Commitment with Patience

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It’s been over a month since my last post and that isn’t a fact that fills me with glee.

Nonetheless what I’ve started here hasn’t been far from my thoughts and as experience has shown me the Warrior’s Journey is one of continuous learning whereby we aim to make peace with all manner of things – including distractions.

Sometimes where life is a struggle that’s where we need to let go, to say, So be it, and relax as much as we can until the tide turns and we can paddle with ease and go with the flow.

Mastery of something seems to me to be more of a choice than anything else.   It’s easy to quit when the going gets tough.  So many do.   It’s the not-letting-anything-stop-us-mentality that we need to acquire.

In the beginning this meant gritting my teeth and knuckling down and swimming upstream against rapids and torrents.  Now it is more a releasing of tension.

You see, commitment isn’t needed for when things are running smoothly but for when things are going rough or not according to plan.  It’s just that I no longer have to prove to myself that I care or that I’m determined.

I know that we can’t always actively express our commitment in the ways that we’d like.    I know also that when favourable conditions re-emerge I’ll pick my mantle where I left off, even if I am rusty at first, and restart my journey.

This is commitment with patience.  This is the Way.

Getting What You Need From Your Martial Art Part 2

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What to look for in an instructor Part 1

Okay, let’s assume you are pretty self-aware and have a good idea of the type of person you respond to well, and that you’re neither a total patsy who’s going to cater to any old clown dressed like a ninja, nor an out-and-out rebel who refuses right off a suspension of judgement in order to learn.

We’re prepared to submit, but not over-much, okay?  At least in the beginning till we know who we are dealing with and how we think we’ll progress.

Good.

Here’s what I think you should be looking for in a martial art instructor based on the few I have met over the years and how they have brought me along.

Strictly speaking: here’s what I like:

Someone Exacting, Hard to Please, but Communicative.

I like a fair amount of seriousness.  But while I always want to make progress I’m not always switched on as much as I should be.  Just the other week, for example, I threw out a kick and earned a rebuke for it being less snappy than it was in a previous class.  Perfect.

That’s what I want, instruction from someone who is heedful of how I am doing, someone who won’t suffer nonchalance or sloppy technique, someone who won’t remit from his very high standards from his fondness for you, or because you’ve had a hard day at work, or you’re injured or feeling slightly off-colour.  Remember, we’re looking in the Martial Mirror here, and killing self-pity!

I want to embrace it, the challenge; we’re assuming our instructor can walk his talk and that he knows the road like the back of his hand, knows without doubt the steps that are needed to attain the heights that he wants you to reach.

I’m not talking about kowtowing to a pain in the arse puffed-up prick who is stroking his unqualified ego, but rather someone who will prick that placenta so you can get the rudiments right and in due course become the scrupulous and supremely skilled painstaker yourself.

How you differentiate between the puffed up prick and the real deal is through their ability to convey their intentions for you, as well as explain their methods, and the reasons for such and such a technique being such and such a way.

And note, if repetition is the mother of skill, and it is, you should expect your instructor, if he’s thorough, to press his points through again and again and again, until you get it – Get It?  Don’t let anybody let you off the hook – or you’re cheating yourself.  More on this later…

Getting What You Need From Your Martial Art Part 1

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Fernanda Pinheiro #02

What’s Your Objective?

There are plenty of posts out there on the World Wide Web on choosing a martial art, and what to look for in an instructor.

So rather than adding to these profuse and varied advisories by writing another lengthy article of similar vein, I’ll just give you a series of brief and personal evaluations that may prove useful.

First off, there are clubs out there teaching more than one style of martial art. (We could perhaps exchange style for aspect.)

For more than three years I trained kicking boxing and kung fu together, and while I enjoyed both, I am now of the mind that if you chase two rabbits for lunch, you will go hungry.

A simple logic might follow:  If it takes time to get proficient in one thing, it takes more time to get proficient in two things.

While we could counter this with the arguement that some things compliment others, and cite mixed martial arts as evidence of it, let’s nullify that debate straight off by clarifying my main concern.

My concern is where the sporting-competitive aspects of a martial art are taught alongside self-defence – where they are related, but effectually diverge so long as you aren’t shown how they mix and match up.

It’s difficult, we shouldn’t try to describe the view from the top of the mountain while we’re still making the climb.  So I’m at least prepared to acknowledge the possibility of the sporting aspects of a martial art and self-defense marrying somewhere along the line.

