. The system balances out eventually.
In that sense of dealing with other people who lack violent intent, I’m very pacific (now at least). Fear and anger tends to spread amongst human groups. If you don’t want the stranger to be angry or fearful, don’t act angry or fearful… Like animals, humans can detect that.
A warrior or a martial artist or whatever it is you decide to call yourself, must first defeat themselves before they can grow stronger. Your worst enemy is always yourself. You must change yourself for the better first, before you can change the world around you. Attempting to apply force to the world and its people, to make it conform to your will, will lead to yang exhaustion and your own eventual termination or self destruction as you exhaust your resources, energy, and allies. The only thing you can reinforce and change is yourself. Only after that, can you obtain the judgment to decide what else needs changing.