by Cliff Brunetti
THE FORCES IN MARTIAL ARTS
All martial arts have the potential to learn and master both self defense and various occult powers. Here I use occult in its strict definition, meaning, “hidden or secret knowledge,” not really the supernatural or mystical occult, although sometimes they can be seen that way by the uninitiated. Many modern teachers may have no idea of how to teach those powers or even of their existence, so I wrote this article to help you in case you are taking a martial art and would like to go deeper, or are considering taking classes in martial arts and would like to know where it can lead. Many, if not most of the powers that I write of in this article have their origin in the psyche, but make no mistake, they are very powerful and will completely change the way you do martial arts.
When martial arts were yet young, the link between the spirit realms and physical movement in combat became very clear: a warrior’s will to go into harm’s way and to survive created paths to otherwise unobtainable areas of spiritual development. Many of the attributes that I will write about can easily be found in most martial arts, yet they may be hidden from the view of both teachers and students alike, particularly if they do not look deeper than the surface understanding. If you are currently in a martial art, I caution you to keep these things to yourself until you become the master of your own school. Your teacher may be aware of their existence and has chosen not to teach or practice them for personal reasons, or perhaps like so many, are afraid of the power that these can bring and so do not teach them, or as is most likely, they are simply not aware of their existence. You may practice many of these methods without bringing undue notice to yourself, and the benefits that you will receive will be far above other practitioners, even in the same school. If some of these methods are taught, then you might only need to alter them slightly for your benefit, but if they are not taught, you can do them mostly on your own. Many of these methods are simple shifts in thought or practice, while others may be quite a bit different. Please do not discard the simple methods because they are not glamorous as many times those end up becoming your strongest forces. Subtle changes in your methods can bring big results.
I. Zen Meditation
I will only touch on Zen Meditation here, since there are already a wide variety of sources that you can search on the Internet. Zen stresses being in the moment, it is not LaLa Land. The mind parks in neutral, but a present neutral, from there it is able to fly off in any direction of your choosing without unnecessary thought, so no wasted time. Typically to begin training in Zen, the warrior would sit in seiza (a term meaning correct sitting – that is sitting on your knees), place their hands in the meditation mudra (thumbs touching, four fingers on top of the other four fingers), and “non-meditate.” I say non-meditate, because to meditate means to ponder or consider something deeply, which is just exactly opposite of the goal of Zen. Zen totally means to be alive at every moment and to feel the connections intimately. This gives the practitioners razor sharp resolve and speed in execution of any movement or stillness equally. “Omnia Vivunt Inter Se Conexa,” means everything is alive and everything is interconnected. It may be easy to think of everyone around you in a vast Jello swimming pool. It sounds funny, but the significance is, when one moves, there are ripples that can be felt by the others, especially the ones closest to the mover. Realize that this is not far from the truth (okay, the Jello is pretty far), then actions, feelings, or even thoughts can be transferred across this apparent space between us. The reality is that there is something between all of us that connects us; there is air, water molecules, and any number of things that we just may be incapable of seeing, but it doesn’t mean that it does not exist. Our planet has a living matrix of moving chemicals all around us. Becoming sensitive to the ripples of thought through this matrix can make you nearly invincible.
Moving from sitting Zen meditation to a standing position with martial movements is the logical next step, but eventually the practitioner will attempt to remain in the Zen neutral mind to engage in violent combat. The power of Zen is speed of action with a calm mind able to shift gears as needed within violent combat. Life itself provides plenty of other uses beside conflict, but it is here that the practitioner of Zen really shines. Don’t neglect this training – it yields big results!