It’s just from my expereince there wasn’t much in the way to explain where they might come together.   Rather they seemed to be drawing attention and time away from each other – my time and attention!

In due course I saw clear where my preference lay.

It may be you like variety and have a more all-embracing attitude than me. But seeing as there are only so many hours in a day, consider what follows:

If you’re into fitness and interested in winning trophies and accolades then fair dues, why dilute your efforts by learning skills outside of “the rules”? What use a fight ending strike to the throat if you’re banned for life from the sport that you love?

Likewise what use evasion tactics used in the ring if there’s no room to move and two tanked up assailants who won’t play by the rules?

Let us at least acknowledge that while there are many great martial artists or boxers or fighters of whatever form in the ring/octagon you wouldn’t want to mess with, who would more than likely destroy your common aggressor, there are many more who, through garnering a false sense of security in their dojo or club, are then dismantled because of their inability to discern the difference between the World of Rules and the Great Untamed.

My recommendation: Be safe.  Decide what your ultimate objective is and stick to it. Avoid a convoluted mish-mash of ideas and styles where possible, and if it isn’t your sport, avoid competition, and train for No Game.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you are learning how to defend yourself solely by entering tournements of whatever  sort.

To illustrate, MMA is still a sport.  There are no knives in the cage.  No two-or-more against one.  What works there may or may not work on the street.  

We can all get “owned”.

The Seeds of Martial Success

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I’m clear on this: If you really want to experience the ultimate of a martial art – or any art for that matter – then you have to prepare yourself for the long haul and preferably sooner than later understand that:

You are the Seed!


The seed analogy is one I could return to again and again.  It implies transformation, a rebirth, a throwing away of shackles and fear.  It speaks of growth and unfolding, things seen and felt clearer day on day in a martial journey, things that make you grateful for persisting through the ham-fisted-ness of sloppy technique and the weight of early misgivings, things that make you feel sorry for those who have quit ever so early.

Put simply, you plant the seed when you first take yourself to the class.   You water it by training regularly and well (at least twice a week).  And the sun and sustenance of it is your ever-improving focus and belief in yourself, as well as your art.

Yes, there will be doubt and discomfort, perhaps even pain, in the beginning.  But if you have heart and a big enough WHY for being there in the first place, if you persist, one day you may well look back and remember with a deep and unending smile who you once were – and see you have changed.

Just as we cannot see a seed beneath the ground, it is forming a sprout and one day it will break the crust of the earth.   So too will it one day flower.  One day you will ask yourself:

Where is the seed?

The sad fact of it is that many give up as soon as they’ve hardly begun (even after a year or two’s practice – that’s not near long enough!).  They see the long road stretching before them and they decide at some point that it’s not worth the effort.  They think having taken a few tentative steps along the road they are making an informed decision and that although nothing is gained, nothing is lost.  And so they miss out on a wonderful thing:

The death of the seed

Consider these words of Osho:

The death of the seed will be the birth of the tree, and there will be great foliage and flowering and fruits, and birds will come and sit on the branches and make their nests, and people will sit under the shade of the tree; and the tree will talk to the clouds and the stars in the night, and will play with the sky, and will dance in the winds; and there will be great rejoicing.  But how can this be known to the poor seed which has never been anything else?


What Do You See in the Martial Mirror?

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It’s often the case with new or inexperienced students of a martial art that they judge themselves harshly.  You strip things down to the basics, line them up with a pad and ask them to hit it, showing them first just how it’s done, and they are purely self-conscious.

After all they’re not meant to be good.  Your eagle eye is upon them, and as they’ve put you on a pedestal, they miss the fact that you were just like them, once upon a time: the new kid on the block.

It’s not hard to see when confidence is lacking in a person.  A martial art should force a person to take a good hard look at themselves.

The pity is some don’t know if you look long enough and hard enough the fallacy of your inadequate-self begins to dissolve.  And that deep down beneath all injuries you’ve suffered there is a part of you that knows you are more, knows you are strong, does not quit, is capable of learning things of incalculable worth, is regenerative and equal to All.

So look in this Mirror!

These things I believe:

In time the Martial Mirror will kill self-pity.

In time the Martial Mirror will show you the Eye of the Storm (i.e. calm amid chaos, there will be a post on this soon).

In time the Martial Mirror will show you that fear and failure are phantoms, which confronted head on will lead you to Courage.

In time the Martial Mirror will show you You are your only enemy and there is no one to fear.

