Found on Facebook, very interesting read, From author Jonathan Bluestein’s groundbreaking book, Research of Martial Arts:
// The Art in Martial Arts //
There are many forms of publicly acknowledged arts in this world, such as painting, sculpting, music, theatre, poetry, etc. There are also those who claim their lifestyle or hobby to be a form of art, although it is evident that the mainstream will not deem theirs as acceptable as others.
Whether something is an art or not may be dependent on the person who is engaging in it. Professional sports are one example we can observe. These are activities where the main motivation is winning. This by itself is not an art. An athlete, however, may pursue his sport of choice in an artistic manner. Such is the case with great basketball players, whom in their symbolic movement patterns when reaching for the basket express themselves artistically in motion, also influencing the emotions of the audience. Bodybuilders can look upon their sport as a mere beauty contest, which happens to involve lifting weights as preparation. For many of them nonetheless, Bodybuilding is a lifestyle and an art-form. One might often hear or read about bodybuilders referring to their profession as “sculpting in their own flesh”; achieving total control over the development of their muscles’ size and shape, they use resistance training, diet, and other methods to sculpt their inner-selves into their external appearance, and then expose their masterpieces for the world to see.
Traditional Martial Arts are a different animal. Instead of encouraging one to push-forth his Ego by curving its image externally, they celebrate the fall of that Ego, and promote the creation of an improved human being. It has been my observation that in sports, personality changes are often a by-product of training. Traits such as determination, fellowship, courage, patience and others may result from hard, prolonged training. In Traditional Martial Arts, one is not simply altered by practice – one constantly changes his life and personality, in a conscious endeavor, so he or she could become better martial artists. Changing oneself for the better is not merely an outcome, but a necessity posed by training in order to improve your skills physically – to attain more of one’s inborn capacity and talent.
How does such a thing come about? Simply enough, the process is rather technical, even quite physical in the beginning. (Traditional) Martial Arts are a lifelong process where one has to constantly question himself. This starts on the physical level, but is inherently rooted in our minds. I will therefore give a glimpse as to the theoretical thinking process that may accompany a martial artist.
Nothing confronts us better with ourselves than being forced to be on our own, concentrating on a single task. Such is, for instance, the practice of Zhan Zhuang. When ordered by yourself or your teacher to stand in a fixed position for a long period of time, you initially make some effort to focus on your physical body, trying to align and engage all the technicalities that are part of the stance. Soon enough though, your mind drifts to faraway places, for it takes many years of practice to truly achieve lasting focus & concentration. As you carelessly allow yourself to contain thoughts and emotions, they immediately manifest in your physical being. You were angry at the woman who left you, which has now resulted in your breath being stuck in your chest. You find the kids that mock you on the sideway annoying and wish to hit them, causing your shoulders to become tense, stopping your blood from reaching the fingers and warming your palm. You are too bothered and anxious because of your tasks at work, which shifts your attention from dealing with the pain in your legs, to thinking about your boss. You recall a loved one who had passed away, causing your facial muscles to express your sadness, preventing them from relaxing.
All of those things which inhibit flaws in your posture are flaws in your own personality. Had you forgiven the woman who left you, cleared your heart and moved on, you could have breathed more easily, relaxing your chest and dropping your breath to the Dan Tian area. Were you more understanding towards the children who were mocking you when you were training at the park (with them doing what children tend to do), you could have loosened your shoulders, and allow for better blood-flow. Had you taken the difficulties in your professional life more lightly, you could have shifted your focus from your boss to your aching legs, and have enough concentration to loosen them up and avoid the pain. Finally making peace with the reality of your loved one having passed away would have expressed itself on your face, which could now be calm & tranquil, not revealing of your thoughts and intentions.
The only way to overcome your physical handicaps is therefore digging into the very essence of your psyche, and dealing with everything that is unpleasant. Only coming in-terms with your true being can drive improvement on the physical front (Diepersloot calls it155: “breaking up psychosomatic blockages”). In the martial arts a man can be naturally skilled to a great extent, but all possess the same limit to their natural capacity – the ability to deal with themselves. Given that one is healthy and capable, the main limiting factor for skill development will always remain the mind. For this reason, the sages of martial arts of old have realized this one truth ages ago – the art in martial arts is not found in physical confrontation – it is the art of cultivating oneself. Thus, real masters of the martial arts do not express themselves in motion, but rather their achievement of conquering that which they once were.
“When you see the Single Whip posture of an old Taiji master, what is inside of that movement? All of his life is inside…” – Master He Jinghan