II. The Martial Virtues of Ki (internal energy)
Many times when you hear of Ki (also called Chi, Qi, internal energy, or spirit) you hear of people performing strange feats of strength or endurance. These may be byproducts of Ki but is not Ki itself. Ki is the life force. Obiwan would say it is, “The Force.” It is the energy in every living and non-living thing. Living things have more Ki. Really, the higher the order of life, the more Ki is possessed. Some have said it is a vibrational frequency. Humans have the ability to tap into a large reservoir of Ki in excess of their own ready supply. Some humans have weak Ki, which shows up as illness, sickness, sluggishness, or weakness. Since their Ki is weak, they will be easy to dominate or kill. On the other hand, a person with strong Ki is much more difficult to kill. This is desirable not only for life and death matters, but the strength and vitality that strong Ki provides is worth the effort to achieve it. Strength building and stretching exercises allow the temple of the body sufficient room to grow. This is the place to begin. Properly performed techniques of martial arts provide the framework to build Ki. Interestingly, people will sense a person with strong Ki and rarely if ever attack them. You will almost never hear of a high-ranking master of martial arts being attacked for this reason. The attacker feels the futility of his actions before he begins.
I mentioned properly performed techniques of martial arts as a way of achieving strong Ki and I won’t leave you high and dry. The martial arts are ideal for achieving strong Ki because of the interaction between people and the dominance that must take place. To win is to dominate, to dominate enlivens the Ki. You can achieve Ki in other pursuits, but we are discussing of the way of the warrior. “There are many routes to the summit of Mt. Fuji,” an old Japanese saying goes.
In some martial arts, dominance training is allowed for practice sake, and in others you are expected to seize it if you can. In my martial art, all of my students do take turns learning what it takes to be dominant in an encounter; after all, if you are not used to power, how will you know what it feels like? The students all practice out of a natural standing posture (feet square, arms dangling). As scary as that is to be attacked like that, it is that very vulnerability that allows Ki to blossom. You have to get out of the comfort zone to exercise your Ki. Train yourself to feel the power of your Ki even in your weakest moments. Training like this gives ample demand for your Ki to increase. Have your partner, if your teacher allows, attack you while standing in a natural stance, that is the way you might stand at a bus stop or waiting in line at McDonalds. That’s really it. It is that simple, so simple in fact, it is rarely done, but it is why many people have weak Ki. If your mind is parked in Zen neutral, when an opponent attacks, you will respond instantly with an appropriate maneuver, which will, over time, increase your Ki dramatically. This is the forgotten essence of one-step sparring. Eventually, after you practice specific attacks and feel normal performing them, you should simply have your opponent attack you as they will. If you can remain mentally relaxed, in Zen neutral, with your body relaxed as after a good yoga stretching class, then your reactions will become faster than your thought. The speed of your reactions to the least provocation will be shocking to your opponent. It will be as if you have read their mind. Miyamoto Musashi, one of the great swordsmen of Japan’s history said, “Strike at the S of strike,” that is to begin your counter at the moment that your opponent has conceived his attack.
III. The Martial Virtue of Power
As previously mentioned, power is something that most people relate to Ki training. In reality, it is a byproduct of improving your overall health and strength, which is necessary to gain strong Ki, but it is also a byproduct of efficiency of movement. A person who practices martial movements slowly with good body dynamics, will, over time, become increasingly coordinated and efficient in its use. This process yields an inevitable result and develops quite naturally as long as a teacher constantly corrects the student’s posture. How can someone correct himself or herself? Now, some students absolutely hate to be corrected, but that is necessary to become efficient.
Another area of power that may be obscured from the view of both beginners and even some seniors is that muscles can work in opposition to your actions. When muscles oppose each other, you will be slower and weaker than you really are. I have seen guys with flexing biceps, bulging with strength, be trampled by smaller, weaker men. The person with muscles bulging may be twice as slow and half as powerful as he would have been if he had been able to relax the appropriate muscles. Why? To strike means to simply straighten your arm quickly. Since all muscle works through contraction, then the only muscle that will straighten your arm is the triceps. If your bicep is flexed, it is in the act of bending your arm, which is opposite of the desired action. In order to be fast and powerful, you must relax. Remember, power is the ability to transfer energy to your opponent. You cannot transfer much energy to your opponent if you are fighting against your own actions. Stretching and relaxation within your techniques will create speed.