Battle Scars, Bruises & Balms

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As I write this, both forearms black and blue from the conditioning exercises we did in class the other day – feeling strangely pleased with them, they were hard-earned after all – it’s come to me that I haven’t often sought remedy for bruises, except for three or four occasions when I’ve taken a really hard clatter to the face and ruined my dazzling looks.  (Ouch! That’s pushing things a bit too far.)

So note here, I’m no connoisseur of contusions, doctor or shaman.  What follows is assortment of salves you may like look at.   As ever research shows there are differences of opinion on the effectiveness, and even the validity, of certain treatments and it is not the purpose of this post to debate them all here, although comments are welcome at the posts end.

Rather I’ll don the mask of authority and leave it to you to experiment and find which work best for you.

Apply icy pressure, pronto. The theory is if you can apply ice as soon as you can after blunt trauma, the cold will constrict blood vessels and help keep the bruise from spreading.

Recommended is wrapping the ice in a damp cloth, a dry cloth doesn’t transmit the cold as effectively, for no longer than 10 minutes to avoid a reflex reaction (known as the Hunting effect) where the blood vessels dilate and blood is again pumped into the injured area, causing further bleeding and swelling.  Repetition is also advised, every two hours for 24-48 hours after injury.

Painkillers, Paracetamol/Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Aspirin. For best results follow the instructions for

dosage that are listed on the label.  Although anti-inflammatory, aspirin is not wholly recommended. Fine for pain, aspirin, as an anticoagulant, prevents blood from clotting as quickly, and may even cause blood to spread more extensively underneath the skin.   So avoid aspirin until you are sure the bruise has started to heal.

The same has also been said of Ibuprofen, so you may want to lean towards the use of Paracetamol/Acetaminophen for bruises. However, please investigate further.

A warm compresses. Applying a warm cloth or heated pad a day or two after an injury helps disperse the extra red blood cells into the tissues.  Merely hold the warm cloth in place for about 20 minutes, 3-4 times a day to aid blood flow and thus the removal of clots.

Apply a dab of zinc oxide. Zinc oxide cream is used for a wide variety of skin conditions (including nappy/diaper rash) and is said to reduce inflammation, as well as draw out infectious toxins and increases the healing process of your skin.

Try a little arnica. Seemingly the herb stimulates the production of white blood cells, which can help to clear bruising, as well as promoting fluid drainage and the release of toxins, thus reducing muscles soreness and pain.  If you are taking arnica for muscle soreness, stay well hydrated to help flush the loosened toxins out of your body.  And note: arnica is deadly in large doses, and shouldn’t be taken internally due to its toxicity.  It is also advisable not to use it on broken skin as it can cause irritations.

Arnica comes in oil, cream, gel, and tablet form.

Reach for vitamin C & K cream. Bruises occur more frequently in people who don’t get enough vitamin C.  Well known for boosting immunity, Vitamin C helps rebuild collagen, which makes small blood vessels less fragile and helps reduce bruising.  It also helps toughen up older skin.

As a preventative vitamin C certainly has some value, but as a curative you may like to consider vitamin K, which the body needs to break down blood and reabsorbs it, thereby helping fade the bruise and restoring the skin to normal colour.  Vitamin K also strengthens blood vessel walls, making you less prone to bruising.

In addition there is much support to suggest these vitamins work best when applied to the skin with a topical cream.

Become an oyster lover. Shellfish as well as beef and chicken are excellent source of zinc. This mineral may help keep blood cells from leaking out of the blood vessels following injury, according to Joseph Bark, M.D., chairman of the Department of Dermatology at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. You may also want to take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement that contains zinc.

A Dab of Comfrey Tea. Comfrey and comfrey root have been used from very ancient times, and are considered in nature’s greatest healers.  Modern researchers have discovered that it contains allantoin, a chemical that promotes skin repair.   Allatoin is an ingredient in a number of commercial skin creams.

Comfrey tea is made by boiling 1/2 litre of water and adding 30 grams of comfrey to it.  Apply as a compress, a bandage soaked in comfrey tea, for example, for up to an hour.

Healing vinegar (try also apple cider vinegar). Apply vinegar to the bruise using a cotton ball.  Vinegar increases blood flow near the skin’s surface, so it may help to dissipate the blood that has pooled in the bruised area

St. Johns Wort. This is known to have done wonders for bruises. The anti-bacterial and astringent properties make it apt for treating them. Add few drops of St. John Wort tincture to an organic oil or cream and apply it on the bruised area.

Believe it or not Cabbage… contains anti-inflammatory properties, which applied in emaciated form on bruises, or swelling, can help the healing procedure.

