“No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” 2 Timothy 2:4-5
We are currently sharing with you several “Rules of Three” that are part of training in Grace Martial Arts.
You can look at previous Rules here:
We turn now to one of the most important aspects of martial arts and self defense – staying calm in the face of danger. How do we do that? Through training the mind, body and breath.
First, let’s remember what the Bible tells us about that –
“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14
King David, a man who face many warriors in many battles, wrote this about being calm in the face of danger –
“Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2
King Solomon shared his wisdom about the importance of being calm.
“He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” Proverbs 17:27
Grand Master John Chung Li wrote a commentary to an ancient martial arts document known as The Chinese Five Word Song. He often mentioned the importance of being calm before and during an attack –
“Remaining calm in a dangerous situation…enables us to take care of ourselves; when we are calm we exercise caution and are able to look after everything that could harm us.
In dangerous situations, most people manifest their fear and confusion by immediately resisting the situation, but I remain calm, available, yet not available…so that I might sense how my opponent is going to attack me. Because I remain calm I am adaptable so that I can move hard and soft at the same time – depending on what is called for by the circumstances.” The Chinese Five Word Song, p 42
GM Li also talked about being calm from the perspective of being a Christian –
“Christians are the children of God. If Christ lives in you, you are the children of God. They have a Father in Heaven and no worry. No worry is the natural state of Christians. The Christian mind they no worry. God is their Father. The Father looks after him. No worry. No worry.” The Chinese Five Word Song, p 13
Your mind is a powerful tool for self defense. The brain is busy running your entire body and it does that with amazing speed and efficiency. The brain processes about 400 billion bits of information per second. It is estimated that if the human brain were a computer, it could perform 38 thousand trillion operations per second.
So, given that phenomenal speed and ability, why do so many people physically freeze when they face immediate danger? Some neuroscientists believe it’s the brain’s way of getting you to focus all your attention on the danger. That makes sense given that the brain was designed to defend itself at all cost. The amazing brain that lives inside your skull can help you escape danger, especially if it is trained.
How do you train someone to respond to danger by defending themselves effectively rather than freezing? Soldiers, law enforcement officers and martial artists are some of the people groups that train the mind to direct the body to defend itself effectively and efficiently. How do they do it?
We train our minds to understand the need for self defense and methods to accomplish that. Our learning process begins with basic fundamentals of movement that include body shifting/turning and evasion to escape or enter. You can learn more about those basics here –
The mind is quick to grasp the purpose of self-defense movement and can quickly move to simple and complex forms/patterns (Kata), self-defense applications from the forms (Bunkai), and pre-arranged and free form self defense movements (Kumite). You can learn about those training aspects here.
Repetition is an important part of training the mind. It is sometimes called “muscle memory,” but it’s not just the muscles of your body that “remember” movement. Your brain is actively involved in directing the muscles of your body to move.
Training the mind through this proven process will prepare you to move quickly and effectively when faced with a dangerous situation.
Studies have shown that the human body moves fastest from a calm, relaxed posture or stance. Here’s how Grand Li explained it in The Chinese Five Word Song –
“Being calm is to watch the conditions with clarity and perspective. If we are calm, we can observe well and foresee the attack. Calmness lends wisdom in how exactly to meet the enemy. The greater the trouble, the greater the need for being calm.” The Chinese Five Word Song, p 27
Training the mind to be calm will impact the ability of your body to move from a calm, relaxed posture.
We train the body in several areas to assist the mind in defending effectively and efficiently –
The mind and body will work together as a powerful team to defend you during times of danger. The training process in martial arts will prepare you to maximize what your mind and body can do under stress.
Breathing calmly is important to your success in defending yourself and others. Your brain sends messages to nerves, muscles and organs to go into “defense mode.” That includes increased heart beat and blood flow to muscle groups along with a release of adrenaline. This can impact the speed of your breathing as well. If you can’t or don’t control your breathing, you may soon find yourself out of breath and unable to move appropriately.
Most martial arts systems include breath control training. It begins with warm-up exercises that challenge the student to continue moving even as heart and breathing rates increase. Kata and Kumite training also include many physical movements that demand an ability to control breathing. The key is deep, abdominal breathing – breathing in to the lower part of your lungs that aren’t exercised as much as the upper part of your lungs. Breathing deep into the lungs promotes calmness and relaxation.
Here’s how Grand Master Li explained that type of breath control –
“In China, the ‘heart’ is where the breath moves to when we inhale ‘naturally.’ All breathing should therefore be ‘natural,’ according to one’s needs at the moment the breath is taken or expended.
Generally, you inhale when you raise or lift your body, and you exhale when you sink, or lower your body. But this should never be considered an absolute. Breathe naturally according to your needs.
When we are breathing naturally, we are relaxed.” The Chinese Five Word Song, p 33
My teacher, Grand Master Robert Xavier, studied with Grand Master Li for many years and received the lineage for Hwa Yu T’ai Chi Ch’uan from GM Li. GM Xavier often says that “perfect practice makes perfect.” That saying stuck with me because it emphasizes the importance of learning correct posture, movement and technique and practicing it.
The first step is to learn a martial technique correctly, then practice it frequently with calmness. Here’s why –
“The success of this exercise depends on long, frequent practice and, most importantly, on the depth of your wisdom gained from calming both body and mind which gives rise to your dormant [strength and energy]. Meditate on the movement inside and outside of your body. This is the way to reach the high standard of the natural state.” The Chinese Five Word Song, p 49
We will look at another set of Rules of Three for Grace Martial Arts when our special series continues.
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