Some may have heard of the Kung Fu masters of the past who would, at midnight on a full moon, get into a deep horse-riding stance and point their hand towards a bucket of water for hours until the water would begin to tremble. This, they say, once mastered can kill a person from afar. Obviously, this power would be classified as transferring energy to an opponent, but personally I have found those deep horse-riding stances to be agonizing after only a few minutes, let alone hours. However, if you can muster standing in that squat position for a few hours, do try it during a full moon at midnight, and report back to me on how that worked out for you.
IV. The Martial Virtue of Harmony
Harmony within your own body is another secret to power in the martial arts, but there is another type of harmony within the martial arts: the one between you and your opponent. In Jujutsu, if we harmonize our body with the opponents, we become one, in the sense that any movement that we make effects our opponent. Here, affecting the stance, posture, and balance of the opponent are key.
I have seen a one-step sparring drill (one person attacks and the other defends against an agreed upon attack) where the attacker will perform a very slow assault, and the defender will, with all the speed he or she can muster, perform various intricate defenses. That is not harmony. An old sword maxim states, “The fastest sword cuts nothing at all.” Imagine if you block in the air before your opponents arm has begun, then he could strike you after your arm has already swung by. Conversely, a person who is too slow will get hit, so ideally you should be appropriate – in harmony. Therefore, when an opponent (in your class) strikes at you slowly and softly, then you should mount your defenses slowly and softly in response, increasing speed and intensity as the situation dictates. A good exercise for this is seen in the Wing Chun Kung Fu “Sticky Hands” where one person attempts to touch you and you have to guide the touch away from the center line while attempting your own touch. This teaches harmonizing with your opponent’s speed and strength in order to be appropriate.
Harmony can also mean getting along, where not every conflict must be resolved through a contest of strength, speed, and will power. Harmonizing means to balance a situation. Yin and Yang (also known as In and Yo in Japanese, and Eum/Yang in Korean) means being able to harmonize opposing forces into a unity of peace. Therefore, love can balance hate, and weakness can balance strength. If that doesn’t sound right, it is because you have only seen poor balancing efforts. Weakness and love in the hands of the right individual are VERY powerful, because they are a choice that springs forth from REAL power. A weak person never has that option.
V. The Martial Virtue of Efficiency
Efficiency is one of the sources of power. Efficiency in motion creates power without wasted effort. Using the natural forces of Yin and Yang to increase your will is an efficient path. To develop efficiency, you will have to relax and move harmoniously with your opponent in order to discover the best method of winning. Using your body’s natural powers begin with good balanced stances.Ancient Kung Fu and Jujutsu use efficiency of action in that if an opponent pushes, we pull. If an opponent pulls, we push. This is, “killing them with kindness.” You reply to their aggression with equal measures of softness in order to dominate. Instead of meeting force with force, the martial artist will yield, which is first off, not something that could have been anticipated, it apparently goes against what people consider human nature. Secondly, the force of the opponent increases your own action. You truly are using their force to multiply your own.
Another strange part of efficiency is softness. There are powerful pressure points that simply do not work if you apply a great deal of strength to them, they sort of short circuit. Only by not having a heart of destruction will these points work, and when they do, OUCH! It is one reason that Jujutsu masters are sometimes called “Majutsusha” (wizard in Japanese), pronounced Ma-Joot-Sue-Sha. The more you try and hurt someone, the less it actually does. In an efficient path, anything that works against your actions has been removed; even the desire to win is replaced with a desire to harmonize.
VI. The Martial Virtues of Healing
As with the other martial pursuits, learning to heal is held in high esteem. The path of a warrior is dangerous and potentially harmful not only to the opponent, but to the warrior. While modern medicine can help a person close to death to recover, I’m not for totally relying on a system where knowledge is held only with a few individuals (doctors) that must use certain facilities (hospitals), and medicines that are only available through pharmacies to help when I need help the most. Any warrior who must use his or her craft will one day have to help him or herself, survivors of an attack, or even an attacker to survive. Healing knowledge should be cultivated for a variety of illnesses and wounds, like broken limbs, bleeding, or unconsciousness (passing out due to strangulation or a blow). If a warrior studies healing arts such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or Katsu (Japanese expedient care), wound care, Shiatsu (finger pressure therapy), Koppo (bone setting), chiropracting skills, and others, then he or she would be able to help when help is needed the most. All of these healing skills require very little if anything other than knowledge to help.
What about Reiki and sending healing energy? While Reiki is a method of healing that doesn’t require tools, it is not an emergency care method. I would consider these to be long term healing methods that could also be cultivated by a martial artist who is empathetic.
VII. The Martial Virtues of Clairsentience
Clairsentience means “a clear feeling.” It is occult since there is no physical reason for the feeling, i.e. no one has physically touched you. Why would clairsentience be good to cultivate as a warrior? It allows the warrior to know when an attack is imminent or has begun even when you can’t see it. Night fighting is one example, but what about a sniper who is pulling the trigger? If you can feel a deadly focus and move, then you would have cheated death. If you would know when a person is going to strike before they actually do, and respond by striking the shoulder or leg that the opponent was going to use, then it would not take long for the attacker to understand the futility of their actions. Remember my jello pool example earlier?
How do you gain the occult virtue of clairsentience? By being exposed to an apparently dangerous situation and learning to trust the soft inner voice, the hair tingle, or the gut wrench that precedes it. These are soft clues that require sensitivity. The level of sensitivity and trust needed is only gained through experience. If you can do this while relaxed, your body takes on a glow that is felt more than seen.
I have developed a method based on one that I had learned from Larry Beaver, shidoshi of the Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu tradition. He used swimming goggles spray-painted black as I do. I have also included the use a ball on a tether, and for advanced students, earmuffs.
To begin with, have a partner (called receiver) stand about twenty feet away facing you and instruct them to relax completely, even putting his or her brain in Zen neutral. Once your partner is completely relaxed, he should give a big, exaggerated head nod. You (the sender) will have the ball on a tether standing about twenty feet away. Do not look at your partner, but simply have him/her in your periphery. Once you see the exaggerated head nod, then slowly count to a number of your choosing (less than 10). Once you have reached that number, turn to face him/her directly, gazing intently and throw the ball at his or her chest. The receiver will move out of the way of the ball by “opening the door,” that is to pivot on the front foot until the body has turned sideways to the in-coming ball. This is repeated until a level of comfort and almost boredom has set in. It is at this point that you introduce the “blind goggles.” The receiver wears the blind goggles, but otherwise performs the same movements. Once this seems fairly easy, have the receiver turn his/her back completely and do the same exercise from the rear. If the blind goggle exercise worked easily, then this should be no problem. Repeat all of the blinded trials with earmuffs also, and voila! You are now feeling in-coming attacks and trusting yourself enough to move out of the way. This will transfer easily to your martial arts in every capacity. You will become very, very difficult to beat. The Japanese call this feeling “haragei,” meaning belly art (the tugging at your gut when something is about to occur).
H. On Other Occult Virtues of the Martial Arts
To be sure there are other occult virtues in the martial arts, among them clairvoyance, manifesting a reality, invisibility, and even enlightenment, however I will not elaborate on these since I have discussed them in-depth in other articles.
VII. SUMMARY: Occult Powers Inherent in Martial Arts
· Zen Neutral Mind – Practice parking your mind in a no thought, but ready stance.
· Strong Ki – Yoga stretching, strength building, and dominance training.
· Power – Slow, relaxed, but dynamic body movements done with perfection in mind.
· Harmony – Appropriate speed. Not harming more than necessary.
· Efficiency – Going with the energy of an opponent to double your own power.
· Healing – CPR, wound care, bone setting, Shiatsu (finger pressure therapy), chiropracting skills, and Katsu (Japanese expedient care).
· Clairsentience – Blinded / deafened dodge ball.