Physical training traditions, whether they are Bagua from China or yoga from India or somatic studies from the 20th century, are vehicles for the exploration and refinement for the body and the mind. These methods are maps, sometimes precise and sometimes vague, for the dedicated and persistent practitioner to delve deeper into fundamental questions of form and being. My influences in these study traditions have been many and my practices range from the simple to the esoteric.
These traditions are deceptive because as one explores them many layers are newly revealed, and what one thought was simple and knowable, suddenly becomes vast and constantly changing. A simple practice such as Bagua’s circle walking becomes a lifetime study of the idea of change.
The more deeply I explore these practices, the more unfolds before me, like the image of a flower blossoming, each petal unique, what was hidden slowly being revealed.
These traditions can be containers of differing shapes depending on what one’s goals are. Here in lies their richness and why they are worthy of a lifetime of study, providing a vehicle for exploration that keeps pace with the changing goals of a person that matures.
On one level, the goal of martial arts as a physical training tradition is simple and apparent – to dominate or kill an opponent. How does one throw a punch with the greatest efficiency? How does one swing a blade to cut through flesh? What are the physical tasks that I need to do?
But, martial arts traditions, if deeply conceived, can serve other goals as well – to improve health or forge of the spirit, especially when undertaken with a daily discipline of mindfulness. These types of goals manifest through the exploration of other types of questions when studying. How do I not tense up when facing change? Where does my mind get stuck? What is freedom?
I am at a midpoint both in my life and in the study of these traditions. On one level, I focus on the martial aspect – the sparring, the two person practices, the swinging of the blade, the “eating of bitter”.
But, increasingly, my interests are leading me towards connections between these martial traditions and theories of Eastern medicine, and the connections to meditative practices that carry lessons and actions away from the training and into the rest of my life – whether it is with work, family, or my own inner being.
And as a father, how do I share these traditions and the exploration of the somatic being with my daughter so that she lives a life of freedom, both in body and mind, especially in a society that does not value the development of either?
These pages are a place for me to write about, and give some solidity, to the ideas and questions that permeate my practices and to acknowledge those who have helped guide me on this journey.