By: Dalida Turkovic
A lot of people are put off by the idea of
martial arts for a simple reason that you need to wake up early and practice
outside during winter. In my opinion these are such minor components of the
whole practice and if you do get into practicing at dawn and during the winter
than you are already into it that much that it does not matter.
Many students ask - what do I do with my eyes? Where do I look? Regardless what the practice is - standing, walking, moving - eyes are looking straight but your mind does not register information taken by your eyesight. The gaze is turned internally, observing your muscles, your legs, your hands, scanning every single part of your body with your mind. I used to go to crowded places to train for competitions - the more distraction the better it was. Well, no doubt, I learned how to focus and keep final destination constantly in my mind - perfection of the body posture, allowing the energy to flow freely like cleaning blocked pipes or dirty chimneys. Meridians are fresh, blood circulates to all parts of the body, there are no blockages and as qi starts in your dan tian it swirls through the whole body and is being released into the ground. To reach perfection you first hear about what it is that you are looking for and then step by step focus on each requirement until you get it and lift yourself up to new horizons. I take focus as another insight for daily living.
Flexibility (applies to practicing 1:1 with Sifu)
A lot of people are put off by the idea of martial arts for a simple reason that you need to wake up early and practice outside during winter. In my opinion these are such minor components of the whole practice and if you do get into practicing at dawn and during the winter than you are already into it that much that it does not matter. Your teacher may be flexible enough to assist you in learning whenever it is convenient for you, some teachers take it easy during winter and if you have a spacious apartment you can practice at home. So, first of all martial arts teaches about flexibility. By being flexible I mean physically and mentally because it is all connected and one directs the other.
Another simple implementation of martial arts in daily living is that you learn how to keep being focused and relaxed while doing strenuous exercise. The practice gets your body to twist in new directions, to use muscles you haven't used before, to learn what 'natural posture' means in terms of martial arts. After a while your body becomes soft outside (for the observer) and hard inside (you experience the flow of qi in your body). Simply, if you manage to keep your body relaxed during strenuous exercise then in daily living you can maintain being relaxed in stressful situations. Needless to mention, daily practice enables you to remain calm and focused despite the circumstances and the environment.
Recently I have been translating for Liu Sifu - he has new students who do not speak much of Chinese and I am amazed (again and again) how much patience he has. Each student is treated in a new way, with new perspective, so much appropriate for their personality. I stopped asking how he does it, each time it is just as if he knows how nature works. Of course, practicing ba gua was helpful for increasing this insight (amongst other things). As I translate I keep rushing ahead, giving my perspective on what is being said, talking about my experience while he sits calmly and waits for me to finish. Never a single comment, never a single request. I look at new students practicing zhang zhuan (standing stance) and keep thinking: they must be bored, there is so much more to it! And yet, I realize - their mind and body are so occupied maintaining the proper standing stance as it looks simple to an observer while the person practicing has busy time thinking of all things that need to be done - usual case with internal martial arts. I learned patience by living in China and I know that patience is part of every journey - accept the fact that beginning is slow and that some things you will do well, some will be hard.
Determination and Discipline
Over the course of 7 years of practice I have learned one thing about internal martial arts - there are times when I enjoy it, when the flow of it is so natural and free, by body wakens and mind empties itself accepting nature as the only guide. As everything else in life, there are also times when I am lazy, I dread waking up in the morning, my body rebels, practice seems boring and I question if there is anything coming out of it. Liu calls these times "guan" ("pass"). Each guan is blocking the way towards new learning, realization and expansion. So there is physical guan, lazy guan, guan of doubt etc. It is our choice to stop and retreat from practice or to continue and see what awaits us behind the obstacle. Usually it is expansion of physical and mental experience: body becomes stronger, mind reaches new horizons. However, it does not mean that if you pass one guan you have finished with that lesson. For me, lazy guan keeps coming back but the time needed to pass it is getting shorter and shorter. Lessons are fulfilling enough for me to realize that determination and discipline is what takes me further towards abundant and balanced living.
With flexibility, calm, focus, patience, determination and discipline I look forward to every new challenge.
About the Author:
Dalida Turkovic - Master Coach and Master NLP Practitioner has lived and worked in China since 1990. She practices Xingyi Bagua with Sifu Liu Xu Yang. Visit her coaching website http://www.small-steps-coaching.com/ and her blog at http://life-coach-balanced-living.blogspot.com/