I got into the martial arts for a variety of reasons but the one at the forefront – the most obvious reason for getting into the martial arts – was that I wanted to be able to “handle myself”, to learn how to defend myself should the need arise.
Little did I appreciate then that in handling oneself there’s as much to do internal dynamics as being able to “deal with” some unfortunate “other”.
Some of you may recognize only a little part of being able to handle yourself in the experience of not training for a wee while (sometimes a while for me is just a few days) leading to the rising of some nebulous tension, state of unease which, left long enough, usually leads to what I could best describe as a case of mild paranoia, where “enemies”, or “threats” would seem to arise wherever we go.
Usually I try not to indulge these thoughts of seeing myself entering scrapes for next to no reason, but sometimes that’s hard. I’m tense and pent up, with my energy unshorn of its “worthy” release. So sometimes I fail and upset myself more than I should
Fear is a funny thing: it hides at the back of aggression, masked by annoyance when we feign to be strong. Fear causes us to picture things going wrong, and our subsequent struggle or fight to right these wrong-doings. Here, in this state, I become, in a sense, as wary of myself as of any other, this belligerent but frightened me that has always been weak. And my confidence crumbles, just for a while.
The cure for me is getting back training as soon as I can; even a little helps, some fresh air punching, some kicks, some moves, enough to feel the physicality of my defences and assuage the mental fury before it consumes me.
Anger, anxiety, fear and the like, I’ve learned, are really all grist to the mill – energy to be transmuted, base metal to gold. As in metallurgy, the science of working or heating metals so as to give them certain desired shapes or properties, the martial arts beat an altogether different person out of mere dust. Here we take our flaky, untrained and inconstant self into our dojo, stoke up the fires of combat, and see taking shape some fiery substance that will one day shine with the luster of life, full and complete as the best of ourselves. At least that’s my vision.
Being able to handle myself, so I can walk down the street feeling quite safe; safe from my inner tormentor who imagines danger about me, more at peace with the world, is more why I train than anything else. The skills are a by-product that one day may just come in handy.
Training regularly helps me keep peace with myself.