Thursday, May 20, 2010

Revisiting the Frogs...

Its weird that inevitably somewhere, somehow, a martial arts discussion will lead to a discussion of animals. Certainly, in Chinese martial arts and Malay martial arts, a lot of wisdom was gleaned from the observation of animals. In Japanese martial arts less so. But confining our views to animals alone is being myopic. What the ancients did when they observed animals, is not because of their commonality to human beings in their search for survival, though that does merit a point. Rather it was nature itself that was being observed.

In certain arts, the moons reflection in the water also gave rise to principles in martial arts. The mountain, the bamboo, the grass, the river... name it, you have it. Can it be any wonder that Osensei himself has told his students numerous of times, that to master Aikido you need time to reflect in nature? Though, he may have also meant it on many levels, take the easiest one first... accept that we have much to contemplate from nature.

So what is it with Frogs you say? Well its kismet, because I was just thinking about an old biological finding about the frog. Take a frog and some water from its pond, boil the water with the frog in it and you will see that the frog will remain in the pot until it is boiled alive. Yet take the same frog (before experiment 1 I assume), and put it in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out as fast as can be. Some would say that its really the reverse edge of adaptation. Some people can adapt to different temperatures especially if it differentiates slowly, yet ultimately the body will go past beyond a certain endurable point to which end we will die. However, lets skip past those and instead focus on the essence. The frog died because it refused to accept the changes happening to it in its own little world. Sure its water was getting hotter and hotter, but its lived day for months, even years... it should go back to normal soon enough. Yet soon enough never arrived, instead it got hotter and hotter until it led to the frog's demise.

Responding to change is necessary. Getting stuck on what was, and what you think would be... is a trap. Much like the boiling pot of water was a trap for the frog. Thus the lesson here is to forego preconceptions based on historical fact or experience, and based on hearsay or anything else for that matter. This is true, even as we prepare to attend our next seminar with a familiar sensei. Don't go there thinking, ah... we'll be doing this and this, and so I shall prepare for it... Instead, go there like a blank sheet. Absorb what you can, and understand the reasons why it was taught. Later you may reflect and compare and assimilate. This lesson is especially true in an altercation. You would think something and suddenly your opponent will react differently. Sticking to our kihon techniques you do a shihonage, fully thinking that your opponent will fall down so as to prevent a shoulder dislocation. Yet suddenly, he stays there and you ripped his shoulder off... and then he stabs you.

Someone said, that as long as you don't expect anything, people can't disappoint you. So don't disappoint yourself, expect nothing and accept everything.

Another reason why I entitled this post with Frogs was because the other day I was reading a local news report. About a boy who fought an armed robber who tried to steal his motorcycle. The robber aimed a gun at him, he then deflected the man's arm and thus the shot hit a window instead. The robber panicked and ran off, throwing his gun into a river. Subsequently police caught him, and frogmen found the gun. The boy displayed the spirit of Budo without any formal martial arts training. All he knew was, he needed to Protect this bike given to him by his father for his good results. Protecting someone give rise to bravery, sometimes to superhuman abilities. His spirit empowered him and protected him from normal animalistic response.

What is a normal animilistic response to a threat. Well, most times you become pale as your blood drains from your dermis and goes deeper in the body to feed the organs. It tries to limit blood loss from cuts and such. You freeze, because you don't want to appear threatening to a predator. Or you run. Your bladder empties itself, to prevent toxins remaining in your body. These are some of the instinctive animalistic response. Trained budoka are supposed to override these instincts. Instead to remain calm and collected so that a proper response to the threat can be initiated. Allowing instincts to control your body leaves you open to predatory instincts as well. It also limits what you could do, to an ever changing threat level. Therefore, whilst our training is meant to cultivate the empowered spirit, its aim is also to overpower our natural instincts that are not appropriate. Control is the word. Acceptance is the key.

I would have to quickly finish off due to the time... yet there are so many things that can be discussed here. But one final thought... we are in a constant state of evolution. Our minds, thoughts and actions evolve from experience, knowledge and skill. Thus, do not also allow these words I've written be your boiling pot of water.

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