Parsley? Yes parsley, a herb which has an abundant supply of vitamins and works as a therapeutic treatment for the wound. Apply crushed parsley on the bruised area. Keep doing this till the blue or black marks disappear.

Pineapple Juice did the trick. When I had my last really bad black eye, I dabbed a cloth in concentrated pineapple juice every so often and I have to say that I found the results quite fruitful! (Sorry for that.)   As nutritionally packed members of the bromeliad family, being high in the enzyme bromelain and the antioxidant vitamin C, both of which play a major role in the body’s healing process, this is a common treatment boxers use for black eyes.  Bromelain can also be found in supplement form.

A soothing bath with Witch Hazel. Hardly a wicked witch this remedy helps in circulation of the blood and in the healing process. The bark, leaves, and twigs of Witch Hazel are all high in tannins, giving this plant astringent property. Astringents are substances that can dry, tighten, and harden tissues. Witch hazel also contains procyanadins, resin, and flavonoids, all of which add to its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties.

Dit Da Jow.  Aka Fall-Hit Wine. Oh, sage martial artists!  You should know this one, an analgesic liniment rubbed into the skin, Dit Da Jow is often a martial artists unique blend of many aromatic herbs such as myrrh and ginseng, which combine to stimulate circulation, reduce pain and swelling, and improve healing injuries and wounds.  Composed of cooling herbs to reduce swelling and inflammation as effectively as ice; and warming herbs that kill pain, promote circulation, and break up accumulations of stagnant blood and fluids, Dit Da Jow can be bought online and through martial artists catalogs or it can be directly obtained from a Chinese pharmacist or master.

In ending…a few days later. My bruises are gone – as quickly as they came, almost it seems – forearms and wrists and hands still tight and sore from the battering I gave them – and I didn’t use anything to soothe them except for some painkillers immediately after training followed by a soak in a sink full of cold water.  More than this I have a hot bath every day and I’m sure this has aided the speedy disappearance of my bruises.

Fortunately as a practising martial artist I haven’t had too many problems in terms of injury and although I have a lot of bruises from time to time, I am, generally speaking, quite a quick healer.

Note here, however, we are not all the same, and should your bruises be especially large or dark, you might want to consult your doctor so that they can keep check on it, as very severe bruising can set up blood poisoning if left untreated – especially if you are a very keen trainer and bash them again.

For my part I mean to practise Wing Chun for as long as I am able, I mean to endure, and so continuity of training is very important in how I progress.  I don’t want any interruptions or injuries holding me back.

Beginnings

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My journey into the martial arts began 14 years ago when I spotted a poster in college advertising Wing Chun classes in a nearby town.  It said something about using your adversary’s energy against them, conjuring images in my mind of some ubiquitous force we could utilize to throw idiots some distance into a vortex of pain.  And serve them right for messing with yours truly.

I guess my outlook at the time wasn’t the most glorious expression of manhood, not that I was outwardly violent or anything of the sort, more on edge with life and heightened to the dangers I perceived all around me, primarily due to an incident outside my flat late one Saturday night.

Long story short, I’d gone to the rescue of a friend who had just been beaten up by a group of young lads.  Next day besides other bruises and scrapes he had a large contusion on the back of his head where you could literally see the imprints of a shoe in purple and black; I had a few stitches above the left eye.  The cuts and bruises healed right enough, less so the hurt of defending my friend, and myself, ever so poorly.

This blog is born from such misadventures. It comes reeling from violence and the commingling of the indignation and the doubt I felt as I engaged the martial route.

It comes from a search for peace and happiness in a provocative world where I have more than often felt ever so small.

It comes result of raising myself up in defiance of all oppressors, all oppressions and obstacles to the greater glory of my life I fear I have shied from.

This blog uses Wing Chun as its source of inspiration.  Nonetheless its message is valid for all, whether you be a practising martial artist or other.

For through the manifold musings of The Martial Life, we are slantwise looking at Life – all Life, in which a feeling wholeness and self-sovereignty come not from deny the parts of ourselves we do not much like, but from their correction.  All that may differ is our Philosopher’s Stone.

Thus we will ponder Purpose, Courage, Confidence, Peace, Progress, Patience, Prowess, Right, Wrong, Violence, Hate, Love, Communication, Community, and more, as the Blog grows.

My hope is you will find through my writings fuel for the journey

– your journey, wherever that be.

Robbie Pringle

25th August